API trend allows next-gen data platforms to prosper

Customers are full of new ideas and they want data platforms that allow them to run with new concepts and share information securely with their project teams.
7 October 2022

Many of today’s workplace tasks would be impossible without having data and analytics at our fingertips. Information takes us to the answers, and that’s led to a huge rise in the use of data software and business intelligence analytics. But older products can soon become siloed if their features are unable to adapt to modern marketplaces. As multiple industries converge, the tools need to follow – to keep the data flowing, to let ideas prosper, and to enable good governance from the same trust points.

Design, make, use

Data platforms have become pillars that support sales activity across all departments and keep the wheels of commerce turning. Configurations allow firms to connect cost estimation, purchasing, bidding, and all of the other essential information feeds in the chain. Teams can pull data all the way from making a pitch through to servicing the sale and renewing business. As Jim Quanci – Senior Director of Autodesk Forge Partner Development – explains, unified data models help on the bottom line by giving sales agents the right pricing. And on the top line, having well-structured, unified information translates into winning more deals. Better data builds trust and that allows businesses to land bigger contracts. And it’s why more companies are seeking information platforms in the cloud that allow them to be truly ‘data-driven’.

Cloud-based models help design teams too. Wisdom that would otherwise be wrapped up in separate projects is now easy for workers to access securely and digest – to forecast costings more accurately, help with production time estimates, and collaborate on creative features. Successful platforms make it straightforward to link the people who need the information with the people that have the information – eliminating the need for multiple emails, spreadsheets, and other digital patchwork that brings delays. Being able to share data effectively helps firms to make solid plans and puts them in a stronger position to hit their targets and deliver on strategy. “Forge is the platform for how we do that,” comments Ben Cochran, Senior Director of Engineering, Developer Enablement at Autodesk.

App-like future

Once users get a glimpse of this new, more streamlined, responsive future, they want to run with their own ideas and build on those services. And just as smartphones and tablets have blossomed thanks to app-based ecosystems, central data platforms benefit from a rich set of API’s that give customers analogous building blocks for creating new viewing experiences using their data.

“Participants from various teams built creative projects that we might not have ever built ourselves,” said Shwetha Nagaraja of the Forge product team, who’s been active in organizing workshops where developers can brainstorm, collaborate, and road test ideas. “All of these examples ended up being productized.” Key pieces of the information puzzle can now be wired together, which includes data management, reality capture, information viewing, design automation, modelling, and more. “Forge is a set of web service APIs and allows customers to move ‘design make data’ across an enterprise,” adds Quanci. “They allow customers to do a much better, faster, easier, lower cost job.”

New mindset

“As we move from becoming a product company to a platform company, we’re making our software, our IP available to far more people, and they will do amazing things with it,” said Susanna Holt, VP of Forge. Users will be able to explore this interconnected future without loss of data fidelity, and bypassing the often tedious intervention that crops up when systems won’t talk to each other. A familiar hurdle, the downtime associated with traditional tools tends to occur when customer inspiration conflicts with the original product specification. And users trying to explore new data avenues beyond the original feature set become frustrated. With a regular data product, the business intelligence possibilities are locked in, but API-driven platforms break down those barriers and enable customers to pull in new information feeds. This flexibility allows developers to create visualizations that are much more closely tailored to their requirements and can adapt and evolve as projects grow.

“You used to be able to do what the tool allowed you to do, but now we’re blowing that all out and giving the people the space to be much more creative,” said Holt. The trend in the business intelligence sector backs this bold move. While conventional centralized data platforms have their merits, it’s clear that customers want more. The first wave of digital transformation has given users years of experience in working with data; they can see the possibilities and want to be in a position where it’s possible for them to bend and shape those digital tools to meet their needs.

Browsing the web, you don’t have to search far to find expressions such as ‘dash mesh’ and ‘decentralized data systems’, and cloud-based developer services such as Autodesk’s Forge platform play to this forward-looking trend.