The role of the business developer has traditionally been to initiate partnerships and follow through by ensuring some sort of integration is implemented. As enterprises become more software-driven, integration itself increasingly comes through APIs. This may mean that the implementation of API-driven “partner portals” is replacing traditional business development practices. A recent article from Wired claimed that 70% of all jobs will be replaced by robots by the end of this century. Are APIs and partner portals the robots that will replace manual business development processes?
Here’s an example of how a business partnership might come about these days. Interaction with an online API partner portal will act as the initial “conversation” that leads to the partnership. If you want to integrate with Salesforce.com, you go to the Salesforce partner portal, figure out the relevant SDK/API, build an app and then submit it to the Salesforce AppExchange. You don’t ever need to actually talk with anyone at Salesforce to become a business partner with the company.
Another example is the way many companies now enable access to their Web sites via Facebook Connect, Google+ Login or Twitter Login. This represents the first step towards establishing a business partnership with Facebook, Google or Twitter. It’s not new in the Web world and has been discussed for years. What makes it relevant to this discussion is the way it’s being applied to out-dated business processes and practices.
Great platform companies have realized this, “robotized” their business development processes and rationalized their business development teams. As robots are to manufacturing, APIs are to business development. Better technology means that we can focus our human resources on more valuable activities, since handshakes are now being made over OAuth instead of costly dinners and drinks.