1 year ago today I joined The College Board to build out a New Media Technology department
We literally had nothing when I started – basic web presence, no mobile or social apps, no open API or developer community.
In that year we have gone from almost no digital apps and no open api’s and content to some great progress
I am here to share with you a step by step guide that will make your journey even easier
Exactly 1 year ago I was sitting here in your shoes.
I was a BAPI attendee. I was new to college board. My job was to expand their Digital reach through any means. I wasn’t sure where to start.
I knew CB already had a bunch of great digital assets. - We invented the SAT’s and AP’s Admissions details from every college and university In America The content for every single question and answer ever used on an SAT or AP exam ever.
What the hell do I do?
That’s when Inspiration struck. It was like when Peter Parker got bit by the radioactive spider. Something changed forever that day at BAPI 2009
It clicked that a motivated community of external developers could build some really great apps. Mashery’s technology could enable that. This was not just a “cool” techy thing to do - This was a game changer.
I decided that from that day forward it was my super hero mission to free these api’s and data.
And thus my super hero journey began…
Despite the fact that I was now literally a super hero, I knew the next steps were not going to easy- and they weren’t
Many folks in exec leadership didn’t know what a web service or an api was – as they shouldn’t
The idea of opening them up to external developers was going to be hard to explain, much less sell.
I literally had to start at the beginning and this presentation will serve as a step by step guide so that you too can reach super hero status one day soon.
The first thing I had to do was Educate Leadership
I started by literally making sure that Senior Leadership knew the basics
The assumption was that if we can’t sell them on it – it’s our fault not theirs.
One of the ways big old companies stay big and old is that mid to Sr level management can’t sell change to leadership.
We needed to make them understand what this all means so that the value is obvious.
Here is what we did
Literally start at the beginning and give an API 101 class Be sure to hammer home that this is not some new cutting edge thing to do. A lot of companies are doing it. It’s the right side of the adoption curve. There are numerous proven ways to generate buzz and test small We worked with Devon and Deylen here to help
What are the key values to make leadership aware of
There are tons of values with an open API. Which one will add the most value to your organization?
It’s not all about revenue generation all the time – although it certainly can be.
Make sure leadership knows about all the levers when it comes to value and be clear in advance what your goals are going to be.
The College Board is in a somewhat more complex situation in that not only do we have to generate revenue to keep the lights on but we are also a very large non-profit with a clearly defined mission of “Connecting kids to College Success”. We are also a membership based organization that touts most US colleges and universities as our membership. This makes for a unique opportunity to create value in many forms.
Here are some of the values we identified
Revenue Generation – this is the easy one. Most times this can result in new revenue streams with super high margins Cost Reduction – the other way to get more profitable is to reduce the bottom line. Extend Mission – for the non-profit folks in the room this is always a consideration to be cognizant of Innovation Speed – Innovation seems to be the popular buzz word of 2010 and what better way to speed up innovation than to multiply the size of your development team overnight Flood the digital market – a developer community can churn out more apps than your internal team no matter how big you are?
Know your audience
Again, College Board is rather unique in that we service so many different audiences.
We serve students, parents, teachers, administrators, school districts, colleges and universities, commercial education companies, capital hill, our trustees – the list goes on and on.
It’s important to identify early on exactly who you are going to serve. If you try to be everything to everyone you will fail.
We identified 4 key personas that we saw as high potential.
Each has a slightly different motivator and potential pricing model
Students: We don’t plan to charge them Weekend Hacker: Charge only for the API calls that make sense. We consider these the most entrepreneurial and vocal and want to empower them in every way possible. Corporate Partner: Apply a standard licensing model College / University: Likely free but depends on the API calls and data
In selling to Senior Leadership be sure to start small…
We decided to hold a small contest with a single api and a closed audience.
This is a good chance to under promise and over deliver
It also gives us a tangible “win” and a case for full blown investment.
It is cheaper than ever to find a firm to outsource a contest like this to.
Examples of good app contests that are going on today are Apps for Democracy and Apps for the Army if you would like inspiration
Once you’ve succeeded you have reached true super hero status like me and that’s when the fun begins.
You get to present at events like BAPI and compare yourself to super man
But in a lot of ways its just the beginning. With great power comes great responsibility as super man once said.
To support and build a community of rabid fans would take a whole nother presentation and I don’t want to steal the thunder from the other presenters. I am a super hero after all and they’re, well, not….
However, the potential results make it well worth it.. Which brings me to my next point..
Measure and celebrate your success
I had to have at least one chart – it’s a power point after all – but I did manage to turn it into kind of a super hero graph
When I started at The College Board a year ago we literally had a digital media presence of ZERO.
In the last year we have made good progress.
We expect that by this time next year we will have 100’s if not 1,000’s of new apps that we did not have to build ourselves.
Speaking of new digital apps
I want to show you a quick video of the type of app that our API enables.
Historically this is something that we only could have built internally – our open api policy changes that
Take a look
So in closing. Remember - Exposing Data Can Be A Lot Like Exposing Yourself.
And the same rules do apply.
Avoid cold climate: if your organization is not receptive then put in the work to turn them around. Don’t do it around minors: the rules change dramatically when dealing with underage data and you don’t want to go there If you charge – people may not pay: This is where beta testing can help. Take a scientific approach to figuring out the model and don’t necessarily come out of the gate charging
There are always risks to opening up api’s and data.
Be up front about them and set basic ground rules.
Protect your backside a bit (or front side in this example) and the sky is the limit.
Danny Boice Mashery Business of API's (BAPI) Presentation
From Average Joe to Super
Hero in 1 Short Year
Executive Director, New Media