Experian: From credit bureau to technology company with APIs

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Editor’s note: Today we hear from Dang Nguyen, API Platform Product Owner at Experian, on how the company uses the Apigee API management platform to digitally transform from a traditional credit bureau to a true technology and software provider. Read on to learn how Experian uses APIs to help businesses make smarter decisions and individuals take financial control.

Chances are, when you think of Experian you think of a traditional credit bureau that provides credit reports. But Experian has transformed into a true technology and software provider. We gather, analyze, and process data in ways that other companies just can’t. Businesses use this data to make smarter decisions about credit and lending, as well as to prevent identity fraud and crime. We’re also able to use this data to help individuals take financial control of their own lives and access all kinds of financial services with products like Experian Boost.

Transforming data delivery, transforming the enterprise
A big part of our digital transformation has been based on our API program. We approached APIs with a concrete goal in mind. We knew exactly how we wanted to transform the business, and we had a set plan to achieve that. For us, this meant establishing an API center of excellence as a first step. It’s sole purpose was to enable the business units to create their APIs quickly and correctly, then apply them properly. We then went out to the business units one by one so that we could train them to build their APIs in a customer-friendly way. We taught them the entire API process of building, giving access to developers internally and externally.

This approach is fundamentally different from previous ones. As far back as the 1990s, our customers connected to us via software applications installed on their systems. As technologies evolved, our services to customers evolved, and we began supporting XML-based transactions and custom integrations with our partners. Some of these integrations actually included VPNs rather than going through HTTP connections. We did custom database schemas, one-off processes, and all kinds of custom development.

This meant that we had a team just for our IT system processes. This team kept growing as Experian continued to acquire new companies. Each acquisition brought a new way of doing integrations and business. We had a real challenge in standardizing development practices, which led to a lot of isolated environments inside the company. We had disparate data repositories and non-standard client conductivity, which hampered innovation.

Responding to customer demand for APIs
When we first started, we had some concrete goals. We wanted to grow our ecosystem, develop a massive reach for transaction and content distribution, power a new business model, and drive innovation. Basically, we wanted to use APIs to transform our business into a platform, and we wanted to build an ecosystem that leveraged this API platform to develop new solutions.

Our leadership also understood the importance of delivering information to our customers in the way they wanted to consume it. Our customers had told us that they didn’t want software, they just wanted access to the data–and APIs are the easiest, most secure way to grant that access.

The Apigee API management platform as an enterprise solution
We knew we needed an API management platform to enable this step forward. In addition to the documentation and discoverability, we also wanted a place to create APIs fast, and where we could get visibility into usage and other metrics. The Apigee API management platform from Google Cloud offered all of this, and more. From the robust feature set to advanced security to the developer portal to analytics – Apigee provides us everything we need to run an enterprise-class API program.

Now that we have our API program up and running, integrations no longer take months. In some cases, it’s just a matter of minutes or seconds. Customers can simply look at our documentation on how to invoke APIs and begin consuming data in seconds. We started with this new model in our three largest markets: North America, the United Kingdom and Brazil. Later, we rolled it out to Singapore and Australia, while deploying an on-premises platform for some of our North American business units that needed to provide their APIs internally only. Next, we went to EMEA. At this point, we’ve deployed Apigee company-wide, giving us a flexible deployment model that maintains a centralized platform and processes.

We continue to evangelize the program today, and we recently conducted a workshop with the Apigee team to train our EMEA business unit and get them onboarded to the platform. They were able to start developing API proxies right away, and they’re set to go into production with as many as nine of them. We also went live with three developer portals, which we call API hubs, in North America, the United Kingdom, and Brazil.

As we expand, we don’t want to keep building up different developer portals for each region because then we’re going to have too many. Alternatively, we plan to combine them into a single global developer portal that will allow users to select geographies of interest where they’ll be presented with relevant information.

Experian continues to evolve the types of products and services we offer. Thanks to Apigee, we have the flexibility, security, and technology to keep innovating and providing value to our business and our customers.

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