Apps are getting smarter at a ferocious pace.\n\n\nThey have gone from being able to do things like responding to requests for directions to proactively knowing \u201cwhere we need to be next\u201d and letting us know when we ought to leave based on current traffic conditions \u2014 not to mention offering to hail an Uber or place a Starbucks order along the way.\n\n\nSo I was surprised to see that 81 percent of respondents to KPMG\u2019s U.S. CEO Outlook 2016 are \u201capprehensive about the integration of basic automated business processes with artificial intelligence and cognitive processes.\u201d Considering 65 percent of these CEOs are also aiming to use \u201cdisruptive technologies to increase sales,\u201d I expected far more excitement about the rapidly proliferating resources for doing just that. After all, few companies are likely to build their own Watson.\n\n\nBut APIs mean anyone can tap Watson\u2019s capabilities and it\u2019s only one option among many other new additions to an API ecosystem that now offers AI, natural language processing, machine learning, and more \u201cas a service,\u201d in the cloud.\n\n\nFor some CEOs, many of the reasons for worrying about their organization\u2019s propensity to make the most of the API ecosystem may point back to their CIO.\n\n\nIn Apigee\u2019s benchmark survey of IT organizations at 800 large companies\u00a0\u2014 conducted in part to understand how well IT organizations are tapping the web API ecosystem to deliver apps with business impact \u2014 we found evidence of a deep and impactful \u201ccultural divide\u201d between IT organizations.\n\n\nOnly eight percent of those surveyed exceeded expectations on all of five measures of \u201capp mastery\u201d: time, cost, number, quality and business impact. Nearly one in three (31 percent) didn\u2019t exceed expectations on any of these measures.\n\n\nAmong the top performers, nearly one in five (19 percent and 18 percent, respectively) agreed that \u201ccloud first\u201d and \u201coutside in\u201d described their approach to technology \u201cvery well.\u201d Among the worst performers, it was one percent and none. Overall, more than eight in ten of the top performers agreed these two describe their approach at least somewhat well, versus about half of the poorest performers.\n\n\nIf the IT team isn\u2019t excited about proactively seeking out and making the most of what\u2019s new, it\u2019s no wonder their CEO is worried. It\u2019s a recipe for falling behind. And any CIO who isn\u2019t seen as a go-to person for insight into \u201cdisruptive technologies to increase sales\u201d is missing a golden opportunity.\n\n\nAs I (literally) travel the world to talk about APIs, I (figuratively) feel like a \u201ckid in a candy store.\u201d Just when I think I\u2019ve seen it all, I discover something that sparks a new \u201ca-ha moment.\u201d To share this as a source of ideas and inspiration to CIOs who want to lead the way toward a \u201ccloud-first, outside in\u201d culture, this is the first in a series where I recount my conversations with forward-looking business and IT leaders. Appropriately enough, I\u2019m starting at the very top \u2014 with a CEO: Sanjay Parthasarathy, CEO of Indix, a Seattle-based startup that makes structured product information accessible as a data-as-a-service API.\n\n\nWhat makes a great \u201cas-a-service\u201d offering as a consumer and provider?\n\n\nSanjay Parthasarathy: The keys of a great \u201cas-a-service\u201d offering are that it\u2019s programmatically accessible, scales from low to high volume, and simplifies an experience or eliminates duplication. Successful ones fill a need that shouldn\u2019t necessarily be built and managed internally. Take billing as an example. Anyone who sells anything needs a billing system. Does everyone need to build one? No. Leveraging a billing API is best for most.\n\n\nLess duplicative work on basic building blocks means you can move faster.\n\n\nWhat\u2019s super interesting on your API ecosystem radar?\n\n\nSpeaking of simplification: the commerce ecosystem is fragmented, complex, and there's a lot of room to simplify it using APIs. I see three areas with a lot of potential:\n\n\n\n\nDiscovery. APIs that help people discover the right products at the right time. These include APIs for chatbots, image recognition, sensors of all kinds, looking up product information, and product recommendations to name a few.\n\n\n\n\nContext. APIs that understand what a buyer is doing, where they are and their priorities, so that the right product can be presented to them in the right way. I think of this as infinite channels of information and the APIs needed to deliver the right product experience across those channels.\n\n\n\n\nLast mile. There's a lot of opportunity in helping close the sale, from shopping baskets, buy buttons, billing, delivery and returns. There's been a lot of work over these issues over the years but technology (especially APIs) is making it easier and a better experience.\n\n\n\n\nThis was a trick question: Indix is on my own radar \u2014 I was intrigued by a phrase you\u2019ve used before \u201cthe Google Maps of product\u201d \u2014 can you explain a little about what you mean by that?\n\n\nToday, nearly every application and website is \u201clocation-aware.\u201d At Indix, we\u2019re working hard to do the same thing for products that Google\u2019s done for location. Imagine if every mention of a product in text, or image of a product captured via camera or a sensor, could connect you to information about the product, reviews and feedback on the product, and the easiest and fastest place to buy it. I call this being \u201cproduct-aware.\u201d We still have a ways to go to get where location is today \u2014 but the opportunity to enable new ways for people to search for, discover, and buy and sell products is an exciting endeavor.\n\n\nWhat advice would you give your peers in the C-suite?\n\n\nConstant innovation and an aggressive approach to break away from the norm are the keys to success in today\u2019s business environment. Connecting to APIs, and even exposing your own, presents one of the most effective ways to strengthen your offering to existing and new markets \u2014 and build your brand. The promise of a broad ecosystem of APIs is exciting and while not every need is covered by APIs, the momentum is increasing. Your organization will learn fastest by doing. If you\u2019re not in the API game yet, this is the time to jump in.