APIvista’s Approach to Enabling API Success … the 30,000-foot View
Best practices abound, but no two APIs are the same, and no two companies are on the same API journey.
At APIvista, we believe that there is a straightforward approach to prioritizing the opportunities in front of an organization and their API program, then approaching those opportunities in a deliberate way that enables the next stage of success.
At its core, expanding the use of APIs represents a journey of technical and operational change for every organization. Sometimes this is about wrangling dozens of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms into a cohesive set of services that the organization will integrate with their existing systems. For other organizations, it is about making their APIs available to their partners (or internal stakeholders) in such a way that they are easily usable and deliver truly synergistic value to the business relationship.
This journey is supported by a myriad of tools and best practices. Some are very standardized, such as the actual functioning of a web service. Others can be highly customized, such as the support of SLAs for specific partners.
Wrapping one’s head around all the possibilities and creating a prioritized plan of attack can be a challenge, but we’d like to present an intuitive model for achieving API success.
Two Directions: Publishing & Consumption
The first question to ask is:
Are we publishing APIs for other organizations to use, or are we consuming APIs that are made available by a 3rd-party, external to us?
Of course, it is very possible that your organization may need to do both. If that is the case, it is a good idea to begin thinking of publishing and consumption as separate activities, if you haven’t already. This will help you break down the work you need to do into discrete buckets.
There is at least one other nuanced use case: Publishing APIs that are also consumed by your own organization, what you may even consider to be within the same application. Depending on the scale you’re operating at, that could all be done by one team. However, we recommend an approach of publishing internal-only APIs to a high standard, as if your external partners were evaluating you on their merits.
When you go through digital transformation, and begin offering deep access to your core services, you effectively become a SaaS vendor. Customers within your organization will come to expect the same level of service as they would from an external SaaS provider.
Two Focuses: Product & Process
When looked at from this dimension, Product takes on at least two forms:
From an API Consumer viewpoint, Product is the thing you’re building. It could be an app for your customers, or a complex system integration that your business will rely on. You want your developers spending their time on your products — creating new value and evolving your intellectual property — not fiddling around with a bunch of 3rd-party services trying to get them to work!
From an API Publisher perspective, your APIs are your product and your technical partners are your customers. If you’re expecting the APIs you’re publishing to get real traction and deliver value, it is important that they are treated as first-class entities and given the attention that your core product offering is given.
Of course, you can’t just build a product and expect it to be successful on its own right. It takes a collection of carefully architected and managed Processes to make it successful. In the API ecosystem, these processes can range from being very technical things like systems monitoring and automated code deployment, to more people-oriented, like collaborative governance processes.
The key to finding success in all of this is to break down the work that needs to be done into the correct Publisher / Consumer, Product / Process categorizations and prioritize the efforts to align with the primary business requirements (ROI, efficiency, quality, expansion, etc).
API Program Management & Support
At APIvista, we approach the entire body of work in the API ecosystem using a methodology that guides us in our engagements with our clients to:
- Segment the areas of opportunity along the Publish / Consume and Product / Process quadrants
- Prioritize what needs to be done based on the organization’s goals
- Develop a plan that applies the right resources in an efficient way
- Partner with our clients to select and implement the right tooling with the necessary professional services to get the maximum value from their investments
- Provide ongoing support & managed services to continue a successful partnership with our clients — and in the case of API Publishers, with their clients and customers
Often times we discover that disciplines like DevOps and Data Management emerge as related areas of opportunity for improvement to meet the new demands unlocked by a robust API program. Keep an eye out for our upcoming articles highlighting the close relationship between these critical fields that are driving digital transformation.