How to Shape-Up your API strategy in 5 steps?
No one argues the value of APIs and theirs impact on digital transformation especially nowadays where companies don’t just use them to connect apps and data, but also as fully-fledged API Products, thus there is an urgent need to build them successfully.
One of the foundations of any successful APIs is to define an API strategy that makes sense! otherwise, your business and teams will not get any ROI and understanding of why you do APIs in the first place.
This post list 5 key steps to help you define the right direction of your APIs.
Define your desired state
The first thing to consider is to define what’s the ideal state of your business objective? and that will highly influence the target of your API Program.
We often think that the API Program is the strategy itself, but it’s not, API Program is only part of the tactics, API First is the same… API Program is what helps you get the value of the defined API strategy.
Defining the desired state can be done by writing down “Noir sur blanc” your API vision, by answering these critical “Drive” questions:
- What is your current state? You can perform API archaeology and take a critical look to identify your main burning problem with APIs. You might discover that you already have dozens of APIs that don’t look the same and behave differently, it might be that you discover a mess on how your teams are doing versioning … it might be that teams have the pain to operate and release APIs…or your consumers experience integration challenges.
- Is your final goal is to speed up your time market by allowing engineers to create applications fast! ? Is your goal is to integrate fast and reliably with your partners? Is your goal is to sell your business assets through APIs or what you want is to enable external innovation?
- What are the key things that you need to implement to achieve your final goal?
- How you will know that you succeeded? (Key metrics / KPIs / API Revenues …) ?
Find your business sponsor
Before creating any tactics / API Program the most critical question is how to justify its business value? and to get the ROI of the API Program.
Depending on the defined goal with your business sponsor this exercise will help you define your KPIs and API Program success criteria. Most often API Program fails because of a lack of business sponsors or having a vision that is too inspirational and not concrete.
Some examples of KPIs can be “How quickly can your engineers come up with applications”, or “How fast we integrate with our partners using APIs” or it can be “How much revenue are we driving through APIs”?
Select a API Strategy type
There are 3 kinds of APIs: private, partner, and public, each one has its constraints and goals.
- Private APIs are consumed by your internal teams and they are not designed to be consumed outside your organization.
- Partner APIs are consumed by your partners under a certain agreement.
- Public APIs are external developers focused and anyone can access and consume them.
Defining what type of APIs you want to have in your organization is important as this will influence their design including API vocabulary, access management, security, and developer experience.
For instance, The API vocabulary of a private API will be quite different than a public API as your internal teams already know your domain. This is a critical key to have in mind as this is impacting your API developer experience, we often see public APIs that are quite complex to understand and this is a result of assuming that your external API community will understand your domain.
Access management will also be shaped differently depending on your strategy type, for the public audience, you might have automated sign-up forms with a strong access management governance while for private APIs access is coordinated or fully automated.
Security is another critical aspect that should be taken seriously :
By 2022, APIs will become the #1 attack vector.
(Gartner how to build an effective API security strategy)
For public APIs it’s obvious to consider everyone as a threat, however, you have to ensure that you consider security by design for all your APIs including private ones.
Another aspect to consider is Developer Experience and how your developers will interact with your APIs ? in other words how remove your API users friction or annoyances ?
For public APIs that you monetize it can be deal-breaker… and you want to avoid as much as possible these small annoyances and enable your API users to reduce friction and time to “hello world”.
Don’t do it all
You need to determine what you care about the most and do the right API Strategy at the right time with the right people. some API Strategies that I’ve seen fail because they try to do it all and miss the momentum.
The pattern I’ve observed and works is to start with solving the most burning problem for your API users, for some companies it can be the API consistency, increasing developer efficiency and time to market, for other APIs are a critical part of the business and considered as products from day one, then the focus is more on public/partner APIs and API internal consistency come last.
Build consumer-centric APIs
Usually, your API consumers will be the ones that craft applications for your end-users. Making your API consumers happy will hugely impact the experience of your end-users.
This is one of the motivations of adopting an API First tactic for your APIs that in the end just a reminder of keeping your API consumers in the loop! otherwise, you will spend months building something that nobody wants.
The main approach to API factory today is API design. We all bet on well-designed, documented APIs besides good implemented SDKs… that achieve this satisfaction and fulfil the Job To Be Done however there is an urgent need for disruption!
When creating your API Strategy don’t make the mistake of focusing too much on the tactics and technology instead of shaping-up the right direction for your APIs that helps you ship the right APIs to your consumers.
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