developing an api strategy

By 2027, the API management market is expected to reach 5 times its present value. Companies throughout the world are working on an API development strategy as a chief component of their overall IT strategies. APIs may have started out as just another way to access data. Still, organizations have since realized how APIs can reduce development costs by providing ready avenues for integrating existing systems. APIs can also provide additional revenue streams through API monetization, attracting innovation, and expanding the company brand through access to its key data. 

However, many companies forget that the API itself brings change to the organization. The moment your organization creates an API, it also creates an API strategy, at least implicitly. Any API decision-making should consider things like user-community involvement, documentation, developer engagement, API management, and your organizational structure. Not taking these things into consideration at the start doesn’t exempt you from facing the choice later on. Decisions made early on will have a lasting impact on the organization.

Considering relationships in your API development strategy

APIs reveal the unique data proposition of your business. Exposing the data collection of your applications and the unique relationships that have evolved can also reveal new avenues for growth. Consideration should be given to your organization’s internal and external relationships. This could mean keeping your API internal, taking it public, or even creating a hybrid of the two by providing access to external business partners. Businesses are changing constantly, community is becoming more and more important, and staying agile is key to staying ahead. That’s why you should plan from the outset as if you intend to take your API public at some point…so you don’t close yourself off to the possibilities that going public can bring.

Adopting the future-forward public mindset may affect your API development strategy and architecture. For example, your organization may have embraced GraphQL. However, GraphQL comes with caching implications that some groups might prefer to avoid. How you implement authentication today will also impact future decisions. You might overlook implementing circuit breakers or rate-limiting for your API. Once you commit to a system architecture, SLAs, or a security plan, it is harder to switch down the road. You should consider your future consumers, API useability, user preferences, and usage tendencies.

The possibilities of external partnerships

Some of today’s top companies are leveraging strong partnerships as key components of their API strategies. Expedia established a partner group to provide integrations with its partner solutions site: Over 90% of Expedia’s revenue was generated through their API monetization strategy. In addition to generating revenue, API partnerships can also provide social benefits.  Earlier this year, a creator of advanced air pollution sensors, Plume Labs, partnered with Accuweather to improve air quality information for people with respiratory concerns. 

APIs require developer engagement and can uncover business relationships that you didn’t even know existed. Public API development often results in the creation of tools that empower your organization and uncover new business ideas.

Your internal team is always a prime resource for new ideas, but you’ll want to consider including your entire developer community in your API strategy. That includes developers external to your organization—those who consume your APIs or those that may want to. Allowing full API source access to partner communities attracts innovative ideas. Expanding the developer audience can also uncover problems resulting from new use cases that your organization doesn’t ordinarily consider. For example, one of our enterprise clients chose to open up their source code to their wider developer community of API customers. The feedback they got from this community resulted in improvements to query performance and the uncovering of new, interesting metrics for the community at large. Expanding your audience ultimately accelerates the evolution of your API.

Clearing the path to creativity

Clearing roadblocks should be a big part of your API development strategy. Give your developer community the tools and the time to foster an innovative and creative effort. Communication is especially vital in a post-COVID, remote-working world: Tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams can already improve communication and foster collaboration. But communication is nothing without usability. Users also need to be able to consume your APIs uninterrupted to ensure success. How do you make it easy for users to access your business assets and capabilities via your APIs? You need to reduce barriers. Tools like Azure API, Google Apigee, and Amazon AWS can help manage connections and provide policies to assist with rate-limiting overuse or circuit breakers to increase fault tolerance.

How you facilitate access to your API for development should be part of your API strategy. Consultant Adam Cowart, in his blog, demonstrates how using sandboxes can reduce developer friction and make APIs more accessible (read the full article for more API development best practices). Your plan should reduce the up-time needed for new developers to implement your API in their environment. Another method is to have a detailed onboarding plan for new developers. Onboarding plans with clearly defined steps will ease the transition from new arrival to actively contributing member.

Creating a conducive organizational structure

API development holds a virtual mirror up to your organization. Conway’s law informs us of how organizations design systems that mirror their own internal structure. Accordingly, APIs tend to reflect the organizational structure of their creators. Internal oversight and organizational policies should enable agile development. In his Øredev Conference presentation, Avoiding Microservice Megadisasters, Jimmy Bogard explains, “architecture does not resolve organizational problems.” If your staff is incentivized to silo knowledge and data, then constructive coordination with other teams becomes impossible. When developing your API strategy, consider how you can evaluate communication between teams to remove barriers to innovation.

How to optimize your API development strategy

API development is playing an increasingly larger role in IT and business strategies—and the process of developing an API strategy can be illuminating. APIs themselves reveal the true nature of your organization and culture. That’s why you should be planning ahead to address cultural challenges inherent in exposing your key data through APIs. Learn how to foster community with your internal and external consumers to promote innovation and accelerate change—getting ahead of user needs can become your differentiator. By reducing obstacles to use and empowering developers with the tools to drive productivity, your APIs can become a huge value-driver for your teams and business.

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