This is the last part of Building Effective API Programs. We’re concluding this series with a “cheat sheet” summary of the key success factors.
In the introduction, we explained that exposing assets via APIs can prove to be extremely valuable but that tackling the technical challenges of building the API is only one aspect. To reap the true benefits of your APIs, there’s a lot more that needs to be addressed.
Your API program should address all elements necessary to describe, deliver, and capitalize on the value of the API. In other words, at the core of an API program is the description of the value of the API – both the value for the organization exposing APIs and the value that API consumers get out of it. Delivery is all about how you make the API available, communicate about the API, and cover API operations. Finally, how do you actually capture and capitalize on the described value? Keep in mind, value can mean different things to different organizations: enabling mobile channels, growing ecosystems, increasing reach and distribution, powering new business models, or driving innovation and agility.
Now what does all this mean, practically, for someone who is responsible for managing an API program?
An effective API program must address a minimum of the following elements: business models, API design and implementation, API operations, (developer) marketing, and developer experience or DX (see the introduction). At the bottom of each post in this series, we provided a checklist of practical information to help you define, design and implement your API program based on each topic discussed. Here is a summary! These are key success factors that every effective and successful API program has:
- Before an organization decides to embark on an API project, it must clearly define what it aims to achieve. (see Leveraging API Benefits)
- You must devise a strategy for the API, defining objectives that contribute to your organization’s overarching strategy. This API strategy must also define which benefits it aims to achieve based on the scope of the program (public, partner, or private) and degree of openness. (see APIs and Strategy)
- Your API’s strategy must be aligned with your organization’s business model, which should establish how value is proposed, created, delivered, and captured and what means and partners are necessary to achieve that. The question needs to be “What is the API for my business model?” rather than the other way around. (see API Business Models)
- Good API design is a necessary precondition for your API. There are several crucial non-functional aspects such as simplicity, flexibility and quick adoption. TTFHW can be a helpful metric. (see API Design and Implementation)
- API operations includes technical aspects – to make sure that the API is functionally working with low latency and high availability – and business-related aspects – impose business processes in line with your business model, such as billing or pricing plans linked to rate limits. You must be able to scale API operations along with your API. As a minimum configuration, we recommend having access control, usage policies, and analytics in place. Check out my donut model of operations management to figure out how to achieve the five operations performance objectives: dependability, flexibility, cost, speed, and quality. (see API Operations)
- To approach API marketing, we recommend a thorough segmentation exercise. Target segments based on characteristics derived from your API strategy. The selected segments must be addressed specifically, which requires targeted positioning of your API program. (see API Marketing)
- Finally, outstanding developer experience (DX) is paramount to increase API adoption. The two main underlying principles: provide an API of unique value to developers, and make it dead-simple for them to get on board and use it. A developer program may include: a developer portal, community building, evangelists, events, communications and social media, pilot partners and case studies, acceleration via ecosystem partners, and measuring. If you can’t implement all of these elements, we recommend a minimum of: a developer portal, a developer evangelist, and attending some events. To learn more about the characteristics and work of developer evangelists (this very new type of role requires a very diverse skill set!) check out my onion model. (see Developer Experience)
I’ve also recently introduced the API Model Canvas, a useful tool for defining and implementing a strategy for your API. It contains all the elements necessary to describe, deliver, and capitalize on the value of your API – the essentials of your API program:
We hope you found our Building Effective API Programs series helpful for your own API program. You can find more information in our info center or in these case studies about 3scale customers’ successful API programs. If you have any feedback or questions, feel free to get in touch.