Establishing and running an API program is a step that many organizations have done or are planning to do. The observation often starts from initial experiences with APIs, the goal to better establish and support the API practice, and the idea that an API program can help with such an effort.
Ideally, an organization has an API strategy that clearly defines why API are relevant for the organization and what the goals are for using APIs (“Why are we even doing this?”). The API program is the operationalization of the strategy: It defines how the organization is going to move towards realizing the strategy and establishes the necessary structure to scale the API efforts in the organization.
APIs, of course, are not a goal in itself. Just having APIs changes nothing if the APIs are not used as the foundation to improve and speed up the way how the organization creates, manages, and changes value chains. Nothing just happens because you have APIs, so it is important to make sure that the API program goes beyond just creating APIs, and instead also includes the ultimate goal of making your organization better at changing and doing it frequently.
In our engagements with large organizations, we have identified the following five areas which are critical to address in an API program. They provide an easy way to check for the completeness of your API program: if you are not covering all of these areas; it is likely that the long-term effectiveness of your API program is not as good as it could be.
Strategic Alignment: APIs are a means to an end, which means that the goals around APIs should be clearly defined and communicated and that it should be clear how APIs and the API program fit into the context of existing strategic initiatives.
Organization & Culture: One of the main goals of APIs is to help improve the speed with which an organization can change and innovate. APIs can be part of the foundation for making this possible, but the organization and culture must change in order for changes and innovation to happen.
Awareness & Adoption: In order for APIs to play their role, everybody must be aware of the role they play, and that they are an essential ingredient of digital value chains. Producing and consuming APIs has to become the standard way of how value chains are created and managed, thereby establishing APIs as the lingua franca for how the organization creates value.
Observation: With APIs becoming the digital way in which all teams and products communicate, it becomes important to observe how well this is working, where teams may need better support, and how new trends and technologies may have to be evaluated and possibly adopted.
Providing an API Platform: Providing and consuming APIs should be as easy as possible, and the foundation for this is the API platform. The platform is the entirety of infrastructure, tooling, support, and practices that help teams to work with APIs. It should be designed to be open, and should be managed as a product that is continuously adapted to be as helpful as possible.
If you’re interested in more details about “How to Run Successful API Programs,” the following webinar will give you more information and concrete examples about the areas outlined above.