API Management Enterprise API Strategy

API governance: What is it and why does it matter?

api governance

One topic that often comes up in organizations past a certain size is the question of API governance. This simply reflects the inherent tension between one of the primary goals and advantages of using APIs, and the potential challenges when going that way:

What is API governance?

  • APIs often are part of an effort to move towards a more loosely coupled way of how IT and organization work. By breaking up monolithic structures, it becomes easier to change things, to add new capabilities, and it improves the ability to innovate and iterate. The goal is to decrease coupling, and the path is to connect digital building blocks through APIs and design them to be used and reused easily.
  • By reducing centralized development as one of the central pieces of this push towards a more agile organization, it loses some central control. The question is how to make sure that the decentralized components follow certain guidelines that are built and provided in a way that helps the overall goal of breaking up monolithic structures into loosely coupled capabilities.

API governance reflects this challenge: It addresses the question of how to get the benefits of increased agility, while still keeping some centralized overview and control of the capabilities that exist and get developed.

Looking at it this way, API governance is similar to API Product Management. But whereas API Product Management is concerned with the lifecycle of a single product, API governance is focusing on the entire API landscape.

You could therefore say that API governance is for API landscapes what API Product Management is for individual APIs.

Starting from this definition, what are the goals of API governance? The ultimate goal is to make sure that an organization gets the most out of its APIs: The value created with the help of APIs should be maximized across the entire API landscape.

The landscape perspective helps a lot because it also captures scenarios that are outside the visibility of individual APIs, such as the value that is created when APIs are coherently designed and thus it becomes easier for developers to tap into the entire ecosystem on an organization’s API landscape.

The goal

The goal of API governance is to maximize the value produced by an API landscape, which has a lot to do with making sure that the User Experience (UX) makes it easy for valuable applications to be developed in that landscape.

The path of API governance has a lot to do with improving Developer Experience (DX) so that these applications can be built easily and can be operated securely and reliably.

If you want to learn more about the “why,” “what,” and “how” of API governance, the following video provides some examples and also describes some approaches on how to put effective API governance in place.


Read “The balancing act of API governance” for more on balancing centralized policy enforcement with distributed agile teams.