Six Tips for Building a Successful API Strategy

These tips will help you build a comprehensive API strategy, aligned with your business goals, for developing, delivering, and managing APIs.

Spurred by a need to accelerate innovation, overtake the competition, and even survive the pandemic crisis, many organizations currently planning or undergoing a digital transformation. For these transformations to be successful, organizations will need to leverage APIs to effectively connect all their systems, data, applications, and devices. 

API Strategy

However, without a solid API strategy, organizations will struggle to develop, deliver, and manage their growing volume and variety of APIs. Putting an API management platform in place is just one component of the strategy, but it doesn’t address the whole picture.

While there are many more considerations and components than we can cover in this blog post, these tips will help you take the right steps for developing a comprehensive API strategy.

1. Build a Business Case for APIs

As you know, APIs affect much more than just the IT department. They connect data sources across departments, allow organizations to open up and selectively expose data to business partners, and help companies transform their data into business assets. As a result, the IT team will need to involve the business stakeholders to determine where APIs are required and provide use cases to senior management to demonstrate the value of APIs.

When building the business case and securing executive buy-in, you should treat APIs as products, not projects. It helps to designate an API product manager to help spark enthusiasm for using APIs as part of the business.

2. Map Your API Strategy to Business Goals

Companies need to define their business goals for their APIs first, then map the goals to their API strategies. First, determine what the business will need from APIs, such as connecting outside data sources to aggregate as much customer data as possible, enabling a 360-degree view of the customer. In some cases, businesses may also want to determine how to monetize their APIs.

Then, companies will want to define the KPIs used to measure how successful the API strategy is. Companies that are further along in their API journeys often choose to measure how many applications are using APIs as a success metric. Other items to include are key activity logging, user auditing, business value reporting, and service level monitoring, which dovetail with many business objectives.

3. Enable Self-Service for Developers

An API strategy can be stopped in its tracks when developers, including the larger developer community, aren’t enabled with what they need to create and leverage APIs. Organizations need to give developers the tools, information, and autonomy to create APIs and conduct key registration and management activities via self-service.

Companies should set common design standards and document versioning policies so that the APIs are used consistently by developers. Setting guidelines for API management and API quality testing is also very important.

4. Engage Your Business Partners

Building on self-service developer portals, companies will also want to help their valued partners create and experiment with APIs. This can help organizations find new use cases and leverage previously unavailable data sets or capabilities. Increasing engagement with business partners can result in the co-creation of APIs when you identify common transactions.

Additionally, it helps to create processes and tools for onboarding third parties. This can include workflows, registration templates, and licensing agreements, fostering consistency and making it easier to conduct audits when needed.

5. Keep Scalability and Growth in Focus

As APIs gain steam and calls increase, companies must make sure they can scale to meet the demand. As part of a successful API strategy, organizations should prepare to scale up and ensure performance. Lagging response times will hinder API use—and in the process, decrease adoption.

Defining strategies for testing and deploying new APIs will also be important as usage grows and new APIs are created, as will identifying how to enable access control. This can help ensure that SLA targets are met and that third parties and internal users can use the APIs for their intended purposes.

6. Include APIs as Part of Your Overall Integration Strategy

While APIs are important for integration, other integration technologies must also be considered. In some cases, Electronic Data Interchange EDI and data integration will play a very important role. EDI and APIs are complementary, not competitive. Consider how APIs fit into the big picture and how they complement these other technologies.

API Strategy in Conclusion

There will be many other considerations for a successful API strategy, but by starting with the business case, creating standards early on, and knowing how much scalability will be required, companies can build a strong foundation.