Building and Maintaining Your API Practice
Whether you do it under the label of an API CoE, CoP, API Governance Board, API Team, or some other more organizationally acceptable title, an effective API practice results from defining the right standards, tools, and frameworks required to consistently and sustainably produce quality APIs. This requires focus across a number of factors: creating and maintaining a cohesive API experience, generating useful insights, providing effective oversight, enabling scaled consumption, and supporting distributed API delivery while maintaining the quality and consistency that has been established. An effective API Practice drives the enterprise’s ability to produce APIs that have the greatest potential to realize the outcomes they were promised to achieve.
Creating a cohesive API experience that is sustainable over time as you scale your program across multiple teams and leaders is not something that happens without intentionality and diligence. We’ve found that you must focus on two areas: Practice Foundations, for the minimum establishment of core standards, and Transformation Enablement, to support the organizational change required along the way.
Opting for incremental organic evolution can yield really fast results, but those results are not sustainable given that one of the more critical indicators of future API success is the degree to which you achieve truly effective self-service API consumption. Going the way of organic evolution, your API consumer experience will evolve as APIs are added to your marketplace with inconsistent practices and standards applied. Then, as API consumers attempt to use multiple APIs, they need to wade through the inconsistency and will likely require assistance. For an API Practice to have any chance at mid- and long-term success, minimally required practices and standards must be established to avoid accruing this kind of consumer-facing technical debt even in early stages.
API Practice foundations are all about doing just enough to ensure cohesion over an extended period of time. We focus on four foundational pieces:
- Applied Target Reference Architecture
- REST Design Standards & Practices
- API Domain Architecture
- API Categorization Framework
Together, these tools help promote a very consistent API consumer experience – from the first API produced to the 400th. That consistency, coupled with effective design and packaging, is required for API consumers to operate completely independently of providers.
Beyond the resulting API consumer experience, we also consider the operational delivery world of the API provider. Without clear direction and standards, every delivery challenge results in a unique solutioning exercise. This undermines a program’s ability to streamline delivery process, keeping ideas like “producing an API in less than 4 months” out of reach.
In terms of applied governance, we target and pre-align key groups in your organization around the areas known to introduce the most friction, including solution architecture, data security, infrastructure and traffic flow, domain ownership and interaction, and design patterns. Prioritizing focus on these areas significantly simplifies API delivery from day one.
Are you considering:
- How you will organize and align your API products across many development teams?
- How you will enable self-governance based on defined frameworks?
- How you will ensure the program continues to operate and mature?
Moving from viewing APIs as integrations that are required for project success to viewing APIs as products is a transformational shift for many of our customers. Changing technology and process is not transformational. They are enablers. If you truly want to achieve transformation, you have to change organizational mindset, culture, and behavior. This requires a dedicated and deliberate focus on overcoming organizational resistance.
The ‘Transformational Enablement’ focus is about creating a picture of a better place, making it believable, inspiring people to want to achieve that better place, and then having the tenacity to overcome all aspects of organizational resistance while you realize that journey. The key to this effort is effectively managing stakeholder expectations and continually measuring the value delivered by your program. This level of intentionality is required to ensure that you accomplish the transformation you set out to achieve.
Vanick Digital’s comprehensive API Practice Maturity assessment will evaluate your practice against our established API Practice Reference model. This effort will help establish a baseline to work from, prioritize a 6-12 month roadmap focus, and visualize incremental progress.
While this facilitates alignment and provides a tool to help express progress and accomplishment, it does not solely articulate the value of your API Practice. For that, Vanick Digital brings established experience in the space armed with years of content built for a variety of audiences, and a willingness to participate in activities or produce custom content specific to your organization and needs.
Are you considering:
- How you will overcome organization inertia?
- How will you communicate to teams the process and value of this new system?
- How you will measure position and progress for your API program?