Application programming interfaces (APIs) have become an essential component of modern web-based applications and services. APIs allow users to extract value from your data and application functionality and enable fast integration of your application’s features into third-party digital products and services. The API's importance in the modern digital economy is growing exponentially with the spread of big data, data as a service (DaaS), and microservices architectures that are based on the programmatic access to diverse API endpoints.
APIs are growing in popularity due to the following key factors:
APIs enable seamless data sharing across applications: In contrast to monolithic applications that often require local installation, APIs enable users to access certain application features without deploying the application’s source code. With APIs, applications and data can be accessed via the web as services using well defined and documented specification.
APIs make your application/service stand out and provide real value to users: APIs can help build the reputation of your company as a valuable provider of useful data and services. Think about Google Maps or similar APIs that provide real value and contribute to brand popularity and reputation. Your company’s APIs can provide the same amount of value in your specific service domain.
APIs enable monetization of your services: Your company can monetize its proprietary APIs by making them part of your DaaS or SaaS model. API consumers pay on a per-request basis to access unique information that serves their business needs. API monetization provides a stable source of profit for many companies in the modern digital economy.
APIs enable microservices applications: APIs can enable communication between different independent services and applications across networks and application stacks. This makes APIs suitable for building loosely coupled service-oriented applications based on the microservices architecture.
To unlock these benefits, however, you’ll need to adopt an efficient API management strategy. In this post, we’ll describe the key components of such a strategy and the organizational procedures and policies you should adopt to become an API-first digital company.
What is API Management?
An API management strategy is a set of tech tools and business processes that enable efficient design, development, testing, distribution, maintenance, and integration of your API systems. The goal of your API management strategy should be to make API development faster and more scalable, and for API maintenance and integration to be cheaper and more efficient.
In general, a successful API management strategy should include two basic categories:
Organizational management: Executive and organizational processes and strategies designed to boost the transition to becoming an API-driven digital company. These include resource allocation and executive support, building API awareness and culture, and supporting API adoption.
Tech management: Tech requirements for the successful development and maintenance of the APIs. These include integration of API platforms, designing and deploying APIs, building API documentation, and integrating APIs with other products.
In what follows, we’ll discuss the key components of a successful API management strategy that fall into these two categories.
Key Components of an Effective API Management Strategy
Enabling API Observability
The scalability and health of your API ecosystem depends on your team’s ability to understand how users interact with your APIs and to quickly identify and fix API access errors and performance issues. As your API count will continue to grow to potentially hundreds or thousands of endpoints, these tasks will become increasingly harder to manage. To address this challenge, your API management team needs an effective API observability system that can easily provide visibility into how your APIs evolve between versions, the dependencies that each API has, and how each API is used by consumers.
Resource Allocation and Executive Support
To develop an effective API strategy, you’ll need to allocate organizational resources and provision the executive support to the API development team. Companies seeking to integrate APIs into their business model should create an independent team of API developers, API managers, and technical writers. To be effective, treat API development as an individual component of IT operations, rather than an additional task assigned to application developers. To facilitate the effective operation of the API team, you’ll also need to allocate additional resources for purchasing API development tools for fast prototyping, design, testing, and deployment of API systems and documentation.
Integrating API Development Platforms
A good API platform enables end-to-end management of the API lifecycle—from the initial design to production deployment and maintenance. In the absence of such a system, your API team will need to manually create and integrate various tools for API testing, API updates, and maintenance. All these tasks require additional time and resources and may slow down API adoption and innovation. API platforms allow you to automate various API management tasks, leading to faster API system integration.
A good API platform can provide:
Efficient API modeling and design: Many API platforms (e.g., Swagger) ensure that your API design is compliant with the established API specifications, which helps automate the API development process and standardize API design styles across products and teams. In addition, API platforms often provide tools for editing and visualizing your APIs.
Automated code generation: API developer platforms can help automate API code generation from code design, allowing your API team to focus on the core API logic. API code generation tools allow you to automatically update API code whenever changes are made to API endpoints. Also, many modern API code management tools support automatic generation of software development kits (SDK) from the API endpoints. These SDKs are code modules designed to help API users integrate third-party APIs into their application. SDKs make it easy to integrate the API into third-party applications without manually constructing HTTP or RPC queries.
API testing tools: API testing tools allow you to inspect API requests and responses and make sure they are working as expected. You can integrate API tests into the API development process to make sure all code issues are identified instantly and never accumulate over development iterations.
Developing a Cohesive Approach to API Documentation
API documentation is a crucial component of an effective API management system and is valuable both for API developers and API consumers. If you don’t have proper API documentation, the API development process can slow down due to your inability to quickly onboard new developers, track code changes between releases, and ensure that the API code is compatible between API versions.
From the client’s perspective, the absence of good API documentation can cause frustrating API integrations and user experiences. For example, users of poorly documented APIs don’t know which endpoints return what data, what parameters and workloads to provide with requests, and how to decode the output data. Manual testing and tweaking of API requests will often delay API integration and will force users to switch to alternative API products and services.
In this context, good API documentation should provide the following:
An exhaustive description of available API endpoints
A standardized reference and description of the request parameters for each API endpoint and corresponding response parameters and data
Well-documented API usage examples; the API documentation may incorporate the tools for testing API requests right from the documentation
Tutorials and guides for using API resources
Also, it’s very important for your API documentation to follow established API design standards. For example, popular API documentation tools like Swagger are based on OpenAPI specification— the industry standard for RESTful API design. Following these recognized standards can help make API integration faster and ensure that your APIs are more scalable and extensible.
Building API Awareness and Culture
APIs can add value for developers and third-party users, but also for in-house departments. For example, APIs can provide data for in-house data analytics and marketing teams, as well as for security specialists. Therefore, it’s important to raise API awareness across different teams and departments. This includes educational initiatives to teach employees to use APIs in their work and to integrate APIs into their internal analytics, as well as marketing tools, dashboards, etc.
As we discussed in this article, a good API management strategy enables you to develop and deploy quickly and efficiently maintain your corporate APIs. Without such a system, it’s hard to scale and update your APIs and to integrate them into other projects and applications. If you don’t have good API documentation or fail to follow industry-recognized API development standards, the use of your APIs by third-party applications and users will be limited.
Want to unlock the full economic and tech value from your APIs and transform your company into an API-first organization? With Seekret, you can enable the key components of an effective API strategy, such as:
Leveraging auto-discovered API inventories from application traffic
Enabling API observability
Generating OpenAPI documentation
Book a demo to learn more!