In October, Forrester released their “API Product Management is Key for API Success” report, which provides great insight for enterprises looking to mature their API business strategy. The digitalML team took part in Forrester’s research for this report, and while we highly recommend reading it in full, we’ve pulled out some key takeaways for you in this article. We’ll also be overlaying some further tactics on how to implement the strategy suggestions detailed in the report.
API programs should be business led, with API product management a key initiative
Forrester rightly point out that to reap the strategic business value that API first promises, API programs need to be aligned to business priorities, with APIs being designed and developed as much more than one-off implementations, led solely by IT.
APIs alone aren’t enough to transform your business into a digital leader:
“REST does not transform your business. It offers few advantages over SOAP beyond simplicity and smaller payloads. An API business mindset is what transforms your business: viewing APIs as an interface into business capabilities, not applications.”
With an IT-led approach, many of the enterprises Forrester interviewed were seeing excessive API duplication, poorly designed APIs, a lack of developer enablement, and lack of API reuse. Creating a mess of APIs sprawled across the organization, with no real visibility and/or long-term plan.
Prioritizing API product management can provide a key bridge to achieve this API business mindset: moving away from a project-by-project approach, to managing a unified portfolio of modularized digital building blocks exposed as APIs.
With a business led API strategy, the following benefits can be reaped (download the report for some great examples of these that Forrester have gathered):
- Entry into new business models and opportunities
- Digital responsiveness and agility
- Revenue growth
- Reduced costs (through self-service onboarding)
- Delighting customers
Tactics for moving to a business-led API program
- Enabling an extended API lifecycle and catalog of your APIs is key – both business and IT roles need to be able to discover, understand, and interact with your assets.
- Abstracting APIs away from code can help create business views and technical views.
- The collaborative lifecycle should enable business roles e.g. API product managers and digital product owners to be directly involved in the lifecycle aligned to the IT roles that will implement the technical aspects of the API design.
- Your catalog of APIs (plus Services, Events etc.) should be organized and classified by your business and technical taxonomies, so that they’re modularized into digital business building blocks
Core Areas of API Product Management covered in Forrester’s report
The report covers these following core areas of what constitutes a mature API product management strategy:
Customer-centric API design
We all know great API designs are important – but what actually constitutes a great design? Of course we want our APIs to be consistent, reliable, and compliant (see later governance section for more on this). But focusing on end-user value and incorporating feedback into API designs ensures you enterprise ends up with a portfolio of “interfaces that are intuitive to the end user and expressive of your business rather than expressive of the IT silos behind them.” This includes having business roles actually designing your APIs collaboratively with architects and IT roles.
API product management reflecting and improving enterprise architecture
API product management helps facilitate the transition to a composable enterprise (one where business and IT functions are standardized and modularized components). This trend is reflected in modern enterprise architecture, and indeed a product management focus can improve API-centric architecture. Forrester’s research found it helped orgs “create better bounded contexts for their API architecture, resulting in an architecture that better aligned to the business and increased adoption.”
Flexible API Governance
As the number and types of APIs expands in our organizations, so does the need for flexible API governance. A strategic business capability API developed through a product management approach is going to require different levels of governance (i.e. different checks and validations) vs a legacy point-to-point API we’ve planned to retire. Governance pathways for our APIs should be configurable based on taxonomy and design-type classifications.
API reuse instead of API duplication
Managing APIs as products is not just for external channels, it encompasses internal APIs too. At a high level, having one well-designed API that has various versions and/or methods supporting multiple use cases is far superior to several very similar APIs (spread across LoBs, owner groups etc.). Forrester encourages us to “find a missing capability with high demand from multiple products …. Rather than building it several times, an API PM will shape an API to meet the needs of many teams that need this new capability”.
Event streams as a maturing trend
Forrester is predicting that the widespread use of events streams “will grow on par with APIs and need the same management and governance”. We’re certainly seeing that trend growing within digitalML’s customer base – almost all are already leveraging events alongside APIs and other Service types, often combined together into Product Bundles and deployed to power unique digital experiences and offerings. A product management approach can be used to focus more on the digital building blocks that these artifacts are exposing, rather than the downstream end target.
An API product management approach can open up digital recombination for market leadership
Embracing these core pillars of API product management can help drive digital resiliency and agility through digital recombination. By this we mean the ability to rapidly and innovatively combine business functions (and the IT functions that support them) to support new products, services, and entry into new business opportunities. What’s more, enterprise-wide recombination means that API product management can be leveraged by multiple roles across the organization, increasing the overlap between being “tech savvy” and “business savvy”. Book a chat with us to learn how to apply our tried-and-tested roadmap to digital recombination within your enterprise to support your digital goals.