In pursuit of an API-first culture
Today’s enterprises are taking full advantage of APIs to unlock the full value of their digital ecosystems, unleash innovative new services and tap into new markets. Representing a game-changing force for growth in a connected world of customers, teams, partners, devices, apps and systems, APIs are the foundational blocks of digital transformation and play a vital role in the development of applications. They’re also critical for simplifying operations, automating processes, and leveraging data and metrics both internally and externally.
To ensure API programmes deliver on key business goals however, organisations must ensure their API strategy supports some key business objectives. This means adopting an API First mindset that ensures APIs are managed like a product and designed with consistency, flexibility, usability, agility, performance, and security in mind.
API First – what is it and why is it important?
An API First mindset demands a major shift in thinking – one that requires everyone to view the enterprise’s APIs through the lens of its business strategy. For most companies this will usually mean reimagining the business and creating a digital platform to make its products and services more consumable, or easier to work with.
Rather than building applications or looking for backend systems of record, the API First approach starts by viewing the enterprise’s business as a set of capabilities, with products and services that are going to be delivered. These are then imagined as a set of interoperable APIs working together to get the data, provide the access, and make it secure.
Having determined the value proposition of an API and the business model behind the product that is going to be created, an API Design First is then used to create the APIs and associated architecture.
The key point here is that the API First methodology represents an important progression from traditional software development approaches. One that is informed by collaborative deep thinking about what good design looks like for each specific use case. It should also allow stakeholders across the organisation to make API decisions based on their shared knowledge and insights about the business model behind the product – and how the product will generate business value.
Viewing the API as a product
It’s a fact that the best digital services and products only get delivered when developers and business owners work together iteratively and with shared end-to-end ownership. Indeed, those organisations that have taken a business-led approach via API product management confirm they are finding it easier to create new business opportunities, increase agility and revenue, and boost customer satisfaction.
To ensure their API programs deliver against defined business goals, these enterprises have embedded API product management practices that enable technology teams to move faster and deliver the capabilities needed to drive identified business outcomes in a highly sustainable way.
Going beyond the Community of Practice (CoP) strategies that were used to introduce transformational technologies like API management, they’re now leveraging API Guilds to foster true collaboration between all stakeholders involved and integrating an API-first approach into their wider full API lifecycle.
API Guilds: an engine for API operationalisation
Successfully enabling an API strategy at enterprise scale requires a full lifecycle approach that begins with enabling business and technology stakeholders to reimagine the business and envision the digital assets that will support key initiatives as sets of working APIs.
As the flag-bearer of an API-first culture, the API Guild brings together API-lead team representatives from all capability areas – including Business Operations, Product Operations and Platform Operations – who are responsible for communicating and working with business stakeholders across the business. Tasked with getting teams across the enterprise to view APIs as business capability assets rather than just code-based integration components, the API Guild’s primary remit is to ensure that tactical delivery is always linked to the wider enterprise strategic vision for API enablement. The aim of the game is to hit the ground running at the design stage, eliminating the ad-hoc development that can bog down progress on digital initiatives. By moving ownership of APIs as close to the business as possible, and encouraging enhanced collaboration between those defining the value proposition of what digital products are to be built, a consumer-focused design approach can be embedded from the get-go.
By encouraging better management and communication through the API Guild, teams are able to work with an enhanced common understanding of the products that need to be delivered. Ultimately, this helps to establish true API product managers that are both accountable for end-to-end API delivery and responsible for ensuring the reuse of composable building blocks wherever possible. Plus, the API Guild, together with the lead team model, provides a much-needed framework for enterprise-wide initiatives requiring shared budgets.
Bringing the business model and technology model together in this way enables enterprises to deliver more, faster – and with a laser-like focus on value-add business outcomes and the needs of end users and customers.
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