An API strategy lays the groundwork for ensuring that APIs meet your business needs. When you address your reasons for adopting APIs and what you will require to do so successfully, you can begin building a robust digital ecosystem that connects your data and applications.
Do you have a robust API strategy in place? If not, I recommend you start by asking five questions.
1. What business goals will APIs help you achieve?
Start your API business strategy by addressing your goals. What do you want to achieve with APIs?
Without a goal, it is difficult to decide what you need and how your business will leverage APIs. Some common business goals that APIs can help you achieve include:
- Increasing sales or revenue
- Enhancing customer loyalty or satisfaction
- Reducing costs
- Improving efficiency or productivity
Once you have identified your company’s overall goals, you can consider how APIs will fit into the picture. For example, if your goal is to increase sales, you might develop an API that allows third-party developers to build applications that integrate your company’s products or services. Or, if your goal is to improve operations, you might develop an API that enables automated data exchange between your company and its partners.
2. How precisely will APIs serve your business?
Once you have defined your business goals, you can identify the specific areas where you would like to leverage APIs. What data do you need to make accessible across the business? Which people or departments will need access to this data? What type of documentation and support will they need? Taking the time to answer these questions upfront will highlight how precisely APIs will serve you.
APIs have numerous use cases, but not all of them will be relevant to you. I recommend focusing on what is pertinent to your business right now rather than getting distracted by less urgent possibilities.
The use cases you select must fit the specific needs of your business and customers. For example, a company that wants to expose data to third-party developers will need a different API strategy than a business that wants to provide only employee access to internal systems.
Once you know what you want to achieve with your API, you can start designing and building it to meet those needs.
3. Will the API strategy scale as the business grows?
Your API strategy will need to grow alongside your business.
When you start your initial API strategy, you may only need a handful of APIs to address your intended use cases. As you gain more clients, leverage more systems and hire more people, your APIs must scale to connect new business systems. You may experience problems if your API strategy lacks a plan to address the increased demand.
The long-term benefits of scalable APIs include:
- Increased flexibility: When you have an API strategy that scales, you are not limited by the number of connections you can make. You can easily add new APIs as you need them and remove ones you no longer need.
- Improved performance: A scalable API strategy helps avoid performance problems. If an API becomes overloaded with requests, you can simply scale it up to handle the increased demand.
- Reduced costs: Building a scalable API strategy from the start saves you money in the long run. You will not have to keep investing in new infrastructure every time you add new APIs.
4. What integrations will your API strategy support?
Before executing your API strategy, you need to understand your IT environment and consider the integrations you require.
It is essential to consider how APIs will support system integration to ensure the effectiveness of your strategy. I recommend you take the following factors into account:
- The systems you leverage to store data: For example, many businesses have Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems for storing customer and enterprise data. You must note your systems and how you want them to connect before you can deploy APIs.
- Where you store your data: Do the systems housing your data reside on-premises, in the cloud, or both?
- Data format: Account for the format leveraged by each system and whether or not they are the same. For example, does one system leverage JSON and another XML?
- Access to the data: Consider the people who will need access to your data and the security measures to protect your data as it moves between systems and people gain access to it.
5. What is your strategy for managing APIs?
You cannot ‘set and forget’ APIs. Once implemented, you need a robust management strategy for deploying new APIs and patching or retiring them. API management is essential to a successful API strategy because it creates a more efficient infrastructure, making it easier to manage and scale your APIs.
An API management solution enables you to oversee the API lifecycle, from planning and deploying to analysing and maintaining. Different solutions have different capabilities, but the key features include:
- Design: Enables you to create, deploy and support your APIs.
- Store: Keeps your APIs in one place and allows you to share them with internal or external people.
- Gateway: Enforces security to protect your APIs and your organisation from threats.
- Analyse: Track the performance of your APIs, including adoption by your team.
How MakeSense supports your API strategy
You have a business vision, but are you unsure where to start? We know that mapping the next steps of your API strategy feels intimidating. We believe that having a second pair of eyes to find direction is the starting point for successful API adoption.
Our team of experts can assess your current strategy and make recommendations for scaling as your business grows. Our Digital Services cover the process, end-to-end, from planning to deployment and providing ongoing support.