Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have emerged as a vital aspect of supporting the digital transformation efforts of most enterprises. Despite the proliferation of API-driven integrations, the lack of a clear API management strategy has made most enterprises fail to realize the value they initially envisioned from their internal APIs as well as external API subscriptions.
What is API Management?
API management is the process of designing, developing, documenting, deploying, & analyzing APIs. Managing usage policies, authentication, authorization, and security are also important aspects if API management.
In most cases, organizations rush to create and subscribe to API programs without taking a thoughtful, methodological, and proven approach to that journey.
This lack of implementation of a robust API platform results in disarray, with poor monitoring practices, redundancies, and obscured transparency cancelling out the potential merits of having API ecosystems.
Some enterprises have spent a lot of resources trying to improve their IT infrastructure, integrating APIs in an ad hoc manner, without realizing any real benefits.
In this article, we’re going to talk about how your enterprise can make use of API management strategies to ensure the success of its API ecosystems.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is API Management?
- 2 What is API management?
- 3 Main types of APIs
- 4 Why do you need API management?
- 5 Tenets of successful API management
- 6 Steps to creating a successful API management strategy
- 7 How Rakuten RapidAPI Enterprise Hub Can Help?
Let’s get going…
What is API management?
API management refers to the cumulative plan of actions designed to ensure the success of an API product, and the ecosystem around it. It involves the process of creating, implementing, publishing, monitoring, securing, and managing APIs.
In other words, it aims to have control over as well as visibility into the APIs and enhance their smooth integration into applications.
With a proper API management service, enterprises can build integration tools that drive innovation, allow for a seamless corporation with partners, scale internal processes, while also reducing overhead costs.
The success of any API program hinges on the strategies that govern its consumption. Without a clear roadmap that defines the designing and publishing of APIs, it may be difficult to realize the full business value of APIs.
Effectively practicing API governance throughout the lifecycle of an API needs a well-defined strategy. With such an approach, you can bring the value of APIs to your business and maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace.
In fact, according to a recent study about the state of API integration in 2020, organizations that leveraged APIs realized significant improvements in their businesses. Some of the improvements are “Direct increase in revenue” (at 43%), “Increased innovation” (at 51%), and “Increased productivity” (at 59%).
The process of integrating APIs with your application is known as API integration. There are two ways to accomplish API integration. The first option is to use a third-party API management service, while the second is to handle it yourself. API management services are accessible on a free or paid basis, depending on the capabilities they provide. In addition, some services offer a free tier for evaluation before upgrading to premium versions. If you want to build an API integration service from the ground up, you must first set up an API gateway server to act as a proxy server between the client application and the backend servers. You must develop code in the client application to communicate with this gateway server rather than directly with backend servers. The gateway server will then communicate with backend servers and respond to the client-server. An API gateway is a single entry point for all requests to access your APIs. It can be used to provide a unified interface for accessing multiple backend services, and it can also provide security features like authentication, authorization, and rate-limiting.
What is API Integration?
What is an API Gateway?
The process of integrating APIs with your application is known as API integration. There are two ways to accomplish API integration. The first option is to use a third-party API management service, while the second is to handle it yourself.
API management services are accessible on a free or paid basis, depending on the capabilities they provide. In addition, some services offer a free tier for evaluation before upgrading to premium versions.
If you want to build an API integration service from the ground up, you must first set up an API gateway server to act as a proxy server between the client application and the backend servers.
You must develop code in the client application to communicate with this gateway server rather than directly with backend servers. The gateway server will then communicate with backend servers and respond to the client-server.
An API gateway is a single entry point for all requests to access your APIs. It can be used to provide a unified interface for accessing multiple backend services, and it can also provide security features like authentication, authorization, and rate-limiting.
Main types of APIs
APIs come in several forms. Furthermore, today’s developers can choose a variety of specifications or protocols—such as SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) or REST (Representational State Transfer)—to build their applications.
The choice of your API management strategy will largely depend on the type of API you’re consuming.
Let’s quickly run through the main types of APIs:
- Public APIs—also called open APIs, these are publicly available, and anyone can access them with minimal hindrances.
- Partner APIs—as their name implies, these are exposed under partnership agreements. So, you’ll need to get a license before accessing them.
- Private APIs—also called internal APIs, these are only accessible within an enterprise.
- Third–party APIs—these are developed by 3rd parties and are made available through some sort of agreement.
Why do you need API management?
In recent years, as most organizations have been embracing digital transformation efforts, there has been a proliferation of API usage. APIs have proved to be important in powering modern application architectures, wedging new pathways for innovation and growth, and creating profitable relationships.
A recent study that examined the role of API adoption in digital transformation found out that APIs are critical enablers to today’s digital transformation initiatives. According to the study, 71% of the surveyed organizations expect to see a rise in the volume of APIs calls by 2022.
The number of Google searches for the “Rest API” phrase, from 2004 to 2020, has been rising steadily—as shown in the chart below. This demonstrates the rising interest people have in APIs.
Furthermore, a 2017 study that was commissioned by Imperva, a cyber security solutions company, to understand the use of APIs revealed that companies manage an average of 363 different APIs and that 69% of enterprises are exposing APIs to partners and the public.
Here is a chart that shows the results of the study:
However, with the rise of APIs, a new set of challenges has emerged, which necessitates the need for a robust API management system.
Here are some of the API challenges:
- Poor visibility into APIs: As organizations increase their usage of APIs, they start losing visibility into their performance. With several APIs to manage, and without a comprehensive API management policy, it becomes difficult to govern the APIs, assess their usage, or understand their evolving requirements.
- Difficulties in scaling: As an API program matures, it becomes difficult to scale it up to meet the growing demand, especially in a siloed and fragmented business environment. If APIs are running across many environments, where different technologies are used, scaling challenges often ensue.
- Difficulties in orchestration: Deploying dozens of APIs, with several endpoints and multiple services, complicates the orchestration of all these moving parts. This is made worse when a company’s management does not prioritize implementing a level of abstraction that manages and orchestrates the endpoints to ensure a smooth integration.
- Increase in security risks: The proliferation of APIs has offered a new target that cybercriminals had not thoroughly exploited previously. Attackers like APIs because they expose multiple avenues to access an organization’s sensitive data. Imperva reports that the number of new API vulnerabilities has escalated by around 154% from 2015 to 2018.
Instituting a well-defined API management plan lets you have a wholesome view of your APIs. This way, it eases the creation of integration tools for driving innovation and lowering the costs associated with managing a pool of APIs. It’s what you need to drive the growth of your enterprise.
For example, here is a table that summarizes some of the strategic goals of managing different APIs:
|Type of API||Strategy goal|
|Public APIs||Leverage the developer community to accelerate innovation, monetization, and growth|
|Partner APIs||Support profitable business partnerships by ensuring flawless technological integrations|
|Private APIs||Ease the collaboration, sharing, and reusing of APIs|
|Third-party APIs||Accelerate development by cost-effectively consuming 3rd-party APIs smoothly and securely|
Tenets of successful API management
The success of an API management architecture requires a comprehensive strategy that cuts across the entire structure of an organization—not just the developers.
Here are five of the components that are important for the success of an API management system:
- Executive support
- Supportive organization structure
- Comprehensive API platforming
- Availability of peripheral tooling
- Education and awareness programs
Let’s talk about each of the API management best practices.
1. Executive support
Executive support is crucial for realizing the success of API management activities. Whereas APIs are the realm of developers, the management needs to spearhead their adoption.
Without a supportive environment created by the management, consuming and managing APIs can be seen as wasteful and unnecessary.
Executive support is useful in allocating sufficient resources for API development and management, incentivizing developers to continue integrating APIs, and hiring the right talent to enhance the adoption of APIs.
Furthermore, with support from the management, an organization can break the cultural silos that often hinder the success of API programs.
If the perceptions of the people can shift so that they can view APIs as significant to the organization’s digital transformation efforts, it can greatly enhance their adoption.
The executive leaders should be ready to understand, drive, and manage this personnel realignment and cultural changes.
2. Supportive organization structure
A supportive organizational structure is integral to the success of an API management program. Usually, the most successful API teams are decentralized, in which teams are given the autonomy to make decisions without over-relying on the top-level management.
A decentralized organization structure leads to more efficient decision-making, allows individuals to be empowered, makes a team more agile, and eases the onboarding of new developers.
If teams are allowed to define their own tools, cadence, and tech stack based on their experiences, it can lead to a sense of ownership, which can greatly boost their morale.
On the other hand, a centralized organization model creates bottlenecks, which impairs the team’s productivity and disorients the API development and management lifecycle.
3. Comprehensive API platforming
You need a comprehensive API platform that allows you to manage and coalesce APIs at scale effectively. With a good API management platform, you can abstract the many day-to-day administrative pain points of consuming APIs and ensure their smooth adoption.
Some of the benefits of using an API management tool include having centralized visibility into the performance of APIs, assisting in API analysis and monitoring, helping in publishing and discovery of APIs, improving API security, enhancing API governance, and more. It’s what you need to make the tasks of managing your APIs lean and efficient.
4. Availability of peripheral tooling
The availability of peripheral tooling is another essential component for the success of API management solutions. If you provide an additional toolset around the API lifecycle, you can make it easy to use.
For example, API documentation is an additional key resource that outlines how to make use of the API without experiencing programming obstacles. Good API documentation contains information about how to use its various endpoints and parameters, the different services it offers, and other integration instructions.
With up-to-date and easy-to-grasp documentation, you can greatly enhance the consumption of your products and services.
5. Education and awareness programs
Lastly, having education and awareness programs is vital for the success of your API management strategies. Through such initiatives, you can make everyone in the company understand the benefits of the API program and how they can assist in enhancing its growth.
For example, you can organize seminars and workshops that educate people on API development, create online courses that train your IT staff on the best practices for implementing APIs, and more.
To increase the awareness of your API program, you can release a periodic newsletter that highlights the new services available through the API, organize hackathons and meetups where developers showcase their skills in using the API, and more. You can also create incentives for both API publishers and users.
Steps to creating a successful API management strategy
Devising a successful API management strategy will ensure you reap the value of APIs. Without a plan that stipulates clear objectives about the use of APIs, it may be difficult to realize their initially envisioned benefits.
Here are the steps you can follow to create a successful management strategy for your API.
- Establish a digital strategy
- Organization culture alignment
- Choose the right API platform and tools
- Enforce API evangelism
- Practice continual improvement
Let’s talk about each of the steps.
1. Establish a digital strategy
The first step in devising a useful API management strategy is to establish a clear digital business strategy. In fact, the most suitable API strategy is not to begin with an API strategy right away. Every effort should initially start with a business strategy and customer experience.
Which objectives do you intend to accomplish? Which types of decisions will allow you to realize those objectives? These are some of the essential business questions your strategy should answer.
Thereafter, you can formulate the APIs that should be in place to assist you in meeting those business objectives.
Here are some things to consider when defining a digital strategy:
- Establish how your API will assist in meeting the organization’s business outcomes. For example, are you trying to enhance the adoption of your products or accelerating your digital transformation efforts? After identifying the intended outcomes, you should get executive alignment and backing around those business strategies.
- Establish the target audience for your API and ensure it will meet their needs.
- Assess your existing IT estate, such as systems and applications, so that you can know what you need to build on or create from scratch.
2. Organization culture alignment
Many APIs will lead happy lives if there is an organizational culture that supports their adoption. The processes and tools—alongside the viewpoints of the personnel who endeavor to make the company digital—should shift to a new way of doing things.
So, this crucial second step in creating a successful API management strategy involves realigning the culture of the organization to support an API-first mindset. You should ensure everyone in your organization understands the capabilities of the APIs, and how they drive increased and sustained value to the business.
Particularly, the team at the core of your API product should be properly funded and empowered to assist in driving the vision of the API. To enhance its effectiveness, the team should comprise loosely coupled four to six members representing different perspectives, such as API development, management, and evangelism.
You should also strive to train other employees on the best ways to maintain and coordinate the activities related to the API.
3. Choose the right API platform and tools
Next, you need to choose the right API management platform and tools to ensure the success of your approach.
With an API platform, you can avoid the various challenges often associated with managing APIs and ensure you realize the benefits of implementing APIs into your IT infrastructure.
Before choosing an API platform, you should consider the extent of its capabilities and whether it has features that will enable you to create value through your API.
Some of the significant features of API management platforms you should look for include API design, publishing, analytics and monitoring, security, and monetization.
Furthermore, you should disseminate clear, up-to-date, and easy-to-understand documentation to enhance the consumption of your API. Without elaborate documentation, developers can find it complicated to integrate your API into their use cases.
4. Enforce API evangelization
After putting your API in place, and formed an ecosystem around it, you’ll need to interact with that ecosystem to enhance its adoption. Evangelizing and marketing your API will create interest in its offerings and potentially increase its consumption among the developer community.
For example, if you have private APIs, you can enact corporate policies that enhance the developer experience; for partner APIs, you can focus on the business benefits that partners will get through consuming your APIs.
API evangelization can assist in supporting developers, responding to their questions, and monitoring their progress. It’s a good way of getting feedback on whether the internal or external APIs are bringing value to your organization.
5. Practice continual improvement
Lastly, continually improving your API program is critical for its success. For example, in case a feature is deprecated from your API, you should promptly explain the reason behind that decision in the API documentation.
Likewise, if a new feature is introduced, you should ensure it is appropriately and timely documented.
Furthermore, whenever you get feedback and usage metrics from consumers, you should act on them to realize more API management benefits.
You may have made the wrong turns on the first try, but if you listen to consumer feedback, you can continually enhance your API management approach.
How Rakuten RapidAPI Enterprise Hub Can Help?
Rakuten RapidAPI Enterprise Hub is a one-stop solution that allows enterprises to define and implement successful API management strategies. If you want to discover and connect to internal APIs or external API subscriptions, the Enterprise Hub comes with lots of useful features to make your experience smooth and rewarding.
For example, the API Hub has a dedicated dashboard that lets you view the performance of your APIs. With the detailed analytics and monitoring information, you can govern API consumption, control access to your APIs, ensure data security, and more.
The Hub lets you get a comprehensive understanding of your APIs. It’ll allow you to find out the APIs that matter in your enterprise. This way, you can eliminate the day-to-day administrative challenges of managing APIs and take your strategy to the next level.
You can read more about the Hub here.
If your organization needs assistance in setting up an easy-to-use and powerful API management platform, send us an inquiry right now.