How to Build an Effective API Strategy in 2021 Posted in Strategy David Campbell August 19, 2021 Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are the building blocks of modern digital ecosystems. They’ve collapsed data silos, allowing businesses to streamline their operations. APIs have become a strategic move that every business must adopt. That’s what’s happening. The growth of API traffic is witnessed across different industries. Source Projections also show this trend will continue for years to come. Therefore, businesses must find and adopt the best APIs or risk going obsolete. In this article, I’ll take you through the benefits of APIs. Then I’ll give you seven powerful tips on building an effective API strategy for your business. What Are the Benefits of Having an Effective API Strategy? Companies that implement effective API strategies stand to benefit in so many ways. Here are some of the benefits you can expect: Improved Digital Experience An effective API strategy will significantly improve the end-user experience. Whether these end users are customers, business partners, or your own employees, the interoperability of multiple systems will ensure users have a seamless experience. APIs also help personalize every user’s experience. By connecting multiple systems, API pulls different data to show customers’ preferences. Businesses can then utilize the data to deliver that experience. That results in increased customer satisfaction and possibly higher revenues. Better B2B Collaboration A business’s success relies on its ability to collaborate with its partners efficiently. You can’t scale your operations if you’re unable to access and use the data you need from your colleagues in the industry. An effective API brings systems together. It centralizes data, allowing different organizations to collaborate more effectively. That happens without compromising the source system. Improved Marketing APIs break down silos to provide a clearer picture of an audience. They show what users prefer and respond to. Third-party applications can use this data to provide personalized solutions to potential customers, resulting in higher conversions. Enabling Innovation A solid API strategy opens the door for innovations. It levels the playing field, allowing even small businesses to utilize centralized data in developing new technologies. They’ll help you identify unexplored opportunities that can generate more revenue for your business. APIs can also help you adjust to the changing market dynamics much faster. Reduced Time to Market APIs streamline the development process to reduce the time and cost of launching new products. First, they make the data needed to create the products easily accessible. Second, they enable the development team to access and integrate some of the tools needed for developing products. Developers no longer have to create their own communication or mapping tools when building an app. They can use SMS or geolocation APIs to add these features to your app. You can also utilize cloud services for an even faster deployment time. With the benefits out of the way, here’s how to develop a functional API strategy. Putting Together a Solid API Strategy Before you start copy-pasting other businesses’ API strategies, consider your own objective. Then look for the specific API strategies that will help you achieve these objectives. Below are seven tips to help you out: 1. Align the Digital Strategies Aligning your digital strategy is the first step towards developing an effective API technique. You need to know how the APIs you’re about to introduce will integrate with and enhance your existing digital business development goals. There are various tasks to perform at this stage. First, conduct thorough research on the target audience that will be using the API. Then, review your current IT architecture to see how they can integrate with the APIs you want. You must determine the goal of your API and develop a roadmap that supports your digital strategy. 2. Align the Organization’s Culture and Mission You cannot claim to run an API-driven organization if your team is not on board with the plan. Therefore, the second priority should be to realign your organization’s culture with API in mind. Train your team on how to use the API. Don’t ignore them when planning the desired outcome for your API strategies. Involve them in the process of developing these goals. Finally, find a qualified person to develop policies that govern your API. Communicate these policies to your team. Aligning your organization’s culture with API strategies will help your team embrace the new tools and use them more efficiently. 3. Select the Appropriate API Platform and Tools The API market has become very lucrative. Data from Markets and Markets estimates that the API management market size will hit $5.1 billion by 2023. Source Organizations of all kinds are trying to get a piece of the cake. You have tech giants like Google providing platforms such as Apigee, which is very easy to join if you have a Google account. There are many more companies claiming to offer API tools. Unfortunately, the vast options may make it hard for business owners to find the appropriate tools for their organizations. You can narrow down the options using the following factors: Ease of Use A good API platform is easy to use. Developers should be able to utilize the tools and access all the analytics they need effortlessly. Similarly, an administrator should be able to supervise developers without breaking a sweat. Don’t overlook ease of customization either. Adopt an API program that can be customized to align with your brand. So, go through your options carefully and avoid any unnecessarily complex tool. You should also look for platforms that come with learning resources and provide support. Features Does the tool have enough capabilities to help you achieve your objectives? Look at authorization, reporting, analysis, publishing, and performance. Do they meet your organization’s needs? Don’t just think about the now; an excellent API platform should match your long-term needs as well. It should also be scalable enough to adjust to your needs as your business grows. Governance The ideal API platform provides governance features like tracking malicious activities, conducting analysis and monitoring, and enforcing access management. Security APIs can be an easy target for hackers due to their transparency. The tools provide access to data that can be exploited, leaving organizations and customers exposed to malicious activities. Therefore, security must be a priority when choosing an API tool. 4. Distribute Clear Up-to-Date Documentation API users demand usable documentation. In fact, the 2018 report on the State of API Integration showed better documentation was the second demand made by partners and customers. Source Provide clear API documentation to your users. It should be accurate and easy to comprehend. You should also provide a channel where the users can communicate any issues they’re experiencing. 5. Create the Appropriate API Architecture and Infrastructure A proper API architecture will ensure your API programs run smoothly at all times. It will help you adjust your program to changing customer and business needs. It will also allow you to scale your program for your customers, employees, and partners. The items you need to look at when building the infrastructure are scalability, adaptability, and manageability. You must also develop a thorough API management plan. The plan needs to cover the full life cycle of the API program, i.e., from the initial planning and development stage to optimization. 6. Set up a Test API Project Don’t make the mistake of deploying a full-scale API program that hasn’t gone through a piloting stage. The results can be costly and embarrassing. Instead, start with a small controlled API project and use it to test performance. What’s working and what needs improvement? Are there any vulnerabilities that need to be addressed? These are just some critical questions the test project will help you answer. Ideally, you want to start with a small project involving just the developers. Then, introduce the API to more people in your organization before deploying the final version. 7. Begin Creating a Digital Ecosystem You’ve finally deployed your API. Now it’s time to build and engage your ecosystem. Use training, productivity tools, and evangelism to create awareness about your API and promote its adoption. Building a vibrant ecosystem helps you extend the reach of your business and deepens the connection you have with your partners and customers. Moreover, it will grow your revenue through recurring profits. Bottom Line APIs are increasingly popular for good reasons. They boost collaboration, reduce the time to market for new products, promote innovation, enhance marketing strategies, and so on. However, this will only happen if you take the time to build a solid API strategy. Do this by aligning your digital strategies, adjusting your organization’s culture, picking the right API tools, distributing clear documentation, and creating an appropriate API architecture. We’ve seen the importance of deploying your API gradually, starting with a small test project before going public and building a digital ecosystem around it. Your business needs to move from traditional methods. API benefits are palpable. The growing number of providers means you can get the perfect fit for your organization.