Every business today is a digital business … and if it’s not, it will be soon.
A recent survey by Deloitte found that digitally mature companies are better able to navigate rapid change and, as a result, perform much better financially. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents asserted that organizations that don’t digitize in the next five years will be “doomed.”
Application programming interfaces (APIs) are the cornerstone of these digital transformation efforts. APIs aren’t just technical conduits that let applications communicate with each other. In a software-driven world, they allow developers to build services more quickly, enable innovation, open up new markets and drive competitive advantage.
A new State of the API report from Postman, which surveyed 28,000 developers and other tech pros, offers a vivid snapshot of APIs’ central role in modern organizations. It showed that API-fueled innovation has helped companies respond to the pandemic; that the global API ecosystem is growing; that developers are spending more time than ever with APIs and that almost everyone believes investment of time and resources into APIs will increase or stay the same in their organizations for the next 12 months.
To learn more about APIs’ status in the enterprise, I’ve spent part of 2021 interviewing 22 engineering leaders from various companies for my podcast, Breaking Changes. I wanted to dive deeper into how and why these leaders view APIs as critical to business strategy and hear what lessons they’d share with others.
Here, in 20 bite-sized chunks, are the recurring themes:
Business. The greatest value generated from API operations is rarely directly from any single API, but around the partner enablement APIs make possible. Over and over, companies see that building an API ecosystem helps extend their business’s reach and deepens the connection with partners and customers.
Strategy. Without proper planning, an organization will always be stuck in reactive mode when it comes to the applications that API operations are powering. It’s much better to have a comprehensive API strategy.
Third-party relationships. Reliance on third-party systems—the vast supply chain of partners and vendors that organizations share data with via cloud-based technology—is exponentially increasing, pushing organizations to develop a more formal and external API strategy.
Resources. The resources surrounding API operations need to speak to developers, support them and help make their lives easier as they work with a company’s APIs.
Governance. It’s important to be cautious in automating governance at the pipeline level before developing relationships across teams and a centralized API governance approach is vital, too. API governance is the practice of applying common rules and security policies for APIs.
Management. The management of APIs is a continuous journey and not a destination, requiring a significant amount of planning and attention to reach desired objectives.
Global. We are all increasingly reaching a global audience with APIs, and every organization’s message and resources need to reflect the increasingly diverse audience.
Multi-Protocol. The future of APIs is multi-protocol, requiring a diverse toolbox of API protocols and patterns to properly grow ecosystems over the next decade.
Enablement. Companies need to be enabling their API development teams, not governing them; making sure they have what they need to do APIs well while also failing safely.
Regulations. API regulations are here and are pushing mainstream enterprises to become technology companies, requiring that they have an API strategy for the future.
Mobile. The world reached a milestone in 2019: There are now more cellphones than people. APIs are how digital resources are made available on these devices in both leading and emerging markets.
Opinionated. Informed and opinionated approaches to the API life cycle will make a bigger impact than any single technology used in the infrastructure stack.
Intelligence. There is a massive opportunity in deriving intelligence in aggregate across the millions of API requests we make each day across core business applications.
Quality. Organizations should prioritize not just testing APIs but testing the API tests themselves. This ensures a level of quality and reliability across all APIs, regardless of the team working with them.
Education. Ensuring that teams have the proper ongoing training and education around the API life cycle must be a top-line priority across API operations.
Authentication. The authentication layer of the API infrastructure holds a wealth of intelligence. Having humans study this dimension is critical for security.
Data. Challenges and opportunities at the API data layer are massive, and machine learning is giving teams an exoskeleton to support failing and iterating faster during development.
Privacy. Ensuring that privacy is a basic building block of the API life cycle helps developers focus on what they do best, resulting in higher-quality applications that also respect privacy.
Observability. API analytics have matured in the last few years; becoming much more about observability across the API infrastructure and helping organizations see and respond to what matters.
Open Source. Open-source technology is an essential part of growing and supporting an API ecosystem, providing both the technical and human nutrients needed to be healthy.
By keeping these 20 points in mind, organizations can maximize APIs’ role as an extremely powerful mechanism for leveraging data and application functionality for business success. APIs will underpin digital transformation for many years to come, so it’s important to cover all the bases.