Developing an Enterprise-Level API Strategy: Where to Put Your Focus

Jason Harmon CTO
by Jason Harmon CTO on June 24, 2021 7 min read

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The API Intersection interviewed Sophie Rutard of Euler Hermes.

Companies using monolithic architectures are wary of embracing microservices; they’ve already made huge development and infrastructure investments.

But the benefits outweigh the costs, says Sophie Rutard, who leads the API program at credit insurer Euler Hermes.

APIs have emerged as critical enablers for building and running transformative digital businesses. Today’s enterprises increasingly rely on APIs to establish profitable partnerships, increase workplace productivity, and penetrate new avenues for innovation and growth.

Despite the rapid proliferation of APIs, most companies across various industries have failed to implement a robust API strategy roadmap. This failure has caused them to miss out on the value they originally envisioned from their API programs.

On our recent podcast, we sat down with Sophie Rutard, the head of Document Management, Identity and Access Management, API Developer Relations, and API Governance at Euler Hermes, a renowned credit insurance company. 

What is an API strategy? Here are Sophie’s six main ways of creating and defining a successful API strategy and where to put your focus to realize the full value of your APIs.

1. Implement Proper API Management

“I’m of the opinion that you need to put in place an API management platform, and that’s the magic solution,” — Sophie Rutard.

An API management platform can help you effectively manage APIs at scale and make the most out of them. You can use it to centralize the various day-to-day administrative activities of managing APIs and ensure you do not fall off your business goals.

For example, an API management system is helpful in making identity management consistent across your APIs, practicing API governance and its major activities, and enhancing the developers’ productivity.

It’s also important to have an API governance team that both internal and external developers can consult. This team of experts should be highly skilled and capable of solving the integration challenges developers may have. This team should also meet regularly to discuss the various integration pain points and communicate to the rest of the organization about any new improvements made concerning the API strategy roadmap.

2. Seek Executive Support

“We were lucky to get the right CIO at the right time who helped us make the microservices transformation journey… he saw the need and enabled that,” — Sophie Rutard.

With the right executive support, you can turn around your APIs and realize their full envisioned value. While APIs are traditionally the realm of developers, supportive leadership is required for them to thrive.

Support from the management is crucial in unblocking the cultural silos that usually impede the success of API programs, allocating sufficient resources for the management of API programs, and spearheading the direction of the API strategy.

3. Enforce an API Design Guide

“So, we have created a design guide that everybody should adhere to. We are constantly improving and challenging it with the needs of our internal projects to make it even better,” — Sophie Rutard.

Creating and enforcing an API design guide provides context and direction for developing the API program. It helps ensure that everyone in your organization is on the same page. With a style guide, you can maintain consistency and attain some level of governance within the organization, whether you are exposing internal APIs or external APIs.

The style guide should be a living document—improvements should be made to it over time as new design patterns are discovered and integrated into the API initiative.

4. Don’t Automate Everything

“But how do we adapt this to make it intuitive for our customers? Those are the kind of discussions that you cannot automate,” — Sophie Rutard.

Automating API creation saves time and resources, and can greatly enhance the development process. For example, API linting is useful in ensuring your APIs are accurately constructed and are intended for efficient developer usage. With a linting tool, you can automatically validate your APIs and check whether they follow the stipulated API guidelines.

However, while automating various aspects of API development is good, some things are not recommended to automate. For example, if you want to make the naming of API resources intuitive for the customers, automating the task could be a recipe for confusion. It’s important to put yourself in the shoes of the customers and provide descriptions that they can understand easily.

5. Build Around Business Capabilities

“And that’s where you need to really think about business capabilities, and then you can design on that basis,” — Sophie Rutard.

To make APIs easier to consume, you can design them based on business capabilities. Segment your APIs/microservices based on what they do for customers, designing each on its capacity to successfully carry out a unique business function.

The portfolio of defined business capabilities is a customer-centric map of services (optimally with their own bounded context) if implemented correctly. This method of accessibility ensures engagement across the company and enables customers using those APIs to more rapidly comprehend their function.

6. Cultivate Developer Relations

“And that’s why we do conferences and interviews like this because we want to show the world how we care about our developer community.” — Sophie Rutard.

Cultivating good external developer relations is key to succeeding with your API initiative. You can make the lives of your API consumers easier by educating them about your offerings, having comprehensive API documentation, and promptly addressing their feedback. You can also establish sandboxes for trying things out and allow pre-production tests before full integration into real production environments.

It’s also important to empower your in-house API consumers. Some ways of empowering them include organizing regular meetups to boost morale, setting up training to enhance their skills, and gain insight on workflow issues or inadequacies in tools. Remember that your first developer community is inside your company: if you can’t get that part right, you are unlikely to succeed with external developer audiences.

You should show your developer community that you care about them. You can attend conferences and give interviews that explain your internal workings and how developers are an integral aspect of your ecosystem. If a company is looking for a solution to integrate with, their developers are the ones who will try it first. And if you do not care about the developer experience, your products may not appeal to them.

Have a Vision for the Future

Sophie emphasizes that to implement a successful API business strategy, you should start by defining the goals you need to achieve—irrespective of the size of your organization. You need to have a vision for the future and take each step at a time. You can start small and prove that you can reach the set realistic milestones; afterward, you can roll out a comprehensive plan.

With a clear roadmap that outlines the objectives of the API program, you can realize its full business value. Without a well-defined enterprise API strategy, your API may not live to see the light of day. If you have a vision for the future, you can set up a cumulative plan of actions that will help you bring the value out of your API product. Let’s get you developing an API strategy and producing some quality enterprise APIs!



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