How to Get the Most Out of Your API

  • Jason Harmon CTO
    Jason Harmon CTO
    July 22 2021

🔗 Episode Summary

With a career based on guiding the uninitiated through the world of APIs, it’s not surprising that Erik Wilde, Catalyst at Axway, thinks the space has gotten too technical.

APIs are now an essential ingredient for supporting the tech modernization efforts of most enterprises. With APIs, organizations can innovate faster, build new product capabilities easily, and enhance other business operations.

Despite the usefulness of APIs, many organizations fail to maximize their return on investment simply due to poor API management or the complexity of the system. The goal of an API is to simplify and automate a process that was previously burdensome for the business. If the aspect of simplicity is missing, companies cannot realize the business value they initially envisioned.

On our recent podcast, we talked with Erik Wilde, Catalyst at Axway, about the five key insights he uses to help teams and organizations get the most out of their API.

🔗 Practice API Management

“As things become digital, we get more and more APIs. This contributes to complexity, and it becomes more demanding to manage them well and do the right thing.” — Erik Wilde

APIs have become ubiquitous in propelling the growth of modern businesses. According to one survey, most organizations have more than 300 APIs. This increased adoption has brought another challenge that needs to be addressed: how to manage APIs properly. Failure to do so is causing APIs to collapse under the weight of their own success.

You need a robust strategy to manage the consumption of your APIs, enhance the visibility into all of your APIs, create a more thoughtful API program, and monitor and analyze their performance.

Rather than focusing on the checklist of implementation tasks, help your team understand the management of the digital product itself and then ask, “How do APIs play into this?”

This type of big-picture thinking will help highlight the right management strategy so you can abstract most of the day-to-day administrative hurdles and ensure you maintain optimal performance.

🔗 Pick the Right Tool for the Job

“You can do it in REST, GraphQL, or event-based. It’s important to understand that all these are different tools, and pick the right tool for the right job.” — Erik Wilde

It’s important to pick the right architectural style for your API—whether it’s GraphQL, REST, or event-driven APIs. Keep in mind, just because there are new design tools available doesn’t mean you need to pivot your strategy and jump ship.

Rather than focusing on the latest and greatest, choose the platform that best fits your use case. While there are trade-offs and constraints in every API design tool, your efforts should be put toward the option that will ensure you meet the needs of your target users.

🔗 Focus on Ease of Consumption

“If your API isn’t consumed, nothing else matters. It may be the best in the world or the prettiest; it doesn’t matter. Consumption is everything at that point.” — Erik Wilde

API consumption is an important metric that will determine its success or failure.

Developers love APIs that are simple, described properly, and devoid of jargon. Adding unnecessary complexities into your APIs will only encourage users to look elsewhere.

It’s equally important to build consistency across your APIs, especially if you have hundreds or thousands of them. These consistencies will make your APIs predictable, intuitive, and easy to use.

🔗 Expose a Valuable Service

“You need to have a good product to expose with your API. The best API in the world on top of a terrible product doesn’t really help much.” — Erik Wilde

It’s important to look above and beyond the technical layer of your API and truly understand the problem you are trying to solve. Focus on what you are enabling with your API versus how to enable it.

Just because an API experience is great for a developer doesn’t mean you can use it to build valuable tools and products. Ask yourself the following questions to make sure you stay on track:

  1. How will the consumer benefit from this API?
  2. How will they use it?
  3. Will they like the experience?
  4. Will it drive traffic?

🔗 Educate Your Stakeholders

“Establishing that literacy in organizations, for the non-technical roles, will make a big change. I’ve seen more and more organizations that try to do that.” — Erik Wilde

When everyone in the organization understands the benefits of an API initiative, they are more willing to take part in enhancing its growth.

With sufficient education and awareness, you can initiate a cultural shift so IT is considered an integral aspect of the organization. Create literacy plans for those in non-technical roles so they feel better connected and informed of any IT-related projects.

It’s also important to include other stakeholders, apart from developers, in the API building journey. You can perform mapping exercises, design exercises, API mocks, or other awareness tasks to encourage involvement and get feedback. This will help you paint a complete picture of your API and predict any performance loopholes that may exist.

🔗 Simplicity is King

As Erik states, “APIs are just a communication mechanism.” When we try to overcomplicate that concept, we reduce the value to the end-user. Instead, focus on simplicity from start to finish.

  • Define how your API fits into the bigger picture of the organization or product.
  • Pick the right program for the job and stick with it.
  • Think about the type of service you want to expose, instead of worrying about exposing it in the right way.
  • Create an easy-to-consume interface.
  • Educate stakeholders to gain the support of your organization as a whole.

To learn more about getting the most out of your API, subscribe to our podcast.

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