You have lots of APIs and Microservices – now what?

In business, IT teams that create APIs and microservices can reap benefits across the entire organisation. However, there can come a time when the number of APIs created can be too large to manage. This can get out of hand quickly, resulting in APIs and microservices that either go unused, or have no use at all, as multiple teams create similar products in parallel.

If organisations want to maintain a healthy pipeline of managed APIs and microservices, then a certain degree of discipline is needed. Principles must be established, and it’s important for businesses to understand them if they are to enhance their API program successfully.

 Manage the API portfolio

Organisation and strategy are crucial in all aspects of business, and it is the most significant change any IT department can make in taming their portfolio of APIs and microservices.
A lack of portfolio management can result in a snowball effect for businesses, where new APIs are built without knowledge of others that already exist. When an API is created, there needs to be a clear structure in place, highlighting who is responsible for the upkeep – whether it’s the developer team, or someone else within the IT department.

Today’s economy is dominated by digital products, services and experiences that are developed, tested and upgraded at speed. APIs present the only reliable path to growth in this landscape by short-circuiting the product development cycle. However, without any structure in place, APIs and microservices can swell as different parties add to it without communication, ultimately leaving the product as an unorganised failure.

Managing a portfolio takes dedication, and adherence to rigorous controls and processes. As APIs grow and evolve, it’s important that businesses seek to control their portfolio. This can be done through the following actions:

  • Set boundaries for the portfolio: Not every API will serve the same purpose (linking customer accounts, processing orders, and helping to support an inventory for an eCommerce platform are all different purposes an API can serve). By categorising APIs and microservices into different areas, teams can split up and it sets the groundwork for a much more organised portfolio.
  • Define the process and stick to it: Once APIs have been categorised, future confusion can be avoided by defining a clear process for adding new APIs into the portfolio.
  • Manage URL paths: IT teams need to manage their URL paths through the use prefixes or other naming conventions.

Consistency is key, especially with governance

Strong API governance should encourage consistency across the organisation, combined with the flexibility to support changing market needs. Smaller enterprises may not have the resources available to support this level of governance, and so a single API architect will often ‘make do’. While the one API architect may not necessarily meet the terms for true API governance, they are often performing the role of a full governance team – coaching teams on API design techniques, delivering educational material and creating policies for onboarding.

In a smaller business, API governance may only consist of one individual, but it’s important to develop and expand into a small team. Whatever it looks like, a level of consistency is crucial as the number of APIs and microservices increases.

API adoption needs to be as accessible as possible

Developers are the lifeblood of any API program. However, this doesn’t mean API adoption should be reserved for developers alone – it’s important to make the strategy and processes clear to all parties involved in order to make API adoption as seamless as possible.

Common tasks to drive increased API adoption include maintaining comprehensive documentation, helping developers to get started quickly, and defining a clear onboarding process. Focusing on API adoption helps to build awareness of available APIs, and prevents wasting time and resources to construct APIs that are rarely, if ever, used by developers.

Having good intentions, and sticking to them

All API initiatives start with good intentions. However, the trick to maintaining a healthy API program is ensuring that governance is maintained throughout the entire process.

Smaller organisations will never be able to follow the procedures that large organisations can when it comes to API strategies. Therefore, having a lightweight set of coordinating processes and a focus on encouraging API adoption will go a long way. For larger organisations and enterprise IT, it is critical to install a governance team that can help organise your API program, drive consistency, and help grow API integrations.

Launching and maintaining an API program is a challenge, regardless of company resources. However, if performed correctly, it has the ability to transform an organisation and reap benefits that include a healthy pipeline and a clear onboarding roadmap, providing quality APIs and microservices to those who need them.

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