The Levers, Dials, And Switches For Your Participation In The API Economy

I am playing with different ways of explaining the 100K view of how companies, and ultimately governments will participate in the API economy. As with APIs themselves, visualizing something like how an API platform can position itself in the emerging API economy, is very difficult to do—something that takes refinement, something I do by blogging, so here we go...

Much like developers are looking into the details of each API call, using API integration tools like RunScope and APITools, to better understand how their applications are consuming APIs, API providers need to understand all the moving parts involved with successfully executing an API strategy. To help me articulate to API providers, I try to break things down into small digestible modules that will help me demonstrate  how they all work in concert to orchestrate the delivery of digital resources inside and outside the firewall. 

On-Boarding - How you get consumers up and running with an API

  • Discovery - How are APIs found by potential consumers
  • Public / Private - Are resources publicly or privately available
  • Self-Service - How much can developers do on their own when on boarding
  • Approval - Do API consumers require approval, verification or certification before on boarding
  • Best Practices - In plain english, what is expected of consumers when they use an API

Service Composition - How are API resources organized and made accessible to all groups of consumers

  • Access Tiers - What types of access tiers are available, i.e.. public, partner, internal, paid
  • Read / Write - Separation of read and write access to API resources, defined by service composition
  • Rate Limits - How much of an API resource can be consumed by apps, and ho ow much is free or paid
  • Pricing - How much do API resources cost, and are they all uniformly priced or are there variances

Partner - Verified and certified levels of relationships with API consumers

  • Access - Levels of access to API resources as defined by partnership
  • Distribution - Access to new distribution channels defined by partnerships
  • App - Certification of applications built on top of API resources
  • Consumers - Certification of individual API consumers
  • Businesses - Verification of business behind API consumers

Legal - The legal definitions and protections for API consumers and providers

  • TOS - Terms of service for consumers of an API resource
  • SLA - Service level agreement defining expected level of operations by an API
  • Privacy - Legal protection for the privacy of API consumers and end users
  • Licensing - Licensing of all code, data, and API interfaces
  • Branding - Definitions and guidelines for corporate and product branding

Communication - External and internal communication with API consumers and stakeholders

  • Blog - A weblog of API operations, providing transparency within the API community
  • Social - An active social presence on public or corporate social networks about API operations

Support - What type of, and how much support is offered to API consumers

  • Direct - What types of direct support options are available like in-person, chat, phone, email, etc.
  • Indirect - What type of in-direct support options are available like forum, FAQ, knowledgeable, etc.

Resources - Code and content resources that help API consumers put resources to work

  • Docs - Simple, complete and up to date document for all API resources
  • Code - Code samples, libraries and complete SDKs in a variety of languages

Updates - Regular updates around API operations

  • Change-Log - Historical record of all changes made to an API and supporting resources
  • Roadmap - A look at what is planned in the short term or long term future of an API

Stability - What is the overall stability of an API platform

  • Security - How secure are APIs and supporting systems, including integrated apps
  • Reliability - How reliable is an API, is it highly available and few breaking changes

All of these modules represent the levers, dials and switches you will use to define your participation in the API economy. How you position yourself in all of these areas, will define how your API will ultimately operate. API consumers will never use an API if they can't on-board efficiently, the price is too high or licensing to strict, while they will flourish in a more balanced, carefully planned configuration.

APIs aren't just about making data, content and digital resources available publicly. APIs are about optimizing access and consumption of these resources, encouraging access in ways that benefit owners and stakeholders. While there is no perfect configuration that will ensure success in all business sectors, there are some blueprints we can follow that set the right tone, and the levers, dials and switches listed above can be adjusted and tuned in real-time for optimal performance.