75% Of Your API Efforts In The Enterprise Will Be Cultural And Political, Not Technical

I started API Evangelist, because I saw a huge deficiency in the overall API conversation--nobody was talking about the business of all of this, and how you actually make money doing this emerging web API thing. Over time, I also discovered that very few people were also studying, and discussing the politics of APIs. Sure, when something flares up around terms of service violations, or there is an acquisition that the community dislikes, we discuss it, but we have to talk about the political issues in real-time, not at polarize-time.

From my vantage point, the business and politics of API operations, internal as well as external influences, continue to be the number one things that negatively impact API operations, over anything technical. Let's just look at a couple examples of this in action:

  • Money - How are you going to operate an API without any money? Either from paying customers, or internally from other sources.
  • Doers - If your business has been built on traditional sales and support models, evolving consumers to a doers mentality will not be an easy.
  • Competing Interests - Various groups within an organization competing for budget, attention, and any other way regular current operations impact your API vision.
  • Management Change - Your CTO had your back, and the new one not so much. It could be about lower level or mid-management support, all the way to the top. When the champions leave, API programs often dry up on the vine.
  • Industry Regulation - Silicon loves to be in denial of the larger world, and the regulatory frameworks that are in place across many industries--once you grow big enough, or operate in the right space, this will become clearer.
  • Scope - How big are things? Software? Teams? Systems? Processes? There are many things that are big in the enterprise and even small businesses, that will resist decoupling and unbundling. People just do not think of things in small, bite-size chunks--it just isn't what they've been taught.
  • You - Your vision might not be a fit for a business, organization, or industry, and you may be coming to the table with unrealistic expectations of what APIs can do.

These are just a handful of the common business and political roadblocks you will encounter doing APIs. I do not care how solid your API design, and deployment strategy might be, when you come up against many of these currents listed above, the tech does not always win. I've seen API effort, after API effort fail because of these common challenges, that we all face.

For us technologists, it can be easy to sit at our corners, and craft a vision of the perfect world we want, but often it is oil, in a water filled world. I am not saying your API vision can't make change, but you have to equipped to understand that 75% of your efforts in the enterprise, organizations, and government agencies will be about culture, politics, and business--not technical.