Asking The Honest Questions When It Comes To Your API Journey

I engage with a lot of enterprise organizations in a variety of capacities. Some are more formal consulting and workshop engagements. While others are just emails, direct messages, and random conversation in the hallways and bars around API industry events. Many conversations are free flowing, and they trust me to share my thoughts about the API space, and provide honest answers to their questions regarding their API journey. Where others express apprehension, concern, and have trouble engaging with me because they are worried about what I might say about their approach to doing APIs within their enterprise organizations. Some have even told me that they’d like to formally bring me in for discussions, but they can’t get me pass legal or their bosses–stating I have a reputation for being outspoken.

While in Vegas today, I had breakfast with Paolo Malinverno, analyst from Gartner, he mentioned the Oscar Wilde quote, “Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong.” Referring to the “yes” culture than can manifest itself around Gartner, but also within industries and the enterprise regarding what you should be investing in as a company. That people get caught up in up in culture, politics, and trends, and don’t always want to be asking, or be asked the hard questions. Which is the opposite of what any good API strategist, leader, and architect should be doing. You should be equipped and ready to be asked hard questions, and be searching out the hard questions. This stance is fundamental to API success, and you will never find what you are seeking when it comes to your API journey if you do not accept that many questions will be difficult.

The reality that not all API service providers truly want to help enterprise organizations genuinely solve the business challenges they face, and that many enterprise technology leaders aren’t actually concerned with truly solving real world problems, has been one of the toughest pills for me to swallow as the API Evangelist over the last eight years. Realizing that there is often more money to be made in not solving problems, not properly securing systems, or systems being performant, efficient, and working as expected. While I think many folks are too far down in the weeds of operations and company culture to fully make the right decision, I also think there are many people who make the wrong technological decision because it is the right business decision in their view. They do it to please share holders, investors, their boss, or just going with the flow when it comes to the business culture within their enterprise, and the industry that they operate in.

Honestly, there isn’t a lot of money to be made asking the hard questions, and addressing the realities of getting business done using APIs within the enterprise. Not all companies are willing to pay you to come in and speak truth to what is going on. Pointing out the illnesses that exist within the enterprise, and potentially provide solutions to what is happening. People are afraid what you are going to ask. People don’t want to pay someone to rock the boat. I find it to be a rare occurrence to find large enterprise organizations who are willing to look in the mirror and be held accountable for their legacy technical debt, and be forced to make the right decisions when it comes to moving forward with the next generation of investment. Which is why most organizations will stumble repeatedly in their API journeys, be more susceptible to the winds of technological trends and investment cycles, all because they aren’t willing to surround themselves with the right people who are willing to speak truth.