Nobody Has API Governance Figured Out

I was on a call recently with some folks doing the hard work of moving the API conversation forward across their enterprise organization, and the topic of API governance came up (again). This is a conversation I find myself having on a regularly basis, and one thing that comes up each time, is that the group I’m talking with has to state that they really haven’t figured out how to do API governance properly. I will state what I say each time I encounter this subject within these enterprise conversations so everyone can hear, NOBODY HAS API GOVERNANCE FIGURED OUT. Even the folks who I have been having this conversation with for 5+ years. Even the agile, nimble, scrappy little startups I’m having this conversation with. Nobody has it nailed, everyone wants to, and everyone is very nervous about not having it all figured out.

Defining what API governance means is hard work, let alone making it a reality across a large enterprise organization. API governance is not an end state, it is a perpetual approach to standardizing how APIs are delivered and consumed internally and externally across the enterprise. Due to the ever changing state of the enterprise and turnover of staff you will never realize any perfect state of API governance. Your anxiety around doing it right, doing it well, and the scope of doing it, shouldn’t get in the way of you investing in the area of API governance. However, you should let your fear of missing out light the fire under your ass when it comes to this investment, because I can almost guarantee your competitor is doing it better than you are—so get to work right now! ;-)

API governance begins with conversations around what it means to your organization. It involves bringing together business and technology leadership to establish a definition of what it means, and why you are doing it. Like the rest of API governance this definition will continually evolve, and you will have to regularly re-ask what it means and why you are doing it, or you will lose your way. Your definition of what API governance means in the beginning will not be the same definition of what it means after one or two years of doing it. This isn’t a bad thing—this is a good thing. You see, a big part of API governance centers around learning, adapting, and finding just the right definition for your organization, and the industry you operating within. There is no single definition of what API governance is, and why you should be doing it—it is all relative to how you operate.

If you have API governance anxiety, welcome to the club. If you do not have everything figured out, welcome to the club. API governance is like teenage sex, everyone is talking about, and very few are doing it, and there is no doing it right. It will all be awkward, and unfamiliar. It is a world where a little dialogue and education can go a long way. So kick off the API governance conversations across your teams. Spend time asking people you know at other companies what they are doing when it comes to API governance. And of course, feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about where to begin with API governance. I’ve spent a lot of time working with large enterprise organizations on the subject, interviewing leading thinkers on the subject, and sharing some of the best practices—I am happy to sit down with your team and share what I’ve learned along the way. Assisting you in beginning to figure a little more of this out when it comes to exactly what is API governance, and what it means to your company, institution, organization, or government agency.