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The Importance of Analytics and Reporting in API Management
In our constantly evolving Digital Age, where virtually all professionals face increasing pressure to demonstrate ROI, the old saying, "You can't manage what you don't measure,” holds particularly true for APIs.
Mashery—the industry leader in API management—encourages the evaluation of a variety of API metrics when we consult our clients about their core business goals. While measuring and analyzing large amounts of data may seem like a tall order to implement, like anything else, there's an analytics maturation process that is naturally driven by the specific needs, interactions, and demands of an API and its audience.
Thankfully, API owners don’t have to create analytics and reporting tools from scratch. That’s because Mashery’s powerful platform provides insightful tools that allow our clients to measure API performance, while enhancing their business value.
As our most successful clients have recognized, APIs must be measurable and scalable, while offering meaningful tools, services, and resources that are important to end users, in order to maximize their utility. Since Mashery was the first company to bring a standard set of analytics and reporting tools to API management, we created the following overview to highlight their importance.
Measuring to Improve with Key API Metrics
To truly manage an API, analytics tools must be capable of providing a robust set of information that enables management decisions. API management is much more than just setting goals and reacting to a scenario if they are not reached. If key API metrics are not identified and relevant data is not being collected, analyzed, and used for decision-making improvements on a regular basis, a company is likely just reacting, rather than ‘managing’ their API.
It logically follows that a key component of strong API management involves recording a wide variety of operational and business data flowing across an API. The metrics derived from this data are useful for both operational and business improvements. Moreover, the ability to determine how an API is performing at-a-glance via an insightful dashboard is extremely valuable for API owners if they are going to measure in order to improve their API’s performance.
Using Mashery’s approach to analytics and reporting, several questions immediately arise when reflecting on API management: Where do you see the most API traffic coming from? Who are an API’s top developers and which deliver the highest value traffic? Which apps are experiencing issues with accessing the API’s backend services? Answers to these questions help API owners attract the right app developers, troubleshoot problems, and make better business decisions.
An important set of metrics for API owners focuses on increasing visibility of trends in API traffic. Sound API management involves knowing how your API traffic is trending over time, while being able to recognize if there have been sudden spikes or drop-offs in traffic. Other key traffic metrics that a company should pay close attention to include:
- Traffic sources
- Total call volume by business asset or technical asset
- Top methods
To successfully measure traffic, a company should have a flexible method for capturing information from the request and response messages, and they must know how that information can be indexed and segmented for further analysis.
Another important group of metrics that should be measured focuses on the developer community that surrounds an API. The following is a non-exhaustive list of important developer metrics that should be measured:
- Total developer count
- Call volume trends by developer
- Number of active developers
- Top developers (i.e. which app developers are most successful)
While evaluating and keeping these metrics top-of-mind, an API owner should never forget that the success of an API is directly rooted in a well-defined set of business goals attached to their API strategy, as well as the success of its developer audience. It’s also important to note that when developers embed an API into their apps they absorb the API owner as a stakeholder in their potential success, too.
Evaluating API Technology and ROI
Monitoring API service metrics are key to finding opportunities to further improve an API’s performance. Here are several metrics that a company should consider evaluating on a regular basis:
- API availability
- Error rates
API owners should regularly reflect on how they can further fuel and tweak their API apparatus to make it more competitive. A well-defined set of business goals attached to the API strategy is a necessity.
APIs—the connective tissue in today’s digital economy—are becoming the basis for creating digital value chains, including indirect channels previously established mainly by software companies and web-based companies. Their proliferation has yielded an array of new products and services in the market—from the earliest eBay API that propelled ecommerce at the turn of the century, to the current mobile period of API evolution that we now find ourselves in, which is propelling the Internet of Things (IoT).
As the appetite for APIs continues to grow, new API owners should reflect on and emulate the analytics and reporting best practices that have been established over the past decade by Mashery, while paying close attention to the critical variables that contributed to the success of early API providers, such as Salesforce and eBay—as many of the key metrics that they identified years ago continue to yield insightful guidance today.