Sasha Kamenetska | Contributor
June 04, 2013

Why you should treat your API like a product

 

We at Mashery specialize in API management and to us that means that APIs should be treated as products.  This is not something that is obvious.  An API can seem like an obscure piece of programming, but if treated properly, it is not only a powerful piece of technology, but also a powerful business tool.  In order to fully explore this topic, we are launching an “API as Products” blog series, of which this is the first of several weekly posts.

APIs allow a company to share its data and services in an easy to consume format and therefore allow for it to expand its reach, make partnerships easier, and create new revenue channels.  To achieve these results however, an API must be closely aligned not just with the technical requirements of your partners and internal users, but also with your business and strategic objectives.

Since an API can allow you to do so much and could have so many potential consumers (both internal and external), it is important to remember that the API can only serve your business objectives and be useful to you if you make sure that the features that your customers will need are available, the API is supported and that your API is being promoted – or that your API is being treated as any other product would be.

From a technical perspective, treating your API as a product means managing its lifecycle just like you would any other software product, with versioning, traversing environments and packaging.  From a business perspective, you need a market analysis, as well as ROI objectives and a marketing plan just for your API program.  The technical and business sides need to combine so that you are providing your audience(s) with the tools they need.  All these elements combine to form a product roadmap for your API.

At Mashery, we have seen many companies launch an API program expecting great results, only to get very little traction.  The common theme among all of these programs is that the companies behind them had no plan and no goals for their APIs.  Any product would flounder in those circumstances. Every company with an API needs to realize that it is not enough to just create an API and expect it will be successful without any support.

Many companies have understood this and have successfully managed their API programs.  Companies like Aetna, TomTom and CapitalOne have successfully used their APIs to expand their brand, attract new partnerships and create new revenue streams, all because they have paid close attention to their API programs and made sure to treat them as just another one of their products.

So now that you understand why you need to treat your API program like a product, where do you start? There are a few key steps that you have to take when planning for, designing and implementing your API: you need to decide what data/services to expose via your API, who the audience(s) is/are for your API, what your ROI objectives are for your API and how you will reach those goals via pricing and monetizing your API, and many more.  If you need help with these steps, our Strategy Services team is here to guide you and help you form your API product roadmap.  And of course, this blog series will be back every week for the next few months to tackle these and many other issues.  Now, go start productizing your API or contact us today.