Developing an API? What's Your Strategy? A Resources Round Up

Developing an API? Think product. That's at the core of Ross Mason's point in his devopsangle article, 5 Ways Not To Screw Up Your API Strategy. Mason, the founder and CTO of Mulesoft, uses Twitter's API story as a jumping off point for what not to do (namely change the rules for APIs that then damage your ecosystem and anger developers).

The 5 ways to not screw it up are:

1. Pick a business model
2. Understand your audience
3. Plan and Resource your marketing and community strategy
4. Be a good citizen
5. Have an operational plan

In short, you have to answer these questions: Is your business model a free API, or are you selling it? Secondly, make sure you know who your audience is and how you can communicate the value your API offers--what problem does it solve?

I found the third point eye opening: you have to reach and win over a spit audience: the business owner and the developer who will be working with your API.

Even though this is a brand spanking new field, APIs already have certain norms and practices, and you have to conform. Among Mason's tips to qualify as a good API citizen: provide good Documentation, a standard sign up and security methods, a clear updating procedure and the ability to run tests against it.

His fifth point is to map out your operational plan from publishing to handling downtimes. You may want to partner with a third party on this, he says.

Mason concludes with a powerful punch: "Your API may be your most successful product. Treat it as such."

Another angle to view the strategy questions comes from Sam Ramji's article in Gigaom, The Building Blocks for a Successful API Strategy. The Vice President of Strategy at Apigee, Ramji  created a 9 box model to look at strategy and execution. Three strategic issues, market segment, channel model and industry goal, are mapped against three aspects of execution: planning, management and organization.

Other resources

There are tons of other resources out there. Apigee has a strategy webpage devoted to resources including a free ebook they put out, Is Your API Naked?

The table of contents covers a range of topics from traffic management to business models and monetization.

Then there is APIs: A Strategy Guide by Daniel Jacobson, Greg Brail, and Dan Woods.

According to an Amazon review, the book covers:

1. Why your company needs to have an API
2. How to design, secure and manage the API
3. What API strategies your company should adopt, including legal and operational considerations
4. How to measure the success of the API
5. How to drive API engagement

The full table of contents can be found at the publisher's website, O'Reilly.

And finally, want to hobnob with fellow strategists? Don't forget the API Strategy conference February 21,22 in New York.

Be sure to read the next API article: 3D Systems Launches Powerful New Tools for Cubify: AppCreate and Cubify API