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API Management: Five Common Mistakes

Jun 30, 2015

After countless interactions with enterprises around the globe, we've seen many examples of successful digital transformations. We’ve also seen some very common mistakes that companies make when getting started with APIs. To help avoid some of these potential pitfalls, we have assembled a list of the top five things to avoid with API management.

Trying to do everything at once

You'll encounter several moving parts when executing a successful digital transformation: an API proxy, a developer portal, and analytics. These tools provide functionality that’s critical to a successful API program: API security, API rate limits, and caching, to name a few. Without satisfying each of these constituents and each of these functional areas, there’s no point in moving forward.

This can seem daunting. In fact, it might provoke analysis paralysis. Don't fall in this trap. You can move from point A to point B with two steps: one, select an API management platform, and two, get started.

The right API management platform will provide you with a solid technology base that satisfies most of the issues listed above. This frees you to focus on realizing your great ideas.

Which leads us to ...

Wasting time trying to perfect the API design

We’ve seen this time after time. A company has the admirable desire to do a fantastic job with its API rollout. Weeks and months are spent trying to guess how developers will want to use the API. The company adds more and more fields to the data structures. It wants everything to be perfect—but it never will be.

The reality is that nobody knows how things will turn out until developers are actually building applications and users are generating traffic. Even the most well-prepared enterprises find themselves adjusting rate limits, adjusting caching and security, and fine tuning the design of their APIs. Developers are creative; they’ll often surprise you with their use of your API.

The important thing is to get started.

Optimizing for latency too soon

This is a heartbreaking error. Companies with few developers and no real traffic get so concerned with hypothetical latency that they forget that speed isn't the problem they’re trying to solve. They need consumability. They need to enable developers (internal, partner, and third-party developers). They need apps (web, mobile, and device apps). They need to move their business online and get some traffic.

There will be time for fine tuning the API management as the traffic grows. Latency is an important concern for companies; a high-powered API management platform will enable your APIs to perform beautifully even under heavy traffic.

Focusing on a non-existing problem like latency instead of traffic is a way of avoiding success.

Falling for the trap of thinking that this is about integration

Over the last ten to fifteen years, most of the problems we were trying to solve involved connecting system A to system B. This is integration. The problems most companies are trying to solve today involve time to market for new ideas, and reaching and connecting new devices, new partners, and new market segments.

We need more agility to react to fast-changing conditions. We need visibility.  These aren't integration problems. But, because we have been solving integration problems for years, it is almost muscle memory to try and view today's exposure and consumption problems as yesterday's integration problems.

If you focus on integration, you will sacrifice agility and consumability.

Adhering to previous governance limitations

Yesterday's problems required lots of committees and centralized control. Heavy contracts needed to be designed and agreed upon between the producers and consumers. But, with modern API management tools, this is no longer necessary. Think about the ways that a clean RESTful API could allow simplification of existing approval processes and even funding mechanisms. Of course, some governance is still necessary, but most companies find that things suddenly become much simpler.

Being a digital competitor is fun. When companies get out of their own way, ideas get into production faster and changes are easier.

The enterprises we’ve seen executing successful digital transformations have shown us strong patterns and anti-patterns. By avoiding common mistakes, your chances of success improve greatly.

Check out the Apigee Special Edition EBook: APIs for Dummies. It’s intended to help businesses avoid common mistakes, and to understand how APIs can be used as a strategic and competitive weapon. It describes the digital transformations that APIs and robust API management enable.


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