Digital Transformation is the buzzword of the moment; organisations are trying to reconfigure themselves to operate in the digital age. One of the key enablement strategies involves putting APIs at the heart of the organisation to centralise access to data, logic and value, while removing those traditional barriers that prevent collaboration between organisational silos.
APIs are being sold as the silver bullet solution to Digital Transformation, but like any other software or product development programme, the real complexities & overall effort exist outside of the realm of coding. Embarking on the journey of designing, building, testing, deploying, supporting, marketing, metering & billing APIs can be a daunting prospect.
We recommend that organisations adopt an "assess & invest" feedback loop; measure your maturity across the disciplines required to build, support & sell APIs and invest in improving them to a high level of expertise. This investment might be in the form of budget required to pay for external training, or in terms of time required to build working groups to steer strategy, or run spikes and experiments to increase knowledge and reduce risk.
To help with this process we've created the API Maturity Matrix; an Excel-based tool developed to help CxOs & Business Decision Makers assess their organisation's ability to evolve towards an API driven business model. It lists all the main disciplines we think are essential to a successful API Economy programme, your associated maturity level, and what your next actions should be to increase your maturity level. We've used this technique to help a number of customer kickstart their API journey; it will help you too.
The Matrix covers the following areas:
- API Strategy – What's your over-arching strategy for using APIs? How is this going to transform your business? What impact will it have?
- API Governance – Do you understand the full product lifecycle of an API? Do you have all the governance processes in place to manage this?
- Legal Considerations – Do you understand the legal obligations and associated commercial risks of providing APIs?
- API Value Chain / Commercials – Do you understand the value that your APIs deliver? Do you understand the commercial value that can be attributed?
- Sales & Marketing – How are you going to take your APIs to market? How can you translate your value proposition to specific verticals, sectors & channels?
- API Documentation – What's the best approach for documenting your APIs? Do you have the correct internal resources? How are you going to co-ordinate content publication with code releases?
- API Design Principles – Does your organisation have an understanding and appreciation of how to create evolvable, secure, versionable, APIs with the performance and scale requirements demanded by your business model & growth plans?
- API Development – Does your engineering organisation have the relevant engineering skills to design and build the required APIs?
- API Quality – Do you understand the quality gates required for building an API centric platform? Do you have the knowledge, skills & tools required to test them in an automated and repeatable fashion?
- API Infrastructure – Do you have an appreciation of what is required to support the performance, scale and security of the platform required in order to meet your SLAs?
- API Operations – Do you have robust monitoring in place to ensure you SLAs are being met, and if there are issues, they can be diagnosed and rectified rapidly? Do you have change controls in place?
- Developer (Business to Developer) Support – How are you going to provide 1st and 2nd line support to your API consumers to ensure they have a successful experience?
We recommend that you create a ½ day workshop with stakeholders who can represent the above areas within your organisation. You should then take each area, use the description field to create a brainstorm session, and list out as many questions as the group can think of, then move to the next area. Once you have covered all areas, return to the start of the list and try and answer those questions verbally as concisely as possible. Use these answers to score your organisation's maturity in this area as High, Medium, or Low. Once you have scored an area start another brainstorming session to propose ideas about how you could increase your maturity in this area.
Here's an example of the matrix filled in for a company that's new to the world of APIs. They've identified that they have low maturity when it comes to the various areas required to design, deliver, market & support an API proposition. You can see from the action column that they need to invest, in terms of time & workforce in order to create working groups to gain a deeper understanding in areas of policy, or in terms of time & money kick off R&D experiments in order to develop skills or assess different tools, technologies and platforms.
If you'd like to know more about Digital Transformation, the API Economy & Azure API Management, we've created a short 5 minute essential guide video for you: