Developers consume your API in order to integrate it with other apps and services. From a Product Management perspective, I’d like to argue that API Consumption is bigger than that. API consumption is about the consumers. It’s about connecting services, synchronizing data among services and combining services to create new end consumer experiences. The purpose of an API is to enable new forms of consumption for your applications services.
APIs Lost on Isolated Islands
Let’s back up and talk about how you got here. You’ve published your API. It’s well documented and you have a developer portal. Maybe you even built SDKs to accelerate the adoption of your API in certain situations. But the reality is that developers are being overwhelmed with APIs. There’s an exponential increase in the number of available APIs, which by some estimates are now numbering in the millions. Microservices will take the available API services into the millions. Your shiny new API has just got lost in the mix, like another little island was added to a sea of API islands.
Each API is unique. Many have their own variation of an authentication mechanism, such as OAuth, OAuth2 or basic credentials. Each resource has it’s own data structure. Header structures vary between endpoints. Error handling, paging and event management have significant variations. Documentation is specific to each service and SDKs vary widely.
Addressing consumption challenge for developers is the next step beyond publishing. It’s the next big challenge Product Management will be held accountable for. Building out your API is crucial to participating. It’s the ante to getting in the game but adoption, successful integration with other services, is the key to accomplishing the business goals that you established when you built the API.
To accelerate the success of your API initiative, you will need to identify the barriers to adoption and address these with enhancements just as you would with any product development initiative. Publishing is the starting point; but a well rounded API roadmap will not only be about publishing more APIs it’s about reducing the barriers to adoption.
A Few Questions to Ask
- What is the sphere of API consumption for my service? What are the other services that my customers are most often connecting to?
- Who wants to connect to my service? Do you understand the personas that want to connect with your app? Is it a developer or a citizen integrator, or both? Is my dependency on developers inhibiting adoption?
- Have you identified usability issues with your API that are creating barriers to adoption?
The consumption challenge is an interesting theme for us this year. In this ‘API Consumption’ series, I’ll dig into the answers to some of the questions above. We’ll talk about barriers to API adoption, addressing the Citizen Integrator and understanding your app’s sphere of consumption.