I was recently asked what the key indicators might be that an organization should look to implement a modern web API training program. It is a great question, so I wanted to share some thoughts around this topic. While there are likely more, these are the five key indicators that we have found that indicate your organization needs to implement an API training program.
1. You Are Building Web and Mobile APIs As Part Of a Digital Strategy
The two core channels for a digital strategy are web and mobile. However, these channels often require integration to a variety of data sources and internal systems that drive the business. These applications will require APIs to be exposed internally to make this data and business capabilities available. While some organizations opt to simply use APIs as a communication mechanism, most are using APIs to strategically drive new opportunities. They start to view APIs as part of a complete digital strategy, with separate goals, metrics, and KPIs.
If your organization sees APIs as part of the business strategy, then building in an API training program is essential to achieving your business goals. The training will help to inform all employees about the overall API strategy, the business model to be employed, and how these two things will drive all other aspects of their daily job. This means that employees across all areas of the organization need to have at least a basic understanding of APIs and how they will be used to drive company growth.
2. Your Web APIs Will Be Opened to Partners or the Public
Initially, web APIs may have been built to offer data and access business capabilities for web and mobile applications. Over time, the organization may find that the APIs offer value beyond the internal business. Existing and new APIs can be made available as a partner integration platform, allowing for easier integration (and often increasing customer retention as a result). Or, perhaps the organization has decided to open the APIs to external developers, generating opportunities for new customer acquisition and marketing.
As the shift to partner and open public APIs takes place, the API needs to become a first-class product within the organization. APIs will require some form of governance to ensure consistency and prevent duplication. Teams will need to be formed to handle customer support, documentation, and marketing/evangelism.
API training encourage consistency across the organization, ensure teams produce APIs that look like a single organization (even if they are built by multiple teams), and are built with a focus on the digital business strategy. We have worked with companies to help them craft a custom curriculum that introduces the fundamentals of modern web APIs, while also including their own internal strategies and processes. The result is that all team members are able to work together toward the same set of goals with the APIs as a central internal focus point.
3. There is a Need to Improve Delivery Speed and Business Agility
When organizations first embark on building APIs, it often takes some time to go through the full API life cycle. From discovery, to design, development, deployment, marketing, sales, and support, APIs require the same (if not more) effort to build and market as a typical SaaS product. It also requires a coordinated effort between teams, as APIs must be delivered before web and mobile applications can be deployed to production. Optimizing this API life cycle is critical to the API digital strategy.
Product managers often find that cross-functional training helps to optimize the communication channels between teams, creates a consistent focus on the API life cycle, and typically results in 2-3 times the development speed for new APIs. It also improves business agility, as more APIs are delivered faster and become available to developers for innovation and revenue generation.
4. Your APIs are Not Generating Enough Business Value
I recently spoke with a developer that knows how to build APIs, but he’s never thought about why he is building an API (other than to accomplish some specific technical task or requirement). That’s because most developers are trained to focus on the code, not on the business. However, developers really do like to know why they are building things. Even more so, they prefer not to waste their time building things that are incorrect or won’t ever be used. This means that they will want to know more about the business value for a new requirement, as it will help them build the right thing the first time.
To communicate with developers, product managers need to better understand how to speak developer. And developers need to better understand the business and ROI goals of product managers . Great API training builds this process into the curriculum, ensuring that all team members can meet expectations by speaking each others’ language. The result will be a greater understanding of the business value being generated by the APIs. Over time, developers will begin to identify and propose business value on their own as well.
5. The Need For Consistent API Design and API Security
As the API offerings increase, there is a likelihood that different teams will design and implement APIs. To developers outside those teams that will be consuming the APIs, it can become obvious that the APIs were designed by different teams. Terminology may be different, along with error handling and other aspects of API design. These concerns often fall to an API governance board, which will want to draft simple guidelines to ensure APIs are consistently designed and implemented. They will also be responsible for guiding teams on implementing proper API security, from authentication, to authorization, the security of data in motion, and the security of data at rest.
Comprehensive API training programs provide insight into the standards put forth by the API governance board, requirements for API security, and guidelines for designing consistent, secure APIs.
How To Get Started With Your API Training Program
While this isn’t an exhaustive list, these indicators should provide an idea of where an organization should be before it embarks on an API training program. For some companies, it might be too early to begin an API training program. Once you are ready, design a great API training program that meets the needs of your organization. The result is that your organization will be able to receive a consistent, comprehensive training program that will drive your digital strategy.
Want to learn more?
Read our course overview and then contact us to schedule a conversation about how we can help your team accelerate your API program.