Access and Feeds

API Pitfalls: Tips for Avoiding Them

By Dick Weisinger

Nearly every major software product or website now offers some sort of developer APIs that enable interaction and customizations. All major tech vendors like Facebook, Salesforce, Google, Microsoft and Amazon offer a public API set for developers. Even newspapers, like the New York Times, offer an API. And many government agencies offer APIs as part of Open Data projects.

McKinsey recently offered advice for how organizations can get started with developing APIs and how to avoid the traps and pitfalls.

The tips and recommended strategies include:

  1. Plan. Decide what kind of APIs will provide the best return on investment for the business. Categories of APIs include “Data Access and Integration”, “Cloud Migration”, and “Core Transformation”.
  2. Staff Correctly. The team that designs and creates the API needs to be correctly staffed the right skill sets. Establishing a product champion for the development effort can help ensure that the API can provide good value. A savvy API architect can ensure that the best technical practices and standards are followed.
  3. Set metrics. Metrics can help assess the value of the APIs. Common metrics used include Cost, Quality and Output.
  4. Focus on Business Value. McKinsey recommends classifying APIs as either technical or business focused. Business-focused APIs need to be packaged in a way that can provide good access to business stakeholders.
  5. Choose the Right Technology. Two key technology decisions need to be made up front of any API project: which API framework and which API gateway to use.
  6. Who pays for the development and maintenance? It’s important to decide whether or not the cost should be borne by IT, a business group, or whether the ownership is joint.
  7. Identify skills that need to be acquired or learned.

McKinsey says that “APIs are no longer a matter of technology strategy alone. Today, they are also a key part of any company‚Äôs business strategy. By attending thoughtfully to the seven key challenges, organizations can unlock the potential of APIs and accelerate their pathway to tech modernization.”

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