Today, tech businesses that want to be agile and get their products to market quickly need an API strategy. APIs are the building blocks of modern applications. They facilitate important connections so that key data can be shared rapidly and reduce developers’ need to build everything from scratch.
It’s no surprise that the number of APIs is surging. In fact, according to research from Rapid API, 63% of developers relied more on APIs in 2022 than in previous years, and 75% are currently prioritizing participating in the API economy in the present or near future. For companies that are looking to deploy a comprehensive API strategy, it’s important to avoid key pitfalls that can hold them back.
In this article, we share five common mistakes that get in the way of running a successful API strategy.
1. Having unclear or undefined goals
Like any new business initiative, your API strategy should be anchored in core business goals. In other words, you shouldn’t be diving into APIs just because it’s on trend. Consider this: What business objectives could benefit from building an API program?
Some motivations for getting started with APIs could include:
- Increasing revenue
- Making processes more efficient
- Having a better competitive advantage
- Building a bigger partner base
- Lowering the load on developers
Take the time to align your API strategy with key business goals, and remember: an API strategy will have the best possible return on investment when designed to help your business get to where it wants to go.
2. Not including input from the developer community
The developer community is a valuable resource for actionable feedback that can help improve where you’re taking your API strategy. Since developers will ultimately be your API’s direct consumers, you can include them in reviewing your work. Before launching your API program, release alpha and beta versions and expose them to a select number of trusted developers — this could help you better plan your rollout. Not doing this could mean you miss introducing key features that could make your business even more competitive.
3. Not having the right supporting infraructure in place
A core functionality of your APIs will be to manage traffic from the services and applications that can request information from it. This means they’ll need supporting infrastructure to handle the loads of live traffic. Not having this in place before you start building and deploying APIs can ultimately lead to service disruptions, data loss, lost revenue, and the goodwill of your end-users.
A good way to avoid this? Take the time to fully understand your requirements before you start building anything.
4. Not having a documentation strategy
One important truth about the API landscape is that it’s constantly changing. With the rapid pace of development, it’s almost impossible to stay up to date on which APIs have changed and what new ones have been added to your portfolio. This means that most teams don’t have a reliable inventory for their APIs, and their documentation is often outdated.
This poses multiple challenges. For instance, not having clear visibility on all the APIs in your ecosystem can mean you miss out on deploying key security or identity management features to some of your APIs. It can also mean that you don’t have a clear understanding of your attack surface, making it difficult to protect your data effectively. A lack of documentation can also hinder your developers from fully understanding the API when they make changes or try to connect it with another service.
Establishing a documentation strategy — ideally, there’s automation that can help you here — is thus a valuable step towards ensuring maturity and agility within your API program.
5. Not prioritizing security
Besides becoming an important business driver for many companies, APIs can pose a significant risk. Today, APIs are considered a leading attack vector. One reason for this is that the landscape is so varied, and APIs differ significantly from one to another, meaning there is no clear security standard implemented. A recent report from Salt Security identified that 94% of the companies they surveyed had some security issue with their production APIs over the last year. These issues include security vulnerabilities, authentication problems, sensitive data exposures, and breaches. The cost of these issues can be significant from a financial and reputational perspective.
Teams that don’t build security into their API strategy risk exposing their company to attacks and regulatory non-compliance. This security strategy needs to account for the constant evolution that takes place in the API ecosystem, integrating best practices such as constant logging and monitoring, adopting recommendations from the OWASP Application Security Verification Standard (ASVS) and other reputable resources, conducting security testing, and much more.
Making the most of your API strategy
The companies that take the time to get their API strategy right are bound to become more competitive within their industry. Keeping these key mistakes in mind, focusing on the benefits you stand to gain from your APIs, and ensuring your data is protected are all useful steps to take as you evaluate your API prospects.