The potential and threats of APIs in your organisation

kees neven COO enable-uAPIs provide many opportunities, but also entail risks.

In recent years more and more organisations have started opening up their APIs, for both internal and external purposes. These APIs describe how software programs communicate with each other, and may play an important role in the effectiveness of an organisations digital strategy. With the digitisation of business processes and services it could save a lot of time and money. In addition, APIs are key to technological innovations in the digital age (the Application Economy). Through APIs developers can use certain data or software functionality without being required to program it themself. This offers a huge potential (think of new revenue streams, new partnerships, mash-ups and cost reductions), but it also entails serious risk. Especially for organisations that develop APIs in an ad hoc manner, without a company-wide strategy. Poor API management results in high costs, a barrier for innovation and even creates security risks. It is time for a different approach.

The biggest challenge is to manage all APIs, every day

The biggest challenge in an API strategy is found mainly in its day-to-day management. Some organisations have hundreds of APIs. As a developer, how do you determine what the latest version is? Or how do you know if there’s already an API available for what you’re planning? If there is no central database specifying which APIs are available and what the API does exactly, you risk wasting time by developing a function that already exists. And that is precisely the power of APIs; being able to reuse an existing function, without the hassle. Figuring out how to manage lots of APIs daily is a crucial part of the strategy, if you want to reap the benefits of APIs. But even if you are just getting started with APIs in your organisation, it pays to think about management in order to prevent it from ever getting out of hand.

A gatekeeper to keep your services safe

In addition to management, security is a very important aspect when it comes to your API strategy. As you open up your services to the outside world after all, you are basically giving outsiders access to a piece of your living room. Especially when there are services involved that can be accessed from the outside, it is important to work with certain standards or certifications to ensure security. Do you work with a lot of external partners? Then it is advisable to use an API gateway. A gateway can be used for multiple purposes, such as identity and access management, but also to ensure the performance of an API as it can easily become overloaded when multiple parties are involved in its (simultaneous) use.

‘One portal to rule them all’

For both security and management to be organised well, a company-wide strategy is required when it comes to APIs. An API portal can help. That is the platform from which APIs can be centrally managed; all APIs and documentation in one place. With an API portal, you can centrally control access to data and keep track of who accessed what and when, and also who is the owner of a particular API. This way you can also secure APIs in a generic way making it easier to manage on a day-to-day basis. More importantly, all API documentation and programming examples are available in one place.

Facebook and Google were once the best example for large organisation when it comes to their API strategy. Today, their approach is also available to smaller organisations. It is time for large and small organisations to manage their APIs centrally so that inefficiency can be avoided, security risks are kept outside the door and innovations can become a reality even faster .

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