Many organizations start their API initiative when their CIO suggests: “Let’s start with API management!”. However, if you want to set up a successful API initiative, it is indispensable to evaluate your APIs in alignment with the strategic objectives of your organization.

In order to get you on track and ensure a game-changing success story, our integration architects Matthias and Thomas shared their expertise during an Online Lunch Meetup of the API Community Belgium.They take you with them in their API expertise and formulate an answer to the overarching question: how to define your step-by-step approach for your API journey? Hands-on insights and a real-life example are provided by Colruyt, sharing the past, present and future of their API Journey.

Ready to get inspired for your API journey? Read all about it in our blog or watch the full video through the link at the bottom of this article!

6 Steps to Make Your API Journey a Success!

Define your strategy

When you start defining your strategy, you are able to set the right focus right away. Start with answering some basic questions:

  • What strategic objectives do I want to accomplish with APIs?
  • What the APIs are supposed to help realize
  • What is the added value of API’s foryour organization?

Once you have defined the strategic objectives, you will have an easier time putting your API journey together. Strategic objectives can for example involve the goal of being more flexible and meaningful towards your partners or exposing as much data as possible in order to participate in open data initiatives.

Start your API program

Starting with API management is not just a technical initiative. It entails a number of aspects that all have to be taken into account to make the initiative a success. You will need to govern and manage these APIs throughout their lifecycle to get the maximum value out of it. This means having them documented in a good manner, choosing the right API platform, introducing new roles in your organization and making a plan on how to design and realize your APIs using standards and guidelines.

Assess your current state

Your API initiative is most likely not starting from a blank page. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to position your organization in a maturity model (watch video for more in-depth information). Using this maturity model enables you to determine the kind of objectives you want to achieve at each stage of the process.

Define your target and program

Based on what you want to achieve at each stage, you define your target and program. In order to do so, you map out these objectives and define the actions you need to take to achieve this based on your assessment. Don’t forget to take into account your time horizon and the adoption rate of your organization to roll out a realizable plan. Plan your actions in the API program and you are fully ready to get started!

Manage and steer

To measure is to know, so you constantly have to measure what you are doing. Define KPIs based on your API strategy and ambitions, report them and steer by based on insights. When you are not reaching your goals, take the necessary steps and actions.

Communication is key

To make your API journey a success, communication is indispensable. Keep in touch with your stakeholders and make sure their requirements and wishes are taken into account. To streamline this process, we advise you to make a communication plan.

Once you've gone through all these steps, you're ready to turn your initiative into a blast!

Behind Colruyt’s Success Story

Colruyt is best known for their low prices. To guarantee these low prices, Colruyt has focused for many years on process improvement. This started fifty years ago, when they introduced automation into the organization. To remain a pioneer in the field of low prices, Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) was introduced a couple of years ago, enabling Colruyt to make a shift towards API Management. This shift would allow them to focus on exposing the business assets towards a (specific) target group to reach new markets, where speed to deliver and ease of consumption matters.

Introduction of an API program

The SOA program contained an enterprise integration layer that was appropriate for back-end integrations. However, Colruyt knew an uprise in front-end applications like the Collect&Go mobile app. That’s when Colruyt decided to team up with Archers for the implementation of an API program. A new strategic project was introduced: mobile readiness, enabling Colruyt to meet the challenges of these new channels.

Colruyt started with the creation of internal APIs but the end goal was to prepare the organization for the use of all kinds of APIs, like public and partner APIs. With this new strategy in mind, a new front-end integration layer was introduced. With this new focus, new requirements arose.

As the actual enterprise integration platform was not able to meet the requirements of API management, Colruyt decided to introduce a new platform with a focus on API management. After setting up this platform, governance entered the picture. To meet these governance challenges, Colruyt had to evaluate their API lifecycle in which activities and deliverables were defined. This governance process contained several quality checkpoints, linked to the application lifecycle. However, this governance was still not meeting all requirements for API management, as Colruyt aimed at a fast market intro and fast delivery. To meet these goals, Colruyt diversified service governance by service type and focus:

  • The full governance applied to core SOA services and is a completely centralized governance;
  • Light governance applied to reusable APIs and is a partially decentralized governance (architecture and identification are still centralized, but design, quality and certified checkpoints are decentralized);
  • No governance APIs are completely decentralized governance.

As Colruyt aimed for faster delivery, they also worked on open API specifications. These were uploaded to the development API gateway where necessities like security could be added.

To Measure Is to Know

In addition, it was also crucial to monitor if the defined strategy was meeting the objectives. To do so, KPIs were defined to measure progress and evolution. These KPIs enable Colruyt to anticipate if things are not going as expected. To get the organization totally ready to adopt API management, training and coaching were provided, allowing Colruyt to go for higher maturity related to API management.

The future

At the beginningof the process, the focus was on internal APIs. However, Colruyt also wanted to create partner- and public API’s. To make this happen, access control and security were introduced to make the shift towards single page applications. That’s when they decided to shift from SOAP to REST. The final step is to install an API Portal to expose these external APIs. Stay tuned!

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