API Governance

Learn about standards, best practices, and SLAs of an effective API governance model

A growing number of companies are building APIs. As the number of APIs grows within an organization, consistency becomes a key challenge because external customers approaching these APIs from outside the organization expect a consistent experience and expect all APIs to be compatible and have tight coupling among all components. Inconsistency between different API offerings can lead to customers being confused and increase the time it takes them to integrate the APIs.

API governance is a term coined to describe an enterprise-level set of standards for the design and operation of APIs. APIs can be built in a variety of ways and because of the iterative API development process, it is important that certain design patterns be established early in the life cycle so that APIs can be built across the organization in a way that fits together predictably and reliably.

For APIs to be trusted in terms of safety, availability, scalability, and dependability, API governance must set standards and principles for each of these qualities. To design strong APIs and make sure developers have a great experience, it's important to have a policy-driven strategy that helps enforce standards and checkpoints throughout the API's life. This strategy will explain the rules and procedures that must be followed during API discovery, interface documentation, development, testing, deployment, operation, and maintenance.

API governance through the API life cycle

Once we understand the API life cycle, it is easy to imagine that with numerous teams and stakeholders involved, there is a need to enforce the API governance standards at each stage of the API development life cycle. This is accomplished as follows:

  • Proposal: When an API is proposed, the process of API governance begins, and it is the responsibility of the development and operations teams to verify that the APIs they identify are consistent with the overall company plan. An API proposal, like any product proposal, must make a good case for investing in the development of the product and be able to showcase the value it will drive for the business. This could involve stakeholders from across the organization, including sales, legal, and support, to ensure there is buy-in from these teams and they align their roadmaps accordingly.

  • Design and development: In the design and development phase, API governance plays a key role in ensuring that the API software quality is maintained and that the user experience is in-line with other APIs published by the organization to enable a smooth onboarding for both existing and new customers. To ensure that the API’s quality lives up to the standards required by the company’s customers, a solid API versioning strategy and emphasis on development standards are essential.

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