We live in an age of an unprecedented opportunity for innovation. Since the Internet and cloud computing, the world became hyper-connected in terms of the interconnectedness of people, organizations, and machines (i.e., devices and apps). Furthermore, the costs and time effort for building products and go-to-market are at an all-time-low.

As a result, the digital economy emerged. The digital economy refers to the economy based on digital computing technologies.

The API technology is one of the key driver of the digital economy. APIs allow the interaction between people, organizations, and most notably machines. This enables new digital business models that have the power to disrupt complete industries.

However, many organizations struggle with exploiting their assets and build digital products. The number one reason is that these organizations build APIs to expose internal assets (i.e., applications, services, and data).

There’s nothing wrong with exposing your assets via APIs. It might be even beneficial for your internal enterprise architecture for integration purposes. In the external market, however, it turns out that this inside-out approach typically doesn’t meet any customer needs and therefore failing in terms of business success.

Customer centricity and outside-in approach are the keys to building successful digital products based on APIs. Start with your customers, the jobs they want getting done, and the problems to do so.

“Managing APIs as products increases the chances of digital business success”, Gartner

In this book, you’ll learn how to leverage APIs to exploit your organization’s assets and create innovative digital products that are based on APIs.

In the following, we’ll first present what API product management is all about and why it’s different to ordinary product management. Then, we’ll discuss why it is hard to create the right APIs in contrast to engineering APIs right, which is rather straightforward. Afterwards, we’ll explain how this book is organized and what you can expect to learn from each part.

What is API Product Management?

API product management deals with identifying, planning, forecasting, production, and marketing of API products at all stages of the API product life-cycle. In this book, we present our API Product Management methodology, which we developed, applied, and tested over the recent years.

The API Product Management methodology is a systematic process based and inspired by popular methods (e.g., lean product management, Lean Startup). The methodology consists of three pillars:

  1. Desirability: Find API products that customer wants
  2. Viability: Define the product strategy to build a profitable API product
  3. Feasibility: Develop the API product (feasibility)
Most valuable design

The intersection of desirability, viability, and feasibility determine the most valuable design.

Why are API Products Hard?

First, there is a misconception about the difficulty of developing APIs. Technically, it is quite simple to build the APIs right. Of course, there are some best-practices about good API design and various philosophies and perspectives on what is right and what is more right, e.g., RESTful.

Build API Right vs Build Right API

It is simple to build APIs right. You just need to select the application you want to expose. Then, you expose the functionalities one by one.This is known as the inside-out approach.

In this scenario, we need to design the interface as generic as possible because we don’t know for what it might be used. In other words, we maximize for flexibility to allow multiple future applications.

However, it is difficult to build the right API that help customers getting their job done and is worth solving. And this is what this book is all about: Build the right API.

To build the right API, we need to get out of the building and use a customer-centric approach to design APIs. To this goal, we should even forget about APIs to focus on the customer’s job-to-get-done or rather customer’s pains.

This is what we call the outside-in approach. It’s certainly leaving the comfort-zone of your office desk. But it’s the best approach to build the right API. And this is the one purpose of this book and the API Product Management methodology: make the outside-in approach straightforward to you.

You Own the Interface, Not the Application

A company’s asset (e.g., software application, service) is the foundation for an API product thus posing a conflict situation with stakeholders. Typically, an asset has an owner. The owner might be known as product manager, business owner, product or application owner, or similar.

We as product leaders want to build on top of these assets, which weren’t intended to be exposed use via APIs, internally or externally. Typically, API pose additional load on backend applications and further security requirements. This is one of the aspects why stakeholder management is essential, especially for API product managers.

What will You Learn from this Book?

In this book, you’ll learn the following:

Part I: Setting the Stage

  • How to think about API with regards to interfaces to a value proposition
  • Explain the differences between digitization, digitalization, and digital transformation and how they relate to API
  • Understand the difference between API solution and API products and their role in the company’s daily business, tactics, and strategy.

Part II: API Product Design

  • How to find desirable API products
  • How to match your company’s assets to customer’s needs and define proper API value proposition

Part III: API Product Strategy

  • How to describe and communicate the product strategy for an API product
  • How to manage the product life-cycle of an API product
  • How to define the ambition of an API product
  • How to find, manage, and involve relevant stakeholders
  • How to select the right business models for an API product
  • How to define the roadmap for an API product

Part IV: API Product Execution

  • How to mitigate risks
  • How do develop APIs in an agile and iterative way
  • How to validate quickly and cheap with customers with respect to desirability and viability

Part V: Closing

  • How to engage your API developers with API products
  • How to pitch an API product

Is this Book for You?

API Product Management is for:

  • Product managers who build API products or build APIs as features of existing products
  • API program leaders who drive an API program in a company and want to create business value and drive digital transformation
  • Product owners who are responsible for planning and development of API products
  • Architects and technical leads who identify opportunities to digitalize business process and design APIs.
  • Innovators who want to unleash the power of API for the digital economy
  • Developers who are interested in becoming successful product managers or entrepreneurs
  • CDOs who want to drive digital transformation and new digital business model to establish the company in the digital economy and API ecosystem
  • CIOs and CTOs who want to facilitate innovation in the organzation
  • Business managers, directors, and vice presidents who want to understand the value of APIs

Please note that this book is not about API interface design, API architecture, micro-services, technology or tools.

How is this Book Organized?

Generally, successful products meet three essential criteria:

  • Desirability: Are there customers who are going to buy the product?
  • Viability: Should we build the products in terms of can we make the product profitable?
  • Feasibility: Can we build the product with the resources we have?

The key to a successful API product is finding the intersecting area between desirability, viability, and feasibility. The following figure presents this criteria for the most valuable design.

Most valuable design meet the criteria of desirability, viability, and feasibility.

Most valuable design meet the criteria of desirability, viability, and feasibility.

Our job as product leader is to design the API product such that it meets all three criteria.

We built the API Product Management methodology around this three criteria. For this reason, we structured the book accordingly.

  • API product design addresses desirability of an API product
  • API product strategy addresses the viability of an API product
  • API product execution addresses the feasibility of an API product

 Part I: Setting the Stage

We need to know why we do what we do to make the right decisions and do the right things. Without this, we lose focus and get lost in irrelevant, technical details.

For this reason, this part describes why APIs are so relevant for almost all organizations across industries and how you should set the context to make them successful.

Further, you’ll find a brief introduction to APIs, which might be valuable if your aren’t yet familiar with APIs.

Part II: API Product Design

When we try to find a problem for a solution, the chances for success are low in general. The better way is to start with a relevant problem and build a solution for it.

“Love the problem, not the solution”, Ash Maurya (inventor of Lean Canvas)

The chapters in this part will present how to explore customers’ jobs-to-get-done, problems, and pains to find and define desirable API products.

To this goal, this part presents the methods to explore and retrieve what customers need and jobs customers want getting done. This involves amongst other things design thinking, jobs-to-get-done, and value proposition interface.

Part III: API Product Strategy

Every strategy needs a plan. Most plan As don’t work. However, it makes it straightforward to pivot and iterate from plan A to a plan that works.

The chapters in this part explore the viability of API products.

To this goal, this part presents the method to explore and define the strategy to make a profitable product. This involves amongst other things API product canvas, business model, stakeholder management, and roadmap.

Part IV: API Product Execution

Ideas are worthless if not executed.

“Ideas are a dime a dozen”, Mary Kay Ash

The chapters in this part describe how to execute the product strategy, i.e., building API products.

To this goal, this part presents the methods to apply lean startup and agile methodologies to the API product development. This involves amongst other things,

Part V: Closing

Being successful is simple if you are working in a perfect environment that perfectly supports you. However, the world is not perfect and neither our environment. Ultimately, success comes from adapting to environments and maximize the outcome.

The chapters in this part reflect upon some organisational aspects, draw some conclusions, and offer some recommendations.