(This article was originally written by Kin Lane)
API platforms are optimized for success across the API lifecycle. They’re hyper-focused on meeting the needs of consumers and other stakeholders, using well-traveled feedback loops that give consumers a voice in the roadmap for each API and allowing shorter cycles when it comes to delivering what consumers want.
Well-defined API platforms enable higher levels of velocity through a rapid succession of well-planned and fully tested releases that evolve APIs forward in safe, reliable, and communicated ways. And in cases where mistakes happen and problems do arise? The same mechanisms that enable quick responses to consumer needs and rapid releases allow for quick responses to incidents.
Ultimately, an effective API platform boosts productivity and efficiency across all microservices, APIs, and integrations that power an enterprise. Today’s organizations using an API platform that properly equips its teams are experiencing these five benefits:
Feedback loops are essential to each individual API as well as to an overall API platform. General feedback loops around APIs gather what consumers need; more precise inline artifact-driven feedback loops enable feedback to come in on specific parts of each API. By optimizing feedback loops, consumer needs can be gathered in real time, aggregated, prioritized, and then potentially implemented in as short a period as possible. This reduces the cycles between when feedback is gathered and when a resource or capability can be moved forward, tested, and then delivered to consumers. Consumer needs are met faster and with higher quality to ensure that each incremental release meets the expectations of users putting it to work in their applications and integrations.
Teams who operate within known environments across well-defined API lifecycles are able to release more often. Design-first practices allow teams to rapidly design, mock, document, and verify that new capabilities will meet the expectations of consumers before any code is even written. This leads to the rapid design, development, testing, and delivery of incremental units of new value for API consumers to give them the capabilities they need. A sense of increased reliability ultimately helps build consumer confidence over time. The relationship between producer and consumer is strengthened as both move forward at higher speeds. With greater efficiency and quality control between API producer and consumer over multiple versions and releases, teams can confidently march forward in ways that focus on the perpetual generation of value between API consumer and producer.
API platforms allow developers to fail safely by empowering local development and deployment via tested, governed, and gated CI/CD pipelines. Modular contract, performance, governance, and other types of collection-defined testing incentivize continual forward motion that helps maximize releases while minimizing the need to roll back in response to failed deployments. Collection-based tests can be delivered as fine or coarse grain tests that developers can manually execute locally as they are developed. They can also be dropped into the CI/CD pipelines to ensure that every build meets the baseline of tests every time. With the ability to auto-generate tests for 100% of the surface area of an API using its OpenAPI, developers can ensure that their tests are covering the entire implementation. This keeps unintended breaking changes and flaws from getting through, ensuring every release is truly in service of forward motion and won’t need to be rolled back for any reason.
An API platform helps organizations meet consumers’ needs with higher rates of release velocity. That same process for efficiency can be applied to responding, resolving, communicating, reporting, and learning from incidents that do occur. When an API-first team is fully equipped, it’s ready to receive notifications and feedback about good or bad news, respond, design, mock, test, repeat, and then release to fix any problems and ensure user satisfaction. Teams operating in an API-first world are highly productive and efficient in moving API infrastructure forward but are also highly productive and efficient in fixing problems as they arise. API-first operations recover quickly from not-so-happy events that occur. An organization can effectively maintain trust with consumers.
When done well, API platforms organize team productivity by domain: every slice of business operations is fully supported. The API lifecycle is translated into machine-readable units of value that can be automated to test and perpetually deploy the digital capabilities needed to move the enterprise forward. Collections allow essential API integrations and workflows to be defined, forked, shared, and made ubiquitous across operations. This provides self-contained documented examples of what works to power the API factory floor within an organization. By having repeatable API-driven workflows that can be used to produce and consume APIs in automated ways across an increasingly proven API lifecycle, organizations can rapidly move forward without being impeded by incidents that may arise along the way.
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