Governance is an integral part of API management, yet it is often seen as a burden by organizations because it is considered to slow down the whole process. But irrespective of how much time it takes, API governance is highly beneficial to every organization that has to manage multiple APIs. Proper API governance ensures that an API is discoverable across an organization. It ensures to deliver a seamless user experience, secure and compliant, and reusable and scalable.
What is API governance?
Broadly, API governance refers to the measures an organization takes to ensure that its APIs deliver the intended value to users. Proper API governance works on creating certain standard rules so that all parties involved can work independently with the API but also collectively towards common goals. It includes policies on documenting, versioning, tracking, deprecating, and integration.
Systems integration solutions, such as those offered by MuleSoft, that connect various distributed systems, applications, and software within an organization depend largely on API governance. As different applications interact with one another through code, protocols, and procedures, it is increasingly important for businesses having thousands of APIs to have standard rules and policies for seamless integration.
API governance may have different goals and purposes in different organizations. MuleSoft proposes four categories of API to deal with these conflicting goals – the 4 Ps of API governance.
The 4 Ps of API governance suggested by MuleSoft
The four categories of API governance, according to MuleSoft, are program, product, portfolio, and platform. Conflicts in an organization’s API governance goals and methods apparently take place between the areas primarily.
API program governance
API program governance is the highest level of API governance in this scheme. The process starts by defining the API strategy of an organization to align with its business goals and dynamics. An enterprise API program then helps implement this strategy effectively. An API program should be a cross-organizational initiative. An effective API program must be holistic and take into consideration everything from changes in technology to team structures to organizational culture and more.
API program governance involves answering certain questions like –
- How to measure the program’s impact on its goals?
- On which areas of the organization should governance be focused?
- How to assess why certain teams are not following the guidance and how to best address that?
- How to determine if the program goals are relevant?
API product governance
The next stage, according to MuleSoft, is API product governance. Apart from an organization-wide API strategy, every API product needs its own product strategy as well. API product governance ensures that each API product is self-sustaining and that is the responsibility of API product teams and product managers.
It involves managing the lifecycle of individual APIs, ensuring that they are meeting their pre-set goals, and measuring the API product against its defined business model. Some of the important questions to address in API product governance are –
- Who should own the product lifecycle?
- How effectively is new feature delivery being used to balance out technical debt?
- What are the API product risks and compliance requirements that need to be managed?
API portfolio governance
API portfolio governance becomes important when an organization’s API-led approach matures leading to a large number of API products. API portfolio governance ensures that their efforts are not duplicated, similar API products can be merged, and unused products can be deprecated. It also ensures consistency in policies and design. The questions that API portfolio governance addresses include –
- What are the highest valued API products in the organization?
- Which products are redundant or unused?
- What security and operational policies need to be enforced or updated across the API portfolio?
- Whether the developer communities using the company’s APIs working with synergy?
API platform governance
Lastly, according to MuleSoft, there is a need for API platform governance that happens automatically in an organization’s runtime API interactions. API platform governance should aim to leverage automation and digital native capabilities to improve the operational environment in which the API products are implemented. Some critical questions in API platform governance are –
- What runtime capabilities may be necessary to enforce API product/ portfolio governance policies?
- How must operational anomalies be managed?
- How to measure the success of an API platform business model?
Apart from these 4 Ps, MuleSoft also emphasizes a 5th P, which is Principles. Strong API governance requires consistency, cohesion, and clarification of roles, to avoid conflicts between the different areas of governance.