API change across large organizations takes having a leader, or an army of leaders driving the API conversation. Successful API programs tend to expand under the right leadership, and will ultimately whither in the absence of it. The momentum of any individual API roadmap will be dictated by someone championing not just an individual API, but APIs in general across an organization. The presence of an API evangelist, advocate, or as we prefer saying—a champion—is a proven trait of well-known successful API initiatives. Depending on the makeup of teams, and the personalities that exist in a company, champions can come in many forms, but one of the most ubiquitous tools you will find in the toolbox of any API champion is Postman.
Sure, there are 8M developers putting Postman to work around the globe, but a handful of passionate API believers are wielding Postman in ways that will shift how business gets done. They are not just using the platform to make requests, demo an API feature, and occasionally share a request with another team member. The API champions we are seeing are using Postman to on-board, connect, and empower team members throughout the organization. This is connecting the dots for developers who are already using Postman in their work, and building collections that non-developers from business groups can put to use within the Postman API development environment—solving real problems they face each day.
Knowing who is using Postman
Knowing who is using Postman across teams is a great way to map out the API landscape in your organization. If developers are working with APIs on a regular basis, it is likely that they are using Postman. As an API champion, one of your regular activities should be getting to know the developers who are using Postman, making sure you better understand how and why they use it. This isn’t just about Postman, this is about understanding how successful (or unsuccessful) your team’s members are being when it comes to putting APIs to work. We recommend focusing on a handful of areas to establish a clearer understanding of how your team members see the API landscape:
- Understanding How They Are Using Postman – Have a conversation with your team members about how they are using Postman. Have them fire it up and show some of the common things that they do.
- Encourage the Sharing of Collections – Talk to team members about collections, and find out how they create, manage, and optionally share or publish them. Are they breaking out of their personal workspaces and engaging with other teams members and stakeholders along the way?
- Identify Other API Artifacts Available – Inquire about other API artifacts in use, gathering insight on any additional OpenAPI, RAML, and other definitions.
Knowing who is using Postman is more about understanding the state of APIs in your organization than it is about the tool. If you aren’t already establishing workspaces, teams, and sharing collections, there are undoubtedly pockets of API usage across your organization that you aren’t aware of—increasing the chance of duplication and rogue APIs in operation that you aren’t in tune with. Postman is how you learn what APIs are being used, and how they are being used, what APIs are being developed, and who the teams are behind them. Postman helps you connect these dots, and keep them connected as your teams expand and contract, new APIs are developed, legacy APIs are evolved, and others are deprecated. Talking to team members about who is using Postman will set all this in motion.
Introduce those who aren’t using Postman to the potential
When you come across folks who aren’t using Postman, may have heard about it but do not understand what it is, or are just unaware of what it does—we have some conversation starters for you. Even if the individuals you are speaking with aren’t developers, it’s worth understanding the ways in which APIs can benefit what they do each day, as well as how individuals and teams can benefit the overall API effort within your organization. To have the greatest effect amongst Postman newbies, we recommend focusing on a handful of areas to better understand how each team member fits into the picture, and where to begin converting them into an active participant in the API struggle for good.
- Being Prepared With Starter Collections – When introducing Postman to any new team member, make sure you spend time investing in one or more collections that help properly introduce them to it, as well as relevant APIs that will help them understand the potential.
- Always Be Ready To Educate and Support – Once you introduce a team member to Postman, make sure you are ready to educate them about the development environment, as well as integrating and developing API infrastructure.
- Identify Other API Artifacts In Use By Teams – When talking to team members about Postman and their wider usage of APIs, make sure you ask about other API definitions and artifacts in use, identifying additional Swagger, OpenAPI, and other useful signals of APIs that are being put to work.
- Having That Conversation With Leadership – As part of your outreach to other developers, spend time talking to leadership about their understanding of APIs, the role Postman is already playing, and how it can be leveraged to continue connecting teams, as well as organizing how you integrate and develop APIs.
As with connecting the dots between your teammates who are already putting Postman to work, the exploration of team members who aren’t aware is more about mapping out the landscape of your API operations, than it is about Postman. This is all about building your awareness of who is working with APIs and what their proficiency levels are, as well as who isn’t up to speed on APIs and would benefit from having their horizons expanding. Document what APIs are in use by aggregating them as Postman collections, while also gathering and converting other API definitions along the way, establishing a clearer picture and building relationships in the process.
Evaluate what you’ve learned
After spending time talking APIs with team members, take the time to learn from what you’ve heard so far. As an API champion, step back and begin laying a stronger foundation for how APIs are developed and put to work. Ensure that the dots you’ve connected between teams, their members, and their APIs remain connected. Strengthen how teams are collaborating and iterating upon API infrastructure, as well as the applications that depend on them. Take what you’ve learned and begin investing more time and resources in the following areas:
- Identify, Import, and Share API Definitions in Postman – Make sure all the Postman collections, OpenAPI, and other API definitions gathered along the way are imported into Postman and merged into a single set of collections that can then be further organized by workspace and team, sharing them in a more coherent way.
- Organize All API Collections By Workspace – Take all the Postman collections that exist and form a strategy for how they should be organized by workspace and made accessible by teams. Establish the beginning of a more formal approach to versioning, forking, merging, and evolving API collections so that they can be used in different ways throughout their lifecycles.
- Define And Organize Teams Working On APIs – Work with teams around how they can access API collections across logical workspaces. Help them to ensure the quality of collections in use across teams, and that everyone is working towards a common objective when it comes to API operations.
With this work, you should have the beginnings of a foundation laid underneath your API operations. It will take a significant amount of work to keep moving the API conversation forward across your organization, but this will help stabilize things dramatically. It will allow you to champion not just Postman, but how your teams work together to collaborate throughout the life of each API you are delivering. This helps prepare your teams for a future where APIs aren’t just delivered in isolation, but moved forward in concert throughout multiple teams, groups, and geographic locations.
Mapping out the entire API lifecycle that exists
Now that you have the ear of developers and leadership, and have started developing a new platform to engage across teams, you can take what you’ve learned about how APIs are delivered, and establish a map of your API lifecycle that others will benefit from. If an organization is developing APIs, there is an existing API lifecycle. Chances are the API lifecycle in your organization is not well known, documented, standardized, and realized between teams. This is your opportunity to define what is going on, and make sure there is a consistent, repeatable, and measurable approach to APIs, providing a handful of opportunities for API champions to lead the way.
- Documenting Existing APIs – One critical deficiency that exists in most large organizations is that APIs are not properly documented, or the documentation is out of date. This makes the development of Postman collections and the generation of API documentation a valuable activity that will benefit everyone involved.
- Understanding What API Design Practices Exist – Most development teams operate in silos, rarely sharing common patterns that will help other teams be successful. Being a champion of these healthy practices, documenting and sharing them, is one of the most vital functions of an API champion. This helps cross-pollinate essential knowledge between teams, elevating the entire organization.
- Shining A Light On How APIs Are Being Tested – Another area that needs regularly highlighting is the testing of APIs. Help standardize how APIs are tested, and share best practices, scripts, and tooling between teams.
- Quantify How All APIs Are Being Supported – All APIs should be supported, but in a large organization the level of support can vary, and it can be common for APIs to become orphaned. This leaves a vacuum when it comes to questions being asked of how to put an API to work or improve upon it for the next version.
This is just a first pass over what you can do to help map out the API lifecycle across teams, documenting how APIs are brought to life, supported, and hopefully deprecated in a graceful way. At this stage we are just looking to understand what is going on, build our awareness, and understand the scope of what it will actually take to begin standardizing how the API lifecycle is understood throughout an organization. There might be small changes you can make to improve how APIs are developed at your organization, but do your homework to understand how teams are operating, and the nuances of why they are doing what they do, before you commit to making too many changes or introduce any shift in behavior.
Review, Refine, and Repeat until you are happy
This API champion call to action isn’t something you’ll master in a single pass, or be able to make happen overnight. It is intended as an introduction to how you can begin your journey as a Postman API champion, and start doing the hard work to acquire knowledge and awareness of what is going on across teams. Review your notes, refine your approach, and repeat the steps here until you feel more confident in the realities on the ground within your organization. Being an API champion might seem like a thankless job when you are just getting going, but once you begin to tear down the walls that exist between teams, and strengthen relationships with key individuals, you will begin to see why the role is so important.
Developing your API knowledge and awareness
This process is all about developing your API knowledge and awareness so that you can understand the best way to engage your team members who are already using Postman, and turn on other team members who aren’t, to what is possible. Then you can begin developing the base foundation for how teams collaborate, share, and work together to minimize redundancy of efforts, and share best practices that will help increase the velocity when it comes to putting APIs to work, as well as bringing new APIs to life. As this effort builds, you can also begin to stabilize and standardize the overall lifecycle of how APIs get delivered, reducing friction and optimizing the process. Being a Postman API champion is about developing your API capacity, taking a lead role in how you grow, evolve, and become more confident in how your organization does business in a digital world.