3 tips to get people comfortable with API governance


Many people are uncomfortable when it comes to API governance—whether it’s due to fear or even hate for it because of their terrible experience or the at-time true negative things they’ve heard about it. Hopefully, things are changing, and more and more organizations are discovering its true nature: API governance helps people maximize the value generated with APIs. But how can you fix errors from the past and make people comfortable with API governance?

While helping put API governance in place and conducting thousands of API design reviews, I’ve learned to say three things that put people at ease when I start to work with them as a representative of an API governance initiative:

  • I’m here to help you.
  • I’ll respect API ownership.
  • I’ll be happy if you give me feedback and even contribute.

Let’s dive into each statement further.

1. Tell them you’re here to help them

That’s the first and most important thing to say because that’s the heart of true API governance. And it’s even more essential if you’re conducting API design reviews. Tell the API team you’re not here to judge their work but to help them grow their API design skills (if they need it) and create the best possible APIs. Tell them you provide ready-to-use design patterns in the API guidelines or governance tools to easily check their design is efficient and secure. You can also tell them you provide different levels of API consulting services, from quick API review (if they’re experts) to API design workshops (if they’re beginners).

2. Respect API ownership

As an API governance representative, you’re probably an expert in API design and know your organization’s guidelines by heart. But you’re not the owner of the API. You will propose recommendations based on API guidelines and your experience working across the organization. You’ll investigate with the API team various guidelines-compliant options and show their consequences, including not following your recommendations. But ultimately, you’ll let them decide in light of these explanations and face the consequences.

3. Request feedback and allow them to contribute

Ideally, an organization’s API guidelines should be created and managed by those who create APIs. Also, improvements are always possible. Always tell the people you work with that they should notify you if something is not working or missing in the guidelines. And it’s even better if they have ideas to fix such issues. Also, if you spot a few API experts while working across the organization, you should ask them if they want to be part of the governance initiative and share their experience and knowledge with others.

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