What is the purpose of API governance?


Establishing effective API governance requires the correct understanding of its purpose. But what is it exactly? Is it defining standards or rules and applying them? No. While that’s an essential means of governance, that’s not its end. To uncover API governance’s true purpose, let’s investigate what you get when you have standards properly in place.

Bringing consistency to the API chaos

The most known and visible aspect of governance is defining design standards. Many think these standards only exist to ensure a certain level of consistency across APIs. To evaluate their actual impact, let’s look at what happens to designers, developers, and provider organizations when they don’t have effective standards.

There are many ways to design an API’s operation that will “search something.” Without shared standards, two designers may spend time looking for a way to design “search customers” and “search products” operations. They will mainly work on handling search filters, pagination, or how to model a list of search results. In the end, without standards for both designers to reference, these two API operations won’t share the same look and behavior, creating inconsistency.

When developers use “search customers,” they analyze the operation to figure out how it works. They identify design patterns like how filtering and pagination are handled or how a list is modeled. Then they write their code accordingly. Afterward, when integrating a call to “search products” in their application, they’ll have to do this again because, even though the two are “search something” operations, they do not share the same look and behavior. What designers learned and coded before is useless; they must restart from scratch. This can lead some developers to choose not to use such inconsistent APIs and look for alternatives.

That could happen for every operation of every API. At the provider organization’s level, delivering APIs and leveraging them will cost more money, preventing the organization from delivering new features. If the APIs are public, that means less revenue.

So, the absence of standards not only leads to inconsistent APIs, it negatively impacts API designers’ and consumers’ productivity and even the provider organization’s finances.

Enabling people, maximizing value

With proper API governance implementing design standards, the benefits are far more than consistency in the design of APIs. Additional benefits include:

  • Predefined design recipes make designers’ jobs easier: Designers can focus on what matters and which specific problem the API is supposed to solve, instead of repeatedly losing energy and time reinventing the wheel for common features.
  • Consistent design patterns make consumers’ jobs easier: Integrating any API call in an application is done easily and quickly as they all share a common look and behavior. That also makes APIs more appealing.
  • Effective standards mean more API-generated value for the provider’s organization: It takes less time to deliver more features and more customers are willing to use APIs, which all leads to more revenue.

The true nature of API governance is that it aims to enable people, helping them maximize the value APIs provide. And there’s so much more to it; in addition to API design and standards, API governance can encompass many other things, such as API product definition, security, and implementation. And it can take different forms, such as automation, workshops, or training sessions. When establishing API governance, you must keep all of this in mind or risk being partially effective, totally ineffective, or even counterproductive. Stay tuned to the Postman blog for upcoming posts on more of these critical API governance topics.

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