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“The biggest cause of failure in software-intensive systems is not technical failure, it’s building the wrong thing.”

— Mary Poppendieck, founder of the Lean Software movement

An effective API program requires an upfront investment: an assessment of your organization’s strengths and weaknesses, goal and principle setting, familiarity with your target customer, and more. All these are elements of “establishing a digital strategy,” the first focus area of our API strategy blueprint.

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Strategy setting is by nature an introspective process, and many organizations struggle with it. The time required to make a through review of the current state of your business when you are dealing with the unsettling impact of disruption can feel like an unnecessary delay. But undertaking a digital transformation without a well-thought-out digital strategy is like setting sail without a compass.

Great strategies begin with a candid appraisal of the products and services you provide and how you deliver them, as well as your technical competence. Having situational awareness as your starting point is fundamental. Anyone can sketch out a grand vision, but without a clear picture of your current capabilities, you will not understand the magnitude of the initiatives you are undertaking.

Once you know where you are and where you would like to go, you can set goals and principles. Goals articulate what business results the organization wants to deliver. Principles express how the organization intends to get those results. Too often, principles are overlooked or given short shrift. Having a set of principles, like Amazon’s leadership principles, is critical for achieving scale. Shared principles allow you to develop a common understanding with different parts of an organization so you are not always checking back with leadership for direction. You will move faster and with far less friction.

Along with goals and principles, you will want to define the target audience for your APIs. In the API world, it is critical to know who the customers are who will use the products powered by your APIs, who the organizations are who will want to use your API, and who the developers are who will build the applications that use your APIs Without vetting these stakeholders, your API will never get off the ground. What are the goals of your target audiences and how do they align the goals you have just set?

The next step is one of the most enjoyable parts of establishing a strategy. We want you to unleash your imagination. How can you improve the way your business interacts with your customers? Be bold. Think big. What is desirable from the customer perspective? What experiences could you offer if you were not constrained by your current technology and business processes? You can sketch these new experiences and determine the potential APIs that underpin them without being confined by current constraints that might normally limit your view of what’s possible. You can then validate the ecosystem around these APIs. Who will use the APIs inside your organization? Who will use them outside your organization? Will any third-party APIs be part of your experience? If so, which ones?

In parallel, you will need to create a case for change in order to get your API Program off the ground. Spend some time identifying the most compelling reasons why your organization needs to do things differently. Don’t assume anything is obvious. Know that no matter how good your reasons are, you will encounter resistance. Define metrics and incentives, not only for building new APIs but for the entire API program, that will help you to overcome that resistance. The way you measure your program and the way you reward participants for helping to move it forward will define how successful you are.

In order to initiate the program, it will need to be primed. That means starting small and building momentum. This is where you will start to see the customer experiences you visualized in the workshop take shape before your eyes.

To help your organization establish a digital strategy, MuleSoft offers API Program Workshops. Learn more about setting goals and principles, defining your target audience, and reimagining customer experiences.

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