What are companies doing about an API Center of Excellence (CoE)? Well, the best way to answer this question is to ask some businesses this exact question.
I contacted two companies who I know are doing very well on their API initiatives to get their insights into how they have organized their CoEs. The two interviews were held separately, so one answer did not influence the other. Here are their thoughts: Please introduce yourself - name, role in your company
Please tell us about the structure of your API Center of Excellence - what roles are included, how often do you meet, what is the responsibility of your CoE, Is the business involved?
- Sanjay Mundergi – Enterprise architect focused on integration including API Connect, API CoE, and making sure overall integration space in Albertsons is covered.
Do you separate your API CoE from an SOA CoE (or other CoEs) if you have an SOA CoE?
- Sunil: Our CoE consists of API Architects, evangelists and SMEs to support API awareness and adoption, API lifecycle management, and governance. Our Business is involved in the CoE as one of the key stakeholders along with the IT folks. The IT folks are the API owners for integration services. However, any of the business APIs, for example, the window sticker on an automobile which is used by third-party dealer systems, are owned by the business and are responsible for approving the subscription.
- Sanjay: We have one CoE team that looks into the Business APIs, defines those Business APIs, and also looks into the (API) products. Once we create those products we look at what can be common, what kind of issues we face, who’s portfolio does it fit in. We then look at a phased approach to creating the necessary APIs and how we can do a complete CI/CD pipeline for these APIs. This led to a lot of conversations and we have regular meetings to address this with myself and one other team that is looking into the CoE and then there is a practices team. So, three teams combine to address the issues as they come up and move forward with the initiative. Right now, the business is not completely involved in the CoE. There are business driven architects
How involved is your CoE in the execution of your API Governance processes? Is it more about establishing standards and processes or is it more involved in the lifecycle process for all APIs in your enterprise? What other activities are involved in the CoE?
- Sanjay: We have a combined CoE for SOA and APIs.
- Sunil: We started our journey with SOA, but we never created an SOA CoE. We started with an API strategy - defining the strategy, and as part of the execution, we realized that the CoE is the way to go. In FCA we have other CoEs, and this model works because it is better suited to support across our enterprise process areas like finance, manufacturing, sales, and marketing. The CoE model helped us to scale much faster by cutting API platform learning curve and by leveraging the entire application team which supports 2000 plus applications. Our role on the CoE is more of an evangelist and guiding them. We have API architects on our team helping the application teams to build and use the APIs in the right way. that is , by treating APIs as a product, and focusing on building “consumer centric API”. We are doing this by adopting a product-based, API consumer-centric mindset for the organization's APIs.
Based on your experiences in your API CoE, do you have any other suggestions or best practice advice for others?
- Sunil: Our API CoE is responsible for the entire lifecycle including the governance. We start with an awareness session for the application teams helping them to understand the use of an API, the right fit, all the way to the onboarding of the APIs. The CoE is responsible for configuring and publishing the API and then at a lower level, monitoring and supporting the API platform. The API owners will be responsible for the backend services as well as any subscription, managing the subscription and the backend system platform maintenance.
- Sanjay: It goes both directions. One is that you need to govern the APIs that are being created. We make sure that each portfolio comes up with their own APIs and then govern it in such a way that the product owners will work with their teams and govern it in their own portfolio. Then when they come back to us we will see that these are the 5 Business APIs. Then we look at how we can monitor it, monetize it, and how it can be used in applications that span the individual product lines.
- Sanjay: First, creating the CoE and making sure the teams are aware of the capabilities. People are talking to the development teams and they come up with microservices. But how are the microservices aligned to APIs and how does this all get turned into business applications. These things need to be planned way ahead. Creating the CoE team earlier to guide this discussion helps a lot.
- Sunil: People still have confusion treating API as webservices. We have challenges explaining APIs from the business capabilities we are enabling. We need to answer a very important question, “what is in it for me?” How does the API help them or what is the value from using APIs? For example, we sit with the application teams who are responding to a request for enhancement that the integrations should be based on APIs. So, it is important explains to them that if they don’t use an API and how do we do this? We show them “what if” scenarios. Then they immediately understand how the API platform simplifies the integration and reduces the cost. Also, very importantly, they won’t be owning a custom solution hosting somebody else’s data. With the APIs, they can only focus on the business functionalities and the components that are relevant to their business.
Many thanks to Sunil and Sanjay for sharing their insights and experiences. Of course, this is only a small sample size and other businesses may do things differently. However, it is always valuable to see how others who are successful are executing their initiatives. I hope you found this valuable. Please provide comments and feedback. If you have your own CoE, what are you doing that is the same or different?
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