What is API management? A Complete Overview

A guide to API management

In business, the digital transformation movement is no longer a pin on the map; it’s the road beneath your tires. 

Organizations have awakened to the transformative benefits of integrating and automating their enterprise-level processes and workflows, but the vehicle they’re using in their journey—an iPaaS—may not make the distance. 

You see, when the iPaaS is the vehicle, it has only one driver: the specialized individual (typically working in business technology) who knows the minutiae of how it operates and how to troubleshoot it when it doesn’t. Not to mention, with just one driver, the organization will need to pull over at every other rest stop to provide the employee with relief. This interrupts productivity and leaves the employee burned out and eating cheese balls behind the wheel at 3am. Any opportunity for innovation just flew out the window. 

So, it’s time for organizations to start driving the right vehicle: an integration-led automation platform; one with all the power of a traditional iPaaS, and also the capabilities for scale, usability across business lines, and reliability. 

Among the central features that make an integration-led automation platform successful is the method through which the platform, and its many dynamic APIs, is managed. Whereas the iPaaS could be governed only by its specific BT driver, the beauty of the integration-led automation platform is that its API management platform makes it possible for the employee in BT to let their colleagues—who work in roles within RevOps, for instance—take the wheel. 

Here, we’ll define what API management is, describe its components, and share the benefits your organization will enjoy with a powerful API management platform.  

What is API management? 

API management, or APIM, refers to the organization’s process of creating, distributing, controlling, troubleshooting, and analyzing its application programmable interfaces. These capabilities are centralized in a secure interface that’s accessible to entities across the organization—otherwise known as an API management platform. 

Ultimately, effective API management allows organizations to monitor and adjust their APIs, at scale, while also ensuring that the APIs they produce are functional and secure. 

Related: Everything you need to know about API development

The components of an API management platform 

A single API evolves in stages, forms multiple connections, and requires maintenance over its entire lifecycle. Now, add to that single API dozens more, and it becomes clear that you need the right tools to manage your collection. 

These four key components are the tools the API management system uses to optimize the performance of your APIs:  

API gateway

An API gateway serves as the portal through which any requests for access to systems, services, or apps—via APIs—must pass. 

As the single point-of-entry, it also regulates the terms of an API interaction and enforces protocols to guarantee the security of API connections. As it becomes more necessary for organizations to grow the number of apps and partnerships with developers, it’s important to recognize how such an expansion exposes them to security vulnerabilities. Thus, this function of an API gateway is the most important piece of API management. 

Beyond providing security, an API gateway acts as a sort of call center for the API management platform. The gateway will receive all incoming requests—for example, rate limits and billing—and then route them through the API management system to be resolved.

API developer portal

An API developer portal is the hub through which an API’s capabilities, through every stage of its lifecycle, can be shared between API providers and API consumers. 

The main purpose of an API developer portal is for the provider to share the instructions for how to integrate with and operate the API. This is called API documentation, and it’s typically presented in the form of a reference manual that supplements its instructions with examples and tutorials.

An API portal is also utilized by developers to share their APIs, control who can access them, and test their operation. Consumers using the API developer portal can browse APIs, apply for adoption, and report issues with API performance. 

Related: The different types of API testing

Reporting and analytics

The ability to collect, analyze, and apply data is a major feature of any successful digital-reliant enterprise. It’s also really difficult to do when you have a robust ecosystem of applications and services that each have their own, distinct metrics tools. An API management platform aggregates all of the data for all APIs within the ecosystem and often displays it in an easy-to-navigate dashboard.  

Not only is the organization able to monitor metrics such as daily usage of APIs or API response times, but it can also track trends over time in areas such as the rate of reported bugs with an API or the popularity of API methods. This informs consequential decision-making for not only the organization’s API collection, but also for how they operate as a business. 

API lifecycle management 

It’s not feasible for a single, specialized department to be responsible for all of your API’s lifecycle stages, from design to development to testing to deployment to operation to retirement. Monitoring and making manual adjustments to your organization’s APIs is an enormous task. The automated lifecycle management does the work with far greater speed and accuracy, and is never in need of a morale boost at the end of the day! 

The top benefits of API management 

Now that you know what API management is and how it works, let’s cover what makes it essential for any organization utilizing APIs.

1. Agility 

You need to be able to change quickly with nimble systems that can flex to those changes. The API management solution allows you to easily create, share, monitor, and adjust your APIs without unnecessary costs or undue loss of productivity—both of which helps your organization stay competitive long term.

Related: Why API integration is critical

2. Workflow automation

Centralizing and connecting your APIs provides the groundwork for streamlining tasks across workflows— whether it’s employee onboarding, quote to cash, incident management, etc. This allows individuals and teams to save time and focus more on business-critical tasks that, ultimately, deliver greater value for the business.

3. Data-driven growth

While the API management platform gives you full control over the present and end-to-end operations of your APIs, it also powers strategic decision-making that’s informed by its extensive analytics tools. Moreover, since the data is presented in a way that’s widely accessible, more employees can apply it in the hopes of driving innovation and growth.

4. Security

The more APIs you have, the better business probably is, but before you celebrate too much, you need to make sure that legion of APIs is secure. An API management platform allows you to control access to and use of your APIs to ensure that your customers and your company are protected. 

Related: The benefits and drawbacks of using a REST API

Ready to adopt an enterprise-grade API management platform?

Workato, the leader in integration-led automation, provides an API management platform that allows your organization to manage the full lifecycle of APIs for both internal teams and external partners.  

Workato combines its powerful management tool with a welcoming UI experience that’s both extensive in its capabilities and intuitive in how it’s used.

To learn more about the platform, you can request a demo from one of our automation experts!