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API product manager-the new skill set

I recently attended the Gartner Application Architecture, Development & Integration Summit 2019 where a large number of software experts and application leaders gathered to dive deeper into the realms of application development, integration and talk about other emerging trends.

It was exciting to see the role of APIs and a Full lifecycle API Management product like Apitive(www.apitive.com), in enabling customers’ digital transformation. Gartner’s distinguished analyst, Matthew Hotle, in his keynote “5 year vision for Applications 2023”, talked about how technology, delivery models and skills must change for leaders to drive transformations and ensure success. Interestingly, he called out the new skills and talent that top performers invest in. It was not surprising at all that “API Product Manager” was one of those.

While interacting with many professionals in the summit, I inferred that there are many doubts hovering over this futuristic role of API product manager. As the product owner and the engineering head of Apitive, I am often asked the following two questions.

While interacting with many professionals in the summit, I inferred that there are many doubts hovering over this futuristic role of API product manager. As the product owner and the engineering head of Apitive, I am often asked the following two questions.

  • How are API product managers different from traditional product managers?
  • How do API Product Managers add value to the business?

The first step is to know what “API as a product” is .

Organizations are often unable to differentiate between building the right APIs versus building the APIs right. In the present-day scenario, there are tools galore to simply expose APIs from existing data and functions, sometimes as simple as right clicking and selecting ‘Expose as a service’. But such solutions are inside-out solutions that do not keep in mind the customer centricity. At this point, it’s imperative to understand how different the two terms are: ‘API as a Product’ and ‘API as a Solution’. In simple words, ‘API as a product’ has an outside-in approach and ‘API as a solution’ has an inside-out approach. Clearly, ‘API as a product’ will rhyme well with customer needs. Thus, building the right API turns the API into a product. An API product doesn’t just deliver a solution but also delivers value. An API product is mostly implemented using one or more API solutions. API as a solution serves well as an integration methodology but falls short of delivering business strategies.

Now that the meaning of an API product has been explained, the value it adds to a business is evident. So, in order to create and productise APIs, one needs a slightly different mindset than that of a traditional product manager.

The traditional product manager has the business at the fulcrum, while an API product manager has customer obsession at the fulcrum. API product managers approach their products with a notion to create value for their customers. They are not only outward looking but also are technically savvy. They are capable of mapping customer expectation with the right technical solution. Not having an API product manager may prove to be one of the major reasons for a failing digital transformation project. Successful enterprises have recognised the difference and are gearing up to invest in the new skillset – API Product Manager.