🧠Knowledge Series #11: How to manage API integrations
Risks, red flags and tools for managing third party API integrations
🔒The Knowledge Series is a series of easy to read guides designed to help you plug the gaps in your tech knowledge. One topic at a time.
If you’re a free subscriber and you’d like to upgrade to receive them you can do so below. Or you can find out more about paid access here.
Hi product people 👋,
API integrations are one of the fundamental ways to add value to the products that we build. Product teams lean heavily on third party products via API integrations and without them, many of the products we use wouldn’t have been built in the first place.
But as valuable as these integrations are, if you’ve ever worked on integrating into a third party API yourself you’ll how challenging it can be.
In this Knowledge Series, we’ll explore some of the most important aspects of managing third party API integrations so that you’re fully equipped to deal with the complexities of API integrations and everything they entail.
The challenges faced by product teams when integrating with APIs
How to manage initial API integrations
Managing ongoing API integrations
Key metrics for measuring API performance
Tools you can use for managing APIs
A quick refresh
If you’re completely new to APIs or just want a quick refresh, check out one of our previous Knowledge Series explainers on APIs.
Essentially, an API is a connection between 2 systems which works using ‘requests’ and ‘responses’.
I request something in a specific format as outlined in the API documentation and the API responds with something in return.
When you’re managing an API integration, the crux of the work is focused on this. A successful API integration means the request is valid and the API is responding as it should, according to the API documentation.
But whilst this sounds super simple, in reality getting a new API integration off the ground can be challenging.
Challenges and considerations faced when integrating with APIs
The more API integrations you add to your product, the more value you add to your product.
But as you add more and more API integrations to your product, your technical architecture grows in complexity which ultimately makes them harder to manage. Changes to one API can have a knock on-effect on something further downstream and without the proper monitoring in place, diagnosing these issues can be difficult.
With more APIs added over time, security can also become a problem. Endpoint security management is now an entire industry in itself since poorly managed can leave you open to serious vulnerabilities. Companies like Microsoft have dedicated products like Defender which are designed just for endpoint security and there are plenty of others now entering the industry too.
Despite the challenges, API integrations are still worth it.
The 2 key stages of managing API integrations
For the purposes of this post, we’re going to take the perspective of a product integrating with third party APIs as opposed to a product offering its own API integrations with third parties.
Products integrating with third party APIs have 2 key stages of the integration to consider:
The initial API integration
The ongoing maintenance of the API integration