Stakeholders, Strategy, and Silos
After exposing the significant gap between enterprise technology investment and realized return, our last post presented the need for a new paradigm for API development. Adopting that paradigm is the first step in maximizing the potential of API projects, but embedding it into your organization requires concrete cultural and operational changes.
Moving Along the Curve
The “Hype Cycle” is familiar to anyone involved in emerging technology. Created by research firm Gartner, it illustrates the volatile introduction and eventual adoption of new technologies:
After a trigger event, the first phase of market reaction is one of near-panicked investment and adoption, called the “Peak of Inflated Expectations”. In this phase, companies are caught up in the wave of enthusiasm and optimistic promises that a new technology can bring to their organization. Fairly quickly, though, the market falls into the “Trough of Disillusionment” as expectations are not met and ROIs deviate from their excited predictions:
This trough is where companies are finding themselves with their API initiatives. After an explosion of new APIs that brought along inflated expectations, the market has slowly descended into the Trough of Disillusionment, realizing that simply building new APIs as IT investments is not enough to maximize their potential.
We’ve established that APIs built in the vacuum of IT will never live up to their potential. To maximize return on their API investments, firms need an integrated stakeholder group that represents the full scope of their operations.
This is an extension of the need to fully productize APIs: rather than ad-hoc solutions built solely by technologists, every project should be shaped by a key stakeholder group.
It’s not enough to just involve those key stakeholders, though. To maximize return, each of them and their associated functions must fully buy in to a shared vision that drives the project forward – APIs must be prioritized by the entire organization and given the same strategic emphasis that any other product might.
Plan the Work, Work the Plan
In the same way that the API stakeholder group must accurately represent the full breadth of the product process, the strategy must be similarly comprehensive in scope.
It’s critical to integrate any API strategy into objective multi-departmental systems and processes. To track, analyze, and improve performance at all stages of the product lifecycle, all success metrics – defined by the stakeholder group in support of the strategy – must be tracked with targeted KPIs. Nods of agreement in the boardroom aren’t enough anymore, and the successful modern business model will ensure that products and progress are measured against a clearly defined vision.
More than Communication
With each aspect of a product organization represented by elements of the strategy, it’s important to avoid the most common pitfall we encounter in large organizations: the silo effect. Even if all key stakeholders are involved and aligned with a unified vision for the API project, failure to systemize communication can greatly limit the end result.
On a divisional level, standardized communication is critical to the long-term success of both the product and the business as a whole. As the project evolves and grows to meet the needs of the market and fit into the company’s long-term strategy, fatal cracks can appear between stakeholders if they are not regularly re-aligning with their counterparts. And even after launch, establishing regular checkpoints and systems for sharing relevant information and insights can dramatically boost long-term success.
Within departments, it’s equally important to have stress-tested communication protocols in place. Not only does this lead to improved output efficiency, but by building established channels for collaboration team leaders can more effectively transmit changes in strategy, execution, and maintenance within their group. If left to the unstructured communication preferences of everyone involved, the process slows or even breaks down.