API Business Models

Roles of API product managers beyond the conventional product management responsibilities

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Product Management and the standard nuances of a Product Manager

The impact of product management is hugely observed across industries although it’s a relatively new practice. Over the last couple of years, the process of product management has evolved around planning, designing, developing of a product to make it market fit. In any matured organization product managers are the custodian of the product governance and strategy; they are responsible and accountable to design the organization’s product strategy, goals, and purpose.

Product mangers need to work with multiple stakeholders such as technology, design, marketing, control function and business. This operating model demands AGILE methodology to be introduced here as horizontal capabilities to be build across the stakeholders. Conventionally few of the key attributes a product manager should have are:

Design Thinking – Its an ability to design a framework to identify customer’s problem and solutionize it a vide a new product or by adding new features to existing product.

Product lifecycle ownership – Theoretically Discovery, Foundation, Growth, Maturity and Decline are the different stages of product.

Management of stakeholders – Mostly in these days products are getting built over AGILE methodology, in this the ownership of the entire program is with Product Managers/Owners who are playing the role of SCRUM masters.

Market and user research – It’s the capability of judging the trend and states of the market and identify where your product stands. Identifying the Total Addressable Market (TAM) is crucial before any product initiative is commenced, and PMs are the key player to locate that.

Fundamental roles of a product manager

Roles of a product managers depends on the use case and growth focus of the product, broadly we can segregate those into Platform Product Managers, Technical Product Managers, Business Product Managers etc. But there is one role which has become very prominent over last couple of years which is API Product Manager, primarily the role of API product managers is to develop and maintain APIs that will be consumed by any third-party developers. Unlike other, an API Product Manager needs to own the product through the entire lifecycle, to begin with discovery and to conclude with maturity and growth. Before dive into the detailed roles of API product managers, we should spare few moments to understand the API as a Product and its nuances.  API products are the bundled API offerings for customers to increase their business capabilities and create a new channel of monetization for the sourcing organization. Distinctively, API product management has changed the entire outlook of APIs; these days every APIs has its own life cycle, use case, growth factor, versions.

API Product managers – not a traditional role of a PM

The roles of API product managers are critical as Organizations are adopting API first architecture and regular transformation is going on around it. Predominantly, the key roles of a API Product managers are following:

Designing API Strategy: APIs are important as it helps to modularize the organization’s IT architecture and modernize the legacy application. To continue with large and complex transformation, every organization has built their own API strategy; and API Product Managers are the main architect behind that strategy. They identify target audience, design the product, technology to be involved and the roadmap GTM. In short, they do everything to make a market-fit API product.

Governing API Development lifecycle: While strategically it is aligned that a new API product will be developed, the next step is to manage the development so that the GTM timeline to be met. API product managers play a crucial role here to liaison with all the stakeholders and monitor every phase of development closely. As a custodian of APIs, they hold the pen in the development PODs on each hard call to be taken. The backlog of each development is also managed by the product managers.

Managing API Documentation: Every product needs a good packaging and a marketplace to attract its customers. The end user of any API product is the developers, and their dependance on API documentation is imperative. A nice well crafted API document (with Swaggers definition and Collections) can reduce the development effort by miles. Product mangers are the owner of the documentation and

Owning the Developer Portal and Easy onboarding: Developing and managing a well scripted API product catalog is one of the basic attributes of an API product manager. Ideally these catalogs are published via API Developer portal, in this portal developers can play around the APIs in the sandbox environment which is virtually layered on top of the core. With the increasing demand of API adoptions, seamless digitized onboarding is the ask in the market and PMs need to own the digital journey of onboarding customers through Developer portal.

Increase API adoption: Product mangers are the responsible for augmenting API adoption and usage in the internal/external channels. This requires channel management and regular upliftment in usage policies.

Monitoring API analytics and Dashboard: API analytics provides a clear idea of how your API products are performing, through this Product Managers monitors the performance of the API users also. A well-defined API dashboard can be the most important tool to ideate if any API product needs enhancement. The entire ownership of monitoring API analytics lies with API product managers.

Manage API subscription and monetization model: While externalizing APIs for the third party, every organization has their monetization policy, which accelerates the API economy. API products are usually mapped with subscription model which is monitored and metered by the product managers.

Campaigns and partnership marketing: To increase outreach in external channels, Product mangers need to build external partnership through business teams. In case of API product management mainly the customers are developers and new age business group, product managers need to own the responsibilities to meet up their requirement and at the same time generate campaigns to enthrall them with multiple offers.

To summarize, an API product manager need to cover the fundamental knowledge of product management with an in-depth knowledge of API specific use cases. The roles are like technical product manager but in some point of time an API product manager need to own up the business discussions also. As an API product manager, you need to own the entire program from product ideation to development life cycle with the nuances of market launch are the responsibilities of a API product manager.

This article originally appeared here.

Abhijit Dey

Abhijit Dey

Vice President - Product Head API Banking at Axis Bank
Abhijit Dey is an experienced Product Head with a strong background in the Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance (BFSI) industry. With expertise in API management and API monetization, Abhijit has successfully created an Open API framework specifically tailored for banks.

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