DX, API Design & Documentation

How to start an API program using APIOps Cycles method


Starting out or switching gears with an organizations API program or any transformation program is not a task to take on lightly. I have discovered this multiple times during all the 20 years I have worked with strategy, management, organizational change, architecture and APIs.

When I was working at a big retailer and after that as a consultant and strategic transformation “agent” in a large ICT consulting company, I noticed some problems. I worked with internal teams and multi-vendor external teams. I was successful with the teams I worked with and I had to answer lots of questions about how to achieve the same results in other teams. First, I saw the lack of methods for a common process and methods, specific to APIs. Great APIs need as many business people as they need architects and developers. Creating truly business-oriented APIs requires so much collaboration between professionals from different backgrounds. 

So, I created the preliminary concept of APIOps Cycles (https://www.apiopscycles.com)  method and developed it further with my team at Digia Plc, and with Jarkko Moilanen. The method has an open license.

We tried it first with industrial technology, an automation company, public sector, and energy companies. At my current company Osaango, we used it with all sizes of companies and the public sector. Other companies use the method, too, especially the partners of the method.

What is APIOps Cycles?

Great APIs need skilled people and a good method. These skills include business, product management, design, and technology professionals. The method needs to be vendor & technology-neutral. The result? Business-oriented and manageable APIs faster.

APIOps Cycles is an openly licensed method, which includes a loose set of tools and checklists. It guides you to use an iterative and Lean management-based method. You might compare it to BizDevOps for APIs since it emphasizes the role of business models and value propositions. Like true DevOps, it’s about reducing friction, mistakes, and manual work but it’s also about creating the right culture and mindset for APIs. 

I’m still seeing people struggling when IT professionals try to use the method on their own. It needs a business model, strategy, product management, UX, and other skills. Also each professional needs to step outside of their comfort zones.

If you can’t get the business people involved, you should not use APIOps Cycles. As simple as that. If you are struggling with getting the business people involved, read on, here are some tips for you. I’m also happy to answer any questions.

How to start an API program in a company?

I have outlined the basic steps in the method but also in the book API Economy 101 I co-authored. The main point is that creating an API program requires the whole “village”:

  • Get business and tech at the same table. 
  • Don’t create an API program, create a business development program with API focus. 
  • Start with the strategic goals.
  • Map out ecosystem journeys and customer and partner needs. 

I’d actually recommend starting with the customer needs first. Then see which strategic and operative directions they might take us. 

This may result in a change in business strategy and model.

The most important consideration is, what are our core capabilities? What is it that we do or have that sets us apart from everyone else. Then consider which ecosystems, industries, journeys could use that capability. And consider if you offer that capability via API to others, and use other’s resources and capabilities via APIs to offer larger solutions.

The word “capability” is often used in enterprise architecture lingo. “Resource” is the term used in business modeling and with early work on internet and web services by Fielding in his thesis. This is the reason why APIs often use the word resource. This is why we updated the research on all the potential resources of a company with professor Marko Seppänen (picture 1) . You need to expose or reuse the right resources with a clear value proposition with your API program. 

What are the tools needed to support the beginning of an API program?

You can use any strategy and business modeling tools you like. 


They might only cover the “typical” business model possibilities. 

You might not make full use of the API economy possibilities and the ecosystem. If you use the APIOps Cycles method, you will use the API Value Proposition and API Business Model canvas. Also, these tools require that the business and technology developers innovate together. I’ve seen very interesting results during this process when properly facilitated. Results include new customer segments and reuse of existing resources and collaboration. The best option is to have potential partners and customers involved in the session, too.

In my talk at apidays Helsinki June 2020 I walk you through these first phases using an example from the Finnish water services industry. 

Marjukka Niinioja

Marjukka Niinioja

Founding Partner at Osaango.com
Niinoja is a co-author of API Economy 101 book. She is also the creator of the free "Introduction to API Economy" course with Tampere University. Niinioja is the “Mother” of the lean, open and business-oriented APIOps Cycles method. Niinioja works as API business consultant, architect, and trainer for companies and public-sector. She has 10+ years of experience with API Economy from retail, energy, ICT, construction and traffic industries, among others. Her team at Osaango Academy work together with universities, public sector and companies. They create courses on how to use APIs, Platforms and Data in business to grow thriving ecosystems.

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