APIs are on the rise. The question is – are they being used to their full potential?
APIs do an incredible amount of heavy lifting on the backend of nearly all apps, allowing new applications to integrate with existing systems, and underpinning the connectivity and agility of modern software applications. Recent research shows that 98% of business leaders say APIs are a critical part of their digital transformation, and they’re probably right. Given the enormous amount of business value they contribute to the modern digital economy, the need to keep APIs secure is paramount, and many companies recognize that. However, all too often they stop there.
Gartner defines an API as “an interface that provides programmatic access to service functionality and data within an application or a database.” This “programmatic access” is exactly the feature that provides so much of an API’s obvious benefits; streamlining the online experience for mobile and desktop users, protecting the client from backend disruptions like patches and updates, and providing a medium of trusted exchange between requestor and vendor (among many others). The average number of APIs per customer grew by 82% YoY last year. Application programming interfaces are equalizers and help promote innovation by smoothly enabling business activity – so much so that most front-end users don’t even know about them.
However, if they’re not being used to streamline Governance, Risk and Compliance, they’re not being used to their full potential, particularly by the backend. Their ability to simplify, customize and orchestrate disparate services and users can be leveraged far beyond customer usefulness to help organizations meet GRC requirements. If managed properly, APIs can do for GRC what they’ve already done for digital services – make it simpler, more scalable, and easier to manage securely. Here’s how.
Governance and APIs
As Google states, “APIs save organizations money through reuse and consistency,” and “these characteristics can ultimately make governance easier.” Simply put, governance “refers to the set of rules, policies, and processes put in place to dictate corporate behavior,” and they can focus on the areas of culture and leadership.
When it comes to culture, the most valuable asset to protect is the brand image. This can be preserved through consistent customer interactions and positive client experiences. A centrally managed API platform limits inconsistent interactions by standardizing the experience across all channels (mobile, desktop, phone) and insulating the user from backend activities like vendor changes, IT ops, and updates. The end result is a clean, consistent interface with a central point of contact, making for a seamless brand interaction.
As the digital age progresses, leadership will in large part mean deciding when, and to whom, to grant access to online resources. An established API platform not only allows multiple stakeholders to come together easily and get in on those decisions together but prevents any one agent from going rogue and enacting too many changes on their own. APIs support common protocols like PCI and provide security keys so third parties and vendor partners can interact without having to change their systems. However, a unified point of control can govern all actions simultaneously and make sure they’re all in alignment and managed under proper governance.
Risk and APIs
To effectively manage risk, best practice dictates that the party closest to the risk should bear the responsibility and be managed overall by an effective system of checks and balances.
When it comes to risk management, vendor vulnerabilities and supply-chain threats are real issues to be considered. An API management platform standardizes the way outside parties interact with the host organization and allows each to innovate separately. That way, if one acts in an unsafe or malicious manner, access to that group can be immediately denied. API management provides centralized control over a tiered system of access policies that both allows for innovation and collaboration and reduces risk.
By securing the interactions with role and group-specific risk controls, it frees contributing third parties to experiment within the realm of their specific expertise and risk burden while remaining under the same governance umbrella as the rest of the organization.
Compliance and APIs
Data remains king, and data compliance standards will continue to proliferate on the state, federal, and industry levels. Current regulations include PCI-DSS, HIPAA, and the Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX), along with GDRP, CCPA, and COPRA. More will come, and companies need to have a system in place to sustain the impact while not interrupting operations.
APIs are built to take in multiple layers of complexity, disparate entities, and various layers of policies and bring them together in an easily manageable approach. An API management platform offers a robust set of technologies that can create and enforce policies of all types while still allowing for flexible innovation, as described above. By implementing the required standards of whatever compliance policy the organization is subject to, an organization can “set it and forget it” when it comes to operating in a compliant manner, and can feel free to grow and scale within that framework.
API management also allows organizations to ensure their compliance is not compromised by any of their partners or vendors. API platforms can enforce service-level agreements, control traffic, and encrypt data. By having a single platform act as the hub between all internal and external data communications, errors are caught faster. They can ensure that international data laws are complied with, brand asset rules are protected and followed, and otherwise automate the process of compliance across the board, making it simpler, safer, and easier to uphold.
And what is compliance without accountability? Following a transaction, API management platforms can create logs already formatted for a given regulatory audit, showing who accessed it and the safeguards in place to protect it according to the law. APIs make it easier to cover your bases.
API Management Platforms
Much of the benefit of APIs can be found in API management platforms when it comes to streamlining Governance, Risk and Compliance. While APIs in and of themselves, advanced API platforms allow organizations to support innovation, collaboration, and multiple systems with the same management and oversight as internal resources. Without this, businesses could be dealing with multiple third-party systems and integrations that could easily fall into the realm of “Shadow IT” and be overlooked – or prove difficult to manage on an individual basis, especially for strapped IT teams already dealing with the boom of growing business. API management platforms can assign different rules to different parties, allow for different compliance regulations and policies simultaneously, and otherwise help keep it all together on a single pane of glass.
GRC is made easier because of APIs’ ability to standardize, reuse, and provide consistency. It’s like the Ford assembly line system for digital assets and it maximizes productivity accordingly. APIs bring together disparate assets and provide a new level of visibility and control. They make audits easier and simpler, make Governance and Compliance standards more transparent across the company and easier to enforce, and save time and energy (not to mention sync meetings, trainings, and personnel) when dealing with partners and third parties. APIs continue to enable companies to grow at a rate not previously imagined, and with that comes increased GRC requirements.
Using APIs to their full advantage will enable organizations to evolve safely and with confidence, knowing their growth is compliant, scalable and sustainable. The use of API management platforms to manage GRC is a smart way to future-proof a company’s security and expansion in the road ahead.
- Governance, Risk, Compliance and APIs: What You Need to Know - February 14, 2023