Ron Huber

Ron Huber is the CEO and co-founder of Achieve Internet. He's an experienced senior executive with over 15 years managing and leading software teams in the online media, Internet, and software development space.

About the Author

Despite worldwide IT spending predicted to reach $4.4 trillion in 2022, some companies are struggling to decide whether they should dedicate their resources to build or buy their API portals as they try to keep up with digital transformation.

While some talented internal teams may be able to work out how to build a custom API portal, it often turns out to be a much more complex task than originally scoped.

In this post, we will evaluate the most important factors you need to focus on to decide whether or not you should buy vs. build your API Portal.

Those factors we are going to break down are:

  1. Business Needs: Do You Need an API portal?

  2. API Portal Requirements (Scope)

  3. Time to Market

  4. Cost

  5. Security and Control

  6. Support, Maintenance, and Training

To Buy or Build: A Comprehensive Analysis

Business Needs: Do You Need an API Portal?

Since you are reading this article, you most likely understand what an API Portal is and how it can help your business grow - but just in case you may be mistaken, here is a brief recap!

An API portal bridges the internal developers who build your company's APIs and those who engage with them to move the business forward. This includes other internal developers, external developers, and your business team members.

Think of it as a directory that houses all the information about your organization's digital offerings. While some API offerings are gated—especially in regulated industries with portals targeting internal developers—others are publicly available for a broader developer community.

We dive much deeper into the benefits, most likely users, and the key features you want to find in our Ultimate Guide to API Portals in 2022.

Now let's review the key factors to consider before buying or building your portal.

API Portal Requirements (Scope)

While you may have built previous portals for internal use, API portals require a broader and more complex scope so you can keep up with the market and support individual business units.

Is your portal just for internal developers? Are you planning to build a public portal and create a new revenue source? Legal restrictions? How many APIs do you have? This, plus a few dozen other pertinent questions, will allow you to fully understand the scope of your API Portal.

If you've built API Portals in the past, you may understand the resources needed—but more often than not, the scope of an API build is dramatically underestimated.

Here are a few common scenarios that often play out during build initiatives:

  1. Desired tech stacks and specifications that were a leading argument for building may be removed during the build process by one stakeholder and must be added during the next iteration.

  2. Businesses attempt a design by committee approach that ends up bloating the scope and purpose of the API portal to the point where no one can agree on how to prioritize and build the platform.

  3. IT/Development receives a requirement to build a portal and then goes off in isolation to build something that doesn't fulfill the business requirements.

Why You Should Buy

Even when businesses start with a "manageable plan" to build and roll out small solutions and simple features that bring them towards an API management solution, they will eventually need a complete solution that addresses their current and future needs.

If you don't want your internal resources (developers, designers, project managers, etc.) swallowed up by the ever scope of your API Portal build - buying a ready-made solution will be a welcomed weight off your team.

This example from Apigee shows a comprehensive scope that most API portals need to fully deliver the impact you're likely hoping for.