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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.

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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.


If you choose to buy, you'll find that:

  • You'll receive new features that are available with subsequent product releases.

  • There's no demand for their internal development and project management resources.

  • The project's scope is already accounted for, and nothing is left on the cutting room floor.

Off-the-shelf API portals, like Apiboost, are built by companies dedicated to ensuring their product meets the needs of everyone across your teams, and they've got years of experience perfecting their API portal solutions.

Time to Market

If you happen to work with a development team that has all the time in the world to develop their API Portal, then time to market may not be a factor under consideration.

But if you are like literally every dev team living under constant pressure to build more, faster, then internally building your API portal would most likely not be your quickest path to launching your portal.

Additionally, competing business and IT priorities often slow down your time to market. For example, a business may desperately need an API portal, but the CIO has an 18-month plan to transition to the cloud, which is already falling behind.

Why You Should Buy

You have almost certainly watched in awe as the pit crew for a Formula 1 team swapped out four new tires and refueled the car in less than three seconds before it's back to the race—and there is no better argument for specializing than that.

Could a good local mechanics crew figure out how to accomplish the same feat? Given enough time, probably! But by the time they figured out how these cars work, adjusted their initial strategy, worked out the kinks, and got their car back on the track, the competition would be long gone.

The same goes for your API portal. Good developers will probably find a way to build it—but working with an agency that specializes in building API Portals will get you off and running in a fraction of the time.

Just a few of the delays that companies typically experience when they try to build their portal include:

  • Failing to account for cross-department internal coordination and approvals introduces significant delays.

  • It takes a long time to scope, design, and approve a minimum feature set.

  • Internal projects are frequently deprioritized with either resources or budget fluidity.

  • Infrastructure and Operations teams delay the project by months due to having a long backlog and approval process for the infrastructure to run the portal.

  • Companies don't plan for the ongoing operational costs when building the portal and then run into problems when trying to roll it out due to a lack of funding and resources.

With an off-the-shelf portal, like Apiboost, you can eliminate most of those delays. Once the onboarding process is complete, you'll only need to set up a few configurations, such as branding and content, before you're ready to launch.

That's the beauty of pre-built solutions. They are designed to get you to launch faster because they've done all the work before.

Cost

Just like our mythical dev team with no time pressure—you could find yourself in a situation where you have a blank check to build your API Portal, but we're going to assume that cost is an important factor in your decision.

Developing an API management solution on your own involves a wide range of risks that average initiatives run 45% over their projected budget and deliver 56% less value than predicted.

The budget issues often stem from failing to fully understand the scope we covered earlier. Not allocating enough staff or hiring the wrong skillset also results in underestimating the time to market, which in turn, increases cost yet again. Some key questions you need to be crystal clear with to stay on budget are:

  • How big does your team need to be?

  • What special skills are required?

  • How long will it take to get to launch?

  • Are there any hidden costs?

  • Do all of the estimates seem realistic?

It's best to consider this a complex math equation—each factor multiples the final cost. If you run longer than expected or need additional people to come in and help, it will raise your costs exponentially, even if you started with a reasonable estimate.

And don't forget that costs don't end at launch; maintenance costs add up, but are unavoidable since you need to regularly ensure your portal is current, compliant, and error-free.

Why You Should Buy

If you are unclear about any of the topics we discussed so far, going over budget is almost a certainty in our experience. And if you aren't too fond of hiring more full-time staff required for ongoing maintenance of your API Portal, buying will likely be for you.

With a ready-made API portal solution, you'll find:

  • The cost to start with the product is lower.

  • Your subscription costs may grow with time but can be aligned with growth.

  • Your upfront investment and maintenance costs are minimal compared to building your own.

  • Integrations into third-party systems such as identity management (SSO) and automation (CI/CD) are already built-in.

The simplicity of using a pre-built API platform makes it easier to start than building your own. With fewer upfront costs and no hassle or risk associated with making mistakes, this is an attractive option for businesses that want something fast.

You'll never have to worry about additional maintenance costs as your system constantly evolves and improves with new capabilities.

Security and Control

The risk associated with giving security and control over to vendors is another point of contention among those who argue build versus buy, especially dealing with extremely sensitive data.

The arguments for building will look like:

  • We want to have flexible deployment options.

  • We need to implement integrations without restrictions.

  • We need to own our code.

  • We are worried about the vendor's security.

Since APIs are predicted to be the main attack vector for 2022, you'll need to ensure your security posture is built with threat protection and API access controls.

Why You Should Buy

By building your own API Portal platform, you'll own your code and all the copyright benefits that come with it. However, that means you're also responsible for it, including being the one who has to identify vulnerabilities and patch them before your data is breached.

Setting up security procedures and maintaining compliance with the most recent regulations is a massive undertaking and, again, one that API Portal companies deal with daily.

When you purchase an off-the-shelf solution, you are arming yourself with a battle-tested platform that has been through and is continuously going through security tests and updates.

Support, Maintenance, and Training

Often, businesses that want to attempt building are looking to solve a particular problem they have on hand. They neglect to look for an approach that will address the entire project lifecycle.

For example, development teams get focused on a specific technical aspect of the implementation and don't plan/implement for the long-term maintenance and expansion of the platform.

Or the team developing the API Portal doesn't have sufficient knowledge of what the API Gateway does, how it does it, and how to integrate with it, causing delays and rework.

They often fail to consider:

  • What support will be available?

  • Who will be responsible for maintaining the API portal?

  • Who will be responsible for training, or will you have access to training to help you?

But, if they use an approach with sufficient support, maintenance, and training, they can mitigate these unforeseen risks.

Why You Should Buy

Building an API Portal is difficult already—but if you are still leaning towards a custom, in-house build, you need to ask yourself if you are ready to commit, forever.

If this isn't part of your core competencies, you probably lack the valuable resources you need to build your API portal effectively. At best, you'll have to add costs for supplemental resources to bring your teams up to speed.

More often than not, you'll still end up needing third-party assistance in some form or another.

For those who opt to buy, this problem doesn't exist. Third-party vendors typically offer training, support, and maintenance, giving businesses the tools they need for success.

Since these built-in resources are available for many off-the-shelf options, your business won't have to worry about additional costs or an ever-increasing scope.

Don't Reinvent The Wheel

If you've come to the conclusion that it makes more sense to invest in a fully visualized and proven solution, then you're in good company.

Achieve specializes in implementing API portal solutions like Apiboost.

With Apiboost, you'll get the most out of your API environment experience. The platform's unique partnerships with leading vendors like Apigee ensure that it is a superior choice for developers who care about their technology.

Apiboost makes it easy to:

  • Quickly design and customize your portal to fit your business's needs

  • Boost your API adoption rates with flexible catalogs

  • Build a flexible catalog that grows with your API roadmap

  • Publish documentation through our user interface

  • Work in teams to boost innovation

  • Optimize your API products with powerful tools

  • Use CI/CD and SSO solutions

  • Manage your administrative functions with advanced dashboards and reports

Join the hundreds of businesses that invested in a solution that has spent over 10,000 hours to perfect. Request a demo.

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Should You Build or Buy Your API Portal? We've Got The Answer

If you're trying to determine whether you should build or buy your API portal, this all-inclusive guide covers everything you need to know.

8 min read

By: Ron Huber on Jul 13, 2022

Reach out to our team today to learn more about how we can help you take your organization to the next level through impactful digital transformation initiatives and advanced API portals

THE SOLUTION

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THE CHALLENGE

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THE IMPACT

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THE GOAL

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