What Does an API Product Manager Do?

Updated on May 25th, 2021
What Does an API Product Manager Do?

What does an API product manager do? The answer is not that simple. An API product manager has many different responsibilities and the role can vary depending on the company they are working for. 

This blog post will give a general overview of what an API product manager does, starting with their roles and responsibilities, then going into the required skills to land a job as an API product manager and the product management certifications you need to gain such skills

Let’s take a look.

What is an API Product Manager?

An API product manager is a person who works in software companies, developing and managing application programming interface (API) products.

Just like any other product manager, API product managers are responsible for everything, from coming up with a new service, to managing the day-to-day operations of existing services or digital products

What is an API?

An API is an interface that allows software programs to interact with each other. It can be a website, or it could be some code and commands that allow two different pieces of programming language (such as Java) to talk without any trouble.

Every company has its own API, which they use internally for tasks like connecting databases or transferring information between computers. If you're working on the development side, then chances are that your job will involve talking with programmers about what APIs need to exist in order for all systems to work together smoothly. 

API Product Manager Roles And Responsibilities

An API Product Manager is responsible for managing the day-to-day operation of their company’s API service and increasing customer satisfaction by providing excellent support to customers who need help using their APIs. 

They are also responsible for answering any questions that arise about how they can use those APIs and provide transparency around them in terms of pricing, billing, data usage rates, etc. 

This person will work closely with designers on various projects where these features may be used both internally and externally (in public-facing applications). 

Let's take a look at some of the most important tasks an API product manager completes on a regular basis:

1. Optimize Developer Experience

This person will work to make sure that it is easy and intuitive for developers to create applications using their API. 

The API product manager might find ways of streamlining the process on the backend, coming up with new features, or trying different pricing models. 

They may also provide support by answering any questions related to how best to use this data source in order to satisfy customer needs. This includes:

  • Helping a developer understand what type of response they can expect when querying an API endpoint.
  • Showing them how often requests are throttled and why. 
  • Providing guidelines about which URL parameters should be included in calls. 

It's important for API PMs not only to complete tasks themselves but to delegate responsibilities where appropriate so that others can be trained.

2. Manage The API Product Roadmap

An API product roadmap is a plan of what the company's API strategy will be for future development. It may include: 

  • New features that developers want to have added in order to make their jobs easier and improve customer experience. 
  • What data sources are going to be created or updated, as well as when they're expected to go live. 
  • How those changes can best impact users/developers over time (i.e., incremental releases vs one big change). 

Product roadmaps are important because they provide a timeline of what features are coming in the future. 

API product managers must know where their product development process is going and how to get there, which means they need to be able to plan ahead for the next version release with as much detail as possible. 

Product roadmaps may also include other information such as priority, expected launch date, estimated cost on development resources (people or money), any risks involved with implementing new features/products, etc. 

3. Determine Client Needs 

API product managers are also responsible for listening to customers and understanding user experience. This is important because if API products don't meet users’ expectations or solve a problem they have with the service, the customer will likely stop using it over time. 

This could be done by performing some research on competitors' offerings in order to get an idea of what customers really want. It may also be necessary to conduct interviews with potential clients as well as current ones so that API product managers can better understand what new features would help them achieve success.

4. Research Market Trends

Another important aspect of API product management is researching market trends. This includes staying up-to-date with competitors by reading their blogs, watching them in person at PM conferences, PM bootcamps, or on social media, and monitoring what they're doing online. This with the purpose of seeing if there are ways that you might be able to imitate some of their strategies for your own business's success. 

It also involves studying the general industry trends such as whether new companies are entering the field while others exit it, how users are interacting with different products, and where funding sources may be going so that API product managers can stay ahead of changes in industries' needs over time.

5. Review The Roadmap With Key Stakeholders

This can include the sales team, marketing team, engineering team, development team, and others to make sure that you're on track for what will matter most in the next 12-18 months. 

API product managers need to be aware of where their company is going and what the product strategy is so they are able to take advantage of opportunities when they arise.

Also, it’s important you make sure that your roadmap aligns with not only each stakeholder's priorities but also with your PM goals as well as sometimes creating new objectives altogether. 

6. Select Product Priorities, Including New Features And Bug Fixes

This is where API product managers have to balance what will give the most value to customers while fulfilling their own organization's needs. This can be generating revenue or marketing initiatives that are coming up in a few months.

It can be difficult because there may be features that don't seem very important now but could become more crucial if something happens with another company like they go out of business or dramatically change how they operate. 

It’s also tough when you want to develop new functionality but it means taking resources away from developing bug fixes and other features that your stakeholders deem higher priority at the moment. 

Product priorities should always align with existing customer segments so API products stay relevant over time.

7. Create Product Requirements Documentation

API documentation is a critical piece of a successful API project because it lays out all the necessary specifications for how an API should work including schema definitions, usage guidelines, documentation templates (both written and interactive), data models, development standards/guidelines, etc. 

The API PM needs to create a product requirement document in order to have documentation available for developers, API testers, and other stakeholders.

8. Manage Feature Iteration Throughout The Product Lifecycle

Once all the features for a new API product are defined, they need to be prioritized and iterated throughout the life of an API.

Feature iteration should happen at regular intervals in order to ensure that customers get value from each release cycle. 

It is important not only to deliver on customer requests but also to anticipate needs as well so that there's always something new coming out of every release or update.

9. Manage Clients' API Integrations And Pipeline

The API PM will need to work with API clients on an ongoing basis, making sure that integrations are working as expected and communicating any changes in development. 

One of the main responsibilities is maintaining a pipeline for new APIs or updates so they're ready when needed.

There should be some sort of timeline where you can anticipate what needs to happen next (which features are coming up as part of the API development process) and follow through accordingly. 

For instance, it could involve following up with stakeholders within the organization about releasing something major like a new product or service; talking with customers who use your API; staying informed about industry trends that might affect your roadmap, etc.

This helps ensure that things stay organized both inside and outside the company.

API Product Manager Skills

In order to become an API product manager, you'll need to be good at communicating your ideas and being able to articulate why they're important.

You should also know how the production process works for software development: what constitutes a successful release; when bugs get introduced into code; how debugging can fix issues in the final stage of production; etc. 

It's important that API product managers are detail-oriented people who understand it is their job to make sure there is continuity between all projects in order to maintain stability within their company or organization (and avoid any potential problems). 

Let's dive deeper into some of the skills you need to be a great product manager:

1. Solid Understanding Of Client Needs And Market Trends

An API product manager should be able to act as a liaison between their company and clients. 

They need to have the ability to understand what customers want in order for them to provide an appropriate solution. In turn, this means understanding industry trends so that they can make informed decisions about which features are needed most urgently.

2. Communication Skills

This skill is necessary for all companies, no matter if you are a startup product manager or an established company PM. 

A strong API product manager is able to articulate their thoughts in a clear and concise manner. They need the ability to communicate across various channels, such as online chat or via email.

They also need skills for presenting complex information succinctly (such as designing technical explanations with appropriate language). 

As part of this, they should be skilled at quickly understanding what someone else might say during a conversation so that they can respond accurately. As an API product manager will often act as client liaison, it means that these are essential communication skills when working on projects where there isn't always direct project contact between company employees and clients.

3. Understanding Usage-Based Packaging And Pricing Models

Ideally, API product managers should have some understanding of how subscription or usage-based pricing models work. Understanding the various types of packages and on what basis they are priced is key to ensuring a product that will continue going from strength to strength in terms of its revenues. 

This means having an appreciation for qualitative PM analytics such as churn rates (which measure customer attrition) and conversion rates (the percentage of customers who take up any given package). 

It also needs to be able to understand when quantitative metrics like ARPUs might not tell the whole story about potential streams of revenue that exist within the company's portfolio.

4. Ability to Manage The Backlog of Work

Good API product managers are able to prioritize their workload and manage the backlog of tasks that will be done in the future. This means identifying potential bottlenecks, tough decisions, or foreseeable challenges from a mile away and planning ahead for them accordingly. 

It also requires having an understanding of how much time might need to be allocated to certain types of things when compared with others – e.g., marketing versus engineering. 

A good product manager must always have one eye on what is coming down the pipeline as well as what has already passed it by while ensuring there is still enough bandwidth left over for those urgent but less high-priority requests which inevitably arrive each day too.

5. Product Management Skills

A great API product manager must be able to manage an API product from conception all the way through implementation.

To that end, they need to have product management skills such as understanding how to articulate and validate a product idea. Also, knowing when it is time to move from concept validation into the design stage, possessing what is needed in terms of skills for requirements analysis, being able to evaluate risks vs. rewards at different stages of development, etc.

6. Solid Understanding Of Enterprise Security And Compliance Requirements

One of the responsibilities an API product manager has is to design their API with security and compliance in mind.

This includes knowing how to comply with industry regulations, like PCI DSS standards for payment card data protection; understanding a company’s information classification policies; implementing access controls on each endpoint where sensitive data may be accessed by end-users outside the company firewall; etc.

API Product Management Career Path: Is it Worth It?

This is where API product managers can provide a lot of value and make an impact. They know their APIs better than anyone, they have the best understanding of how to design them with security in mind, and they’ve got legitimate experience already when it comes to managing complex projects.

So, if you are considering becoming an API product manager and you have the PM education requirements, you should go for it. This career is known to be quite challenging but also highly rewarding.