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Developer portal strategies for complex landscapes -- conversation with Kristof van Tomme

by Tom Johnson on Jun 24, 2020
categories: api-doc podcasts

Recently I chatted with Kristof van Tomme, CEO and co-founder of Pronovix, about a topic that's become increasingly relevant in the past several months: how to deal with complex, rapidly evolving landscapes. Specifically, we focus on developer portal strategies that involve finding a balance between constraints and flexibility. Too many constraints reduces your ability to adapt to uncertain changes that might require innovative, unknown solutions. Too much flexibility might not lead to any coherent, overarching story about how to use your APIs in an integrated way toward a business goal.


Listen here:


You can also view the video recording of the same content:

Topics discussed

Here are a few questions I asked Kristof during the podcast:

  • How has Covid19 prompted companies to shift from physical proximity to digital proximity? Are APIs pivotal in the ability to make this transformation?

  • In your presentation, you talk about a Cynefin framework that has different landscapes as metaphors, including a “dancing” landscape to reflect complexity. Are we in a dancing landscape right now?

  • You mention how in complex landscapes, companies need to allow developers to adapt and modify the prescribed implementation. This is because often by the time they finish their implementation, the landscape may have already changed, introducing new factors not previously present. How does this constantly changing landscape influence our approach in documenting APIs?

  • You talked about the pitfalls of spray and pray and the need for a larger, more coherent strategy for APIs. What is spray and pray? How does having a larger, more coherent strategy compare with the strategy about embracing adaptivity and letting developers use APIs in new and surprising ways?

  • Teams within an enterprise often need to stay autonomous and nimble (like startups) to be able to move fast and pivot to meet the needs of a changing landscape. At the same time, you’ve also cautioned against organizational practices that lack a coherent strategy for how their APIs should be used to achieve business goals. How do you balance the constraints of strategy with autonomous groups that can operate independently of each other, somewhat blind to what each is doing?

Many of these talking points are based off a presentation Kristof recently gave titled The Role of Developer Portals in Digital Transformation at the API the Docs Virtual series in April 2020.


Here are some other resources mentioned during the podcast:

Kristof also wanted to acknowledge and attribute various ideas to people:

About Kristof van Tomme

Kristof van Tomme is CEO and co-founder of Pronovix, a company “dedicated to the research & development of developer portals.” Kristof and other event organizers at Pronovix recently hosted an online series of developer-portal related events called API the Docs virtual series, which has had tremendous success and reach. You can learn more about Kristof here.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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