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Veterans Affairs

Creating a tool for governing APIs

Summary

The Veterans Affairs needed to start preparing for how best to govern their growing portfolio of APIs. So we delivered them a minimum viable product (MVP) of an API Scorecard governance tool.

Product screenshot of the VA API Scorecard.

The challenge

The VA recently launched an initiative called API Platform Management. The purpose of this new enterprise-wide program is to transform how the VA shares digital services through APIs. Success requires good API governance, so VA leaders hypothesized that creating an API Scorecard tool for use by teams and management could help with:

  • Establishing a common understanding of the VA's API delivery lifecycle and what success looks like at each stage
  • Enabling teams to keep management informed of status, progress, and health, and alert them to any issues requiring special attention
  • Giving management visibility into how teams are doing, where they need help, and what governance decisions need to be made
  • Giving stakeholders insight into the value of the VA's portfolio of APIs
  • Reinforcing best practices among teams for delivering APIs successfully

The VA needed a lean way to further flesh out and test this idea.

The solution

To address this need, we assembled a cross-functional team with expertise in UX design, software engineering, and API governance. Through a series of rapid iterations, we created an MVP of the API Scorecard governance tool.

We used GitHub Pages to serve as a public frontend and private backend for the application, a technique pioneered by a member of the Skylight team. This approach avoided the additional time, cost, and complexity associated with setting up a secure backend server environment, thus keeping things lean.

We also worked with the VA to not only define the stages of their API lifecycle, but also the "delivery success criteria" that governs how projects move from one stage to the next. We made both the stages and the criteria configurable from with the application's YAML files.

The results

  • Delivered the MVP under the federal procurement micropurchase threshold of $10,000
  • Enabled the VA to begin experimenting with how best to govern their portfolio of APIs
  • Released all the source code in the open and with no copyright, making it freely available for anyone to reuse