Testing, tools, and more

The 2019 State of API Report says standardization is the #1 challenge

Sarah Schlothauer
© Shutterstock / Chaosamran_Studio

How does your organization’s API tool choices, struggles, and testing compare to others? SmartBear released the State of API 2019 report with data from over 3,000 respondents from different sectors around the world. Comb through the report with us for key takeaways and findings and discover where the API industry stands and where it’s headed in years to come.

SmartBear’s latest report details the API challenges facing teams in 2019 and establishes benchmarks for the industry. What is the number one struggle, the best strategies for developing APIs, and the most used tools?

Read all about the key takeaways and see what you can learn from The State of API 2019 Report.

The survey included 52 questions and received over 3,000 responses. Responses represented companies of all sizes and a variety of sectors, including IT, healthcare, finance, and advertising. Its global audience revealed several trends.

Challenges and issues

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What were some of the common challenges teams face?

According to the survey, standardization ranks as the top API challenge that teams want to solve in 2019. A full 58% of respondents said that the need for standardization is something they most hope to be solved in the near future. This number has grown quite dramatically in three years. In 2016, only 25% of respondents agreed with this notion.

Other API challenges include: versioning, multi-purpose re-use, security, scalability, easier integration between tools, authentication, and discoverability.

When it comes to solving API issues, an impressive 60% of respondents said that determining the root cause of the issue is the biggest obstacle. The second biggest struggle is isolating the API as being the cause of the issue.

What is holding teams back from ensuring API quality? The top two answers are, increasing demands for speed of delivery, and lacking time and/or resources due to workload. This increased demand is shown elsewhere in the survey. 12% of respondents said that they expect API quality issues fixed in less than one hour. This points to a growing concern in heightened workloads but also unreasonable expectations.

Growth and development

As the SmartBear report says, “While modern APIs have been used in software development for more than two decades, the last 10 years have been marked by a growth in API adoption.” Most of the surveyed organizations are newcomers.

A majority of 59% of organizations have only started developing APIs in the past five years. (Kudos to the 19% who have been developing for over ten years!)

The biggest drive to develop APIs is interoperation between internal systems, tools, and teams.

How do organizations measure success? 76% measure their success via performance, followed by usability/developer experience, and uptime/availability. 

API tools and tech

The right tool has to fit perfectly. When it comes to tools, most respondents look for ease of use, ease of implementation, and integrations with existing tools.

On average, teams use 5 different tools. The top five include:

  • API documentation tools
  • API functional testing tools
  • CI/CD tools
  • Source control tools
  • Unit testing tools

The top most used API/Web Services format was REST – OAS/Swagger, followed by SOAP.

Key takeaways

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SmartBear lists the top 8 key takeaways that provided some of the most interesting and useful facts If you’d like to read more in detail about these points, don’t forget to download the report.

  1. Three-quarters of organizations are developing both internal and public-facing APIs
  2. API teams want tools that are easy to use, seamless to implement, and that fit into their existing workflow without friction
  3. OpenAPI Specification (OAS) adoption continues to surge as more organizations adopt a “design-first approach”
  4. More investment in API documentation can help API providers offer a great developer experience
  5. Nearly all organizations currently have or plan to have an API testing strategy
  6. Organizations that view API monitoring as a top priority have a clear advantage when resolving API performance issues
  7. Microservices is expected to drive the most API adoption in the next two years
  8. Standardization is the #1 API technology challenge facing API teams

SmartBear State of API 2019 Report

Miscellaneous findings

Before we end, here are some interesting points that we noticed in the survey.

  • How important do you think quality is to your organization? While most people agree that quality is extremely, very, or moderately important, a small percentage (less than 5%) said that quality is “not important at ALL” to their organization.
  • While two-thirds of organizations have a formal process, some teams without a formal API documentation process say that “documentation is not a priority”.
  • Sadly, 9% rated their organization’s documentation as “poor”.
  • 8% of respondents were not sure if their organization has a formal monitoring process.

How does your own organization hold up to the responses? Are you an outlier or do you agree with most of the data presented?

Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer

All Posts by Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer is the editor for She received her Bachelor's degree from Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey. She currently lives in Frankfurt, Germany with her husband and cat where she enjoys reading, writing, and medieval reenactment. She is also the editor for Conditio Humana, an online magazine about ethics, AI, and technology.

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