API Monitoring & the Innovation Life Cycle

In our conversations with companies and their technical teams, one of the frequent discussion points is how monitoring for internal and vendor APIs applies to their product or service given its current objectives. We have found that the product innovation lifecycle is a helpful guide in setting expectations for the value of API Monitoring. Each phase has its own unique opportunities and challenges. API monitors compliment these phases and allow teams to focus on their core objectives.

chart of innovation life cycle
Fig 1. Innovation Life Cycle

Introduction

When teams begin building new products and services, there’s a lot of experimentation in designing the right architecture, deciding what to build vs outsource and picking the right vendors. API monitoring can assist in this phase, acting as an easily configurable proxy for the client experience. As new technologies and vendors are evaluated, understanding their expected performance in your consumer experience can be a critical decision point. Everyone says ‘my technology stack performs great.’ Setting up API monitors against a trial account or evaluating the historic performance of an API based on a common monitor can reassure decision makers that they are making the right architectural choice or picking the right vendor.

Growth

After the product or service concept has been validated and initial traction is underway, there is a transition to the growth phase. During the this phase, two key activities are taking place.

New features are introduced to expand the applicability for more customers. These features are often developed and deployed quickly, as every service wants to be responsive to customer demand. Internal testing may catch bugs and client issues, but it is difficult to test every use case for an API. This is especially true for vendor APIs serving hundreds or thousands of customers. API monitoring fills this gap by mimicking the interaction between the site or app and the supporting APIs. It’s useful as a user-acceptance testing tool, noting performance changes with each feature deployment, and ensuring new features do not adversely impact the existing consumer experience.

Scale presents its own challenge as a build-out is undertaken to meet the increasing demand for the product or service. It’s often very difficult to predict and test technologies and APIs in anticipation of scale. Investing in a deployment and test architecture for 2-times, 3-times or 4-times the current utilization rate is a bet that many teams and vendors do not make. The tendency is to invest just ahead of the current utilization rates.

Based on this reality, it’s critical to monitor a service or vendor throughout the product adoption curve. Architectural decisions and APIs designed in an early phase may not operate performantly at scale. API responses can degrade based on databases deciding to re-index, network configurations becoming overwhelmed with traffic and core service pipelines backing up with increased transactions per second. When vendors share infrastructure across their customers, your consumer experience may even be impacted as another customer scales their service. API monitoring is designed to catch these issues early and get teams moving toward a rapid resolution.

Maturity

As a product or service reaches maturity and its growth rate slows, the investment is scaled back proportionally. This is often the most profitable stage for a product or service. Features are generally incremental in nature, expanding the utility or novelty of the service to new consumer niches. Retaining customers is a key to extending this phase and its profitability. API monitoring supports this phase in quickly identifying operational issues to minimize their consumer impact. Evaluations of existing vendors including the API’s history of stability are undertaken and changes often occur.

Decline

Every product, service, and technology eventually declines. As this occurs, technology teams are tasked with re-architecting the existing service or building something completely new. The challenge is keeping the team focused on building the new service while minimizing distractions from maintaining the old service. Every hour spent investigating a problem on the old extends the delivery time for a new product. API Monitoring can help keep teams focused by quickly identifying operational issues with the old service and decreasing the time to resolution. Essentially, API monitoring watches your back as the team starts a new innovation cycle.

Making it Easy

A common argument against setting up API monitors is that it’s a distraction from the existing and immediate work. We believe that this is a case where going a little slower now allows you and your team to go much faster throughout the innovation stage. Operational issues occur at every phase of the life cycle. A minor investment upfront can save the team hours in investigation and resolution.

To minimize your investment around setting up API monitors, Wicket Labs assigns technical account managers to build Wickets for you. With 10-15 minutes of direction by your team, we can tailor existing Wickets to your exact query for that API or build a new Wicket for an internal or vendor API. If you’d like to learn more about how API monitoring can save you time and improve your consumer experience, please contact us.

 

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

 

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