Better APIs faster with APIOps Cycles and Lean principles

October 24, 2022
Marjukka Niinioja

The Oct 2022 release, the most significant overhaul of the APIOps Cycles method in its history, prompted me to write this blog to explain why APIs need their own (Lean) method.

The goal of Lean management is to improve so-called cycle time and quality. With Lean API Development and APIOps Cycles, the open and business-oriented API development method, you can make good APIs in a short time.

Don’t get me wrong; this is not just about good quality, i.e. flawless implementation. It’s about what is better for your business, your customers, your partners and your development teams.

When I started creating APIOps Cycles, I fell in love with Lean management principles. DevOps, as a technical and cultural practice, has roots in Lean. APIOps, as a term, has been used mainly for referring to automated API development by using DevOps and API management together.

Those talking about APIOps often aim to create better APIs or at least publish them faster. To achieve proper APIOps focusing on tech doesn’t cut it. You need the right culture, people, processes and design, too.

Lean is a management philosophy and practice that tries to remove “wastes” from the production process.

So why removing the Lean “wastes” is essential for your APIs?

Because waste doesn’t bring any value to the customer. Waste takes away valuable time and resources from the organization. You can produce more value and revenue with the same resources when there is minimal waste.

The eight wastes of LEAN are:

1. Defects

2. Overproduction

3. Waiting

4. Non-value-added processing

5. Transportation (or Touches)

6. Inventory

7. Motion

8. Employee and skills waste

How do the eight wastes affect API development?

1. Defects

Do you know how the API works? Are you missing some information? Is there non-standard processing?

2. Overproduction

API is made more extensive, with more endpoints or attributes than needed. Developers are drowning under a massive amount of unnecessary documentation.

3. Waiting

Waiting is a waste of time for API developers and API consumers. Waiting for the API or new feature to be published is a waste. Waiting for a slow, underperforming API is also wasteful.

4. Non-value-added processing

Examples include complex procedures and processes or heavy architecture. Using project management processes to control API development instead of product management. Having too strict governance, i.e. hierarchical processes for publishing APIs.

5. Transportation (or Touches)

This waste can take many forms: Technical and businesspeople don’t speak the same language. Too many people are involved. Too many separate API requests are needed to perform a task.

6. Inventory

Creating APIs that API consumers do not immediately use is inventory waste.

7. Motion

Waste from an individual efficiency point of view — how many documents does an API consumer or API developer need to look into to use or create outstanding APIs? Or how often are they going back and forth, asking for help, trying things?

8. Employee and skills waste

An untrained and unmotivated API team is not cost-effective. APIs that require developers to study hard before understanding the API waste their developers’ time.

The APIOps Cycles method helps organizations and individuals to understand how to improve

- APIs and API quality

- API development and consumption

- the connection between APIs and strategy

You don’t need to be a Lean enthusiast to use APIOps Cycles. I just wanted to see how important it is to consider which methods you use to develop APIs.

Feel free to browse the method and follow APIOps or me on Medium, LinkedIn or Twitter (Twitter handle is apiopscycles). I and my colleagues are available for APIOps Cycles training and workshops or to help your team to make it your own. We also welcome partner organizations to help us support the method and to organize meetups and events.

APIOps and APIOps Cycles are trademarks of Osaango and are allowed to be used in connection with using the APIOps Cycles method distributed under CC-BY-SA 4.0 license.

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