Location: Berlin, Germany
As Europe’s number one digital insurer, wefox is a mission-driven company. Their goal—to use technology to make insurance simple—informs the choices made on every team across the company. That includes the teams that build their APIs:
“We want to make insurance…fast, simple and reliable. And I always say to my engineering team that I mean… they have to be simple, fast and reliable when they create an API so they can live the mission of the company.” - Sergi Baños, CTO, wefox
Even though wefox is not yet a large company, its technical leadership team knew that complexity in their API was only going to increase over time. Focusing on their goal of simplicity and reliability, they proactively called in Stoplight to help align API development process with the company mission.
Their main objective was to reduce the length of the update cycle in order to deliver same-day API updates to ultimately keep their customers safer.
Through improved processes and the proper tools like Stoplight, wefox has become 60% faster and has been able to increase their release frequency to daily, even multiple times per day.
Here’s their success story.
When the wefox engineering team reached 100 people, they decided it was time to restructure. As a smaller company, wefox had a single API team interfacing with teams working in many different areas of the business.
No one with expertise in user needs was directly involved with the API, and the back-and-forth between domain teams and the API team had made the update process unacceptably slow. The timeline had doubled each year as the company grew, stretching to over 30 days to develop and release an API update.
Wefox set out to improve their API development process. They wanted to shorten that timeline, but also improve the sustainability of their APIs. They started by actually reorganizing their engineering teams. Each engineering team at wefox had responsibility for a specific business domain linked to the central business mission; the API team had been the exception. The API team was dissolved, and each team took on full responsibility for the design and development of their portion of the company’s APIs.
Importantly, though, wefox didn’t leave it there. Recognizing that each team needed to be both domain experts and API experts, wefox changed their design and development process at the same time, adopting an API-first design approach.
Now, there is no outsourcing, and little back-and-forth, because each team begins with expert knowledge of what the API end users need, and plans their development backwards from there.
The result has been remarkable:
“Since we’ve started with API first, we have seen results of decreasing the cycle time by two thirds. So we are 60% faster. We have been able to increase the release frequency to daily, even multiple times per day. And everything is thanks to setting up the proper process with the proper tools.” - Sergi Baños, CTO, wefox
Wefox’s choice to decentralize their API development meant they needed to think carefully about how to maintain consistency. With multiple teams working on multiple APIs, getting buy-in to standards and procedures was as important as developing them.
Working from the idea of a craft guild, wefox created an API guild of developers from each team. This guild is a kind of an architectural governance board comprised of a community of people who are passionate about APIs.
This governance group:
As domain experts for their teams and API experts, they can develop clear, actionable guidelines that address the practical needs of customers and developers.
Making it easy for individual developers to follow those standards is the next step. Here, wefox uses Stoplight’s tools to great effect. Spectral, Stoplight’s open-source linting tool, is one of the options they use. Each developer working on wefox’s APIs can install the linter and get automatic validation of their code, allowing easy compliance with formatting standards and endpoint naming conventions.
One of wefox’s most successful changes has been using Stoplight to centralize and standardize their API documentation. Previously, each domain team had their own API and their own documents, which weren’t always readily available to other teams:
“You have everything documented, but nobody can read it. So we decided to centralize all our documentation, make it public to everybody, even if you don’t need to execute a particular process from another domain. We wanted everything centralized. And this is why we selected Stoplight, to have everything properly documented.” - Sergi Baños, CTO, wefox
Combining API-first design with an emphasis on standard, in-depth documentation helps wefox ensure that, by the time they get to development and implementation, they are working from a design that already has buy-in. wefox’s engineering organization strives to create accountability through collaboration and collective decisions rather than micromanaging compliance. API-first development has turned out to be a great fit for this philosophy.
Before wefox began to overhaul their API program, teams did a lot of duplicative work, and often found themselves with challenges reconciling different approaches late in the development process. Lack of clarity about internal guidelines meant redoing a lot of work and a lot of back-and-forth. While teams were empowered to address customer needs in their domain, their ownership of their work stopped before it ever made it to the APIs.
As they reorganized their teams and workflow, they focused on the value proposition to their customers and the basic logistics of how insurance is bought and sold. Each team is organized around a specific piece of that value proposition and functionality, and can decide what API endpoints are needed and how they can best meet customer needs.
Development teams at wefox have a high level of autonomy and independence, a modern and flexible approach for a financial sector company. Wefox’s leadership is clear, though, that this is not separate from their efficiency goals:
“If we really want to maximize efficiency, we have to give the authority and accountability that everything works to the teams…And if we really give the authority and accountability to the team, then we will receive back the increase in performance. “ - Sergi Baños, CTO, wefox
The efficiency gains lead to comfortable, continuous improvement. Development teams are able to iterate and improve constantly, not to fix bugs, but because their knowledge is always increasing. With the shorter time to deploy API updates, their teams are constantly making incremental improvements - but, as they point out, when everyone is focused on the goal, those small changes add up quickly:
“You’re going to see a decrease in time, you’re going to see improvement in efficiency, and you’re going to celebrate with the team. And this is basically the important feedback loop, even a small achievement of our 2% percent increase week over week. It’s really an exponential efficiency.” - Sergi Baños, CTO, wefox
Teams are able to work in parallel, so that everyone is experiencing continuous improvement. Developers share their best work and align at the end of the development cycle, when many problems are ironed out. Morale is higher, and across domains, the engineering team has a clear focus on the company mission: “We make people safer.”
wefox is a remarkable company with progressive management, working to provide a highly valuable service. By working with Stoplight to develop an API-first approach with standardized documentation and compliance tools, they have created an environment where their engineering team can iterate quickly and improve constantly, delivering even greater value to customers.
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