API Business ModelsAPI Lifecycle ManagementDX, API Design & Documentation

Building Open Banking sandboxes for global and local markets

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Vikas Korrikar is the Product Owner and Lead API Technology at Standard Chartered Bank. His article will focus on APIs Sandbox and its need.

Standard Chartered started the developer portal journey sometime in 2018. Initially, we had certain hiccups, but we have been consistently adding features and experiences since 2018. In 2022, we have made good progress.

Today everybody talks about APIs. APIs are perceived as products. Every company is investing in APIs. But we have to consider developer experiences. Sometimes APIs are unclear. The vague documentation doesn’t cover exactly how you use the API. There is no support from a developer community.

What is developer experience?

We need to give the right tooling for developers to make it simple. Make it self-service – developers always love when things are given as self-service to them. They should be able to decide what to do and when and how to do it. There should be an easy onboarding. There has to be good observability, e.g., API metrics. The developer should be able to connect with the community and get support when required.

4 Pillars of great developer experience in open banking

Banks that pursue an Open Banking strategy should get

four core capabilities right in their developer portal to be successful –

  1. 1. API Catalog – The bank has to offer a comprehensive catalog. When a bank goes out and gives an API, there has to be API for payment, account information, cross-border money transfer, and things like that. All these APIs need to be rock solid.
  2. API Documentation – API documentation should be complete and clear. The API should be explained systematically.
  3. Developer Usability – Ease of developer onboarding and availability of developer tools.
  4. Developer Community – Options regarding developer support and engagement towards developers.

Typical development lifecycle

In a development cycle, your clients try downloading your API and integrating those APIs into their applications. Clients thus have a development cycle. On the other hand, we have the API product development lifecycle. All these teams and developers need to interconnect several systems. In the development lifecycle, we need to interact with multiple systems and teams. There are several APIs within an organization. At the end of the day, when you release the product, those APIs will help your client, and they will also need to interconnect systems. So, if you have the right tooling and support and cut the go-to-market time, it improves the developer’s experience.

Developers expect Sandbox

After interviewing several developers within Standard Chartered and several clients, we got a list of challenges developers face today. We categorized these into three buckets – Feature Rich, Flexible, and Analytics.

Feature Rich – The API developer community requires feature rich sandbox to cope with the ever-increasing API design and testing expectations –

  • Support the entire lifecycle of APIs
  • Varying quantity of API test data
  • API live recording and test scenario configuration
  • Accelerate co-creation within the bank and externally.

Flexible – Flexible sandbox platform that is configurable and capable of handling various API transformations and test scenarios.

  • Self-serviceable in replicating the actual production environment with success, failure, and stateful scenarios.
  • Rich media documentation and interactive training to provide unparalleled client experience.
  • Spin Sandbox at various data quality levels and experience APIs

Analytics – Our clients, API consumers, and businesses need data in real-time to make effective decisions.

  • API usage trends, disruptions, high latency, and server error notifications.
  • Manage subscriptions and quotas.

Managed Sandbox Curation Studio – A Must

When an API goes live, an API product owner who builds the API should be very clear about the experience he needs from his developer community. He can decide on the different levels of Sandbox and reporting levels so they are comfortable. The owner can decide the data he wants to share and the stages when he wants to share.

So, the product line has three personas. The first can be internal facing, with basic services like setting up Swagger and ingesting it, thus building a basic sandbox.

The next level can be the addition of Stateful responses. The next can be data transfer and a staging environment. The owner can decide to give levels based on subscription. Premium customers can get more levels.

So here, the product owner is in charge. He can decide how the API will be published and how a developer can experience the API.

Experience Led Developer Journey

When we lay out an API journey, we get a good experience on the developer journey.

We need to start with a good developer platform, which assists with good discovery. The client should be able to search and study the APIs and be comfortable consuming them.

When we give a curated sandbox platform, all APIs have uniformity in documentation and experience.

Once they choose the APIs, the next stage is testing the APIs. The Sandbox should be able to stitch together different APIs in parallel or sequence to take them through tests. This will help the customers try actual use cases. Once satisfied, the customer can use the APIs and deploy them. He can get relevant support as required. The Sandbox platform thus gives the customer a good developer experience.

Design Principles – Product Ideation to Launch

To achieve this, most players are adopting Design Thinking.

When we create a product, we need to make sure that the clients understand and we understand their needs. We do rapid prototyping. We also follow Agile principles. I emphasize that you must be very close to your client and hear them when you work on something. Otherwise, your product may not be liked by many. So we do rapid prototyping paper sketching, use Figma extensively, and get feedback. Then we develop, deploy and go live.

As Standard Chartered is a bank, we have many regulations in place. We have uniform design and security guidelines. We go through extensive auditing by different regulators. So we do have a governance lens for all the activities.

To conclude, having a sandbox will provide a good developer experience, thus attracting more customers.

Vikas Korikkar
A customer focused product management professional with deep experience in building products from inception to launch. My strengths include data driven market research and identifying customer pain points, to solve them with appropriate solutions. I have achieved recognition for developing flagship IoT Smart Cities platform and positioning it as successful product globally. My new role is at an international bank, to get product mindset and discipline in crafting digital solutions in #fintech

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