API collaboration overview
What is API collaboration?
API collaboration is the process through which developers, testers, architects, and other business stakeholders work together to produce and consume APIs. It is a crucial pillar of today's software landscape, in which internal APIs serve as the primary building blocks of applications and drive development efforts. Many organizations also build and maintain partner APIs, which enable them to collaborate with select users and customers, while others offer APIs as billable products to third-party consumers. While the API collaboration process will look different for each type of API, it is meant to help ensure that every API remains consistently available, highly performant, easy to use, and able to meet consumer needs.
Here, we'll start by exploring the role that API collaboration plays in an API-first world, before discussing how teams collaborate at the different stages of the API lifecycle—and how the Postman API Platform can help.
Why is API collaboration an important part of the API-first strategy?
API-first is a development model in which applications are designed and built as a collection of services that are delivered through APIs. API-first teams develop APIs before building their dependent applications and integrations, which requires them to achieve complete alignment on an API's design and intended use cases before any code is written. By collaborating at the earliest stages of the API lifecycle, API-first teams are able to build shared context that can guide them as they work together to develop, deploy, and revise APIs. This end-to-end style of API collaboration shortens feedback loops, which helps ensure that APIs continue to meet consumer needs and do not degrade in quality over time.
How do teams collaborate throughout the API lifecycle?
APIs are constantly evolving to meet business and consumer needs, and a well-defined API lifecycle enables teams to collaboratively iterate on APIs in a deliberate and methodical way. Each organization is unique and will define the API lifecycle in nuanced ways. Nevertheless, every API lifecycle will include the following basic stages:
The design stage
API design is a highly collaborative process that requires all stakeholders to reach alignment on an API's intended use cases and functionality. They must also decide how data should be formatted, which resources are required, how they should relate to one another, and which methods should be available on their associated endpoints. Once an API's stakeholders are in agreement, they must formalize their design decisions in an API definition, which is a human- and machine-readable representation of an API's intended functionality.
The development stage
Once an API has been designed, development teams can begin work on the implementation. API development relies heavily on effective source and version control methods like forking, merging, and conflict resolution, which enable team members to work in parallel while reducing the risk of breaking changes. Development teams can also use commenting features to give one another feedback alongside the relevant API artifacts and lines of code, which reduces context switching and accelerates their workflows.
The testing stage
API testing helps teams validate their API's behavior and confirm that it is able to meet its consumers' needs. API testing traditionally occurs once the development stage is complete, but it is becoming increasingly common for testing and engineering teams to work together to test APIs during development and in CI/CD pipelines. Testing early and often enables these teams to catch problems as soon as they are introduced, and it also helps them validate API design decisions before flaws become ingrained. This approach reduces the amount of overhead required to remediate issues, enabling teams to deploy high-quality APIs to production faster.
The distribution stage
Once an API has been designed, developed, tested, and deployed, teams must collaborate to ensure it can be discovered by consumers. This involves making the API available in either a private or public API catalog—and ensuring it has appropriate metadata that will allow it to be surfaced during search. Teams should also work together to create thorough, up-to-date documentation, which can help consumers understand the API's functionality and reduce their time to first call. Ultimately, the distribution stage helps ensure that internal APIs are not duplicated by other teams and that public APIs reach their intended audience and generate revenue.
What are Postman workspaces, and how do they support API collaboration?
Postman workspaces are collaboration hubs that give teams shared access to the tools they need to solve problems together. By acting as a single source of truth for all API-related work, workspaces enable teams to build shared context while meeting organization-wide standards for API quality. Conversations in workspaces happen directly alongside the relevant API artifacts, which reduces context switching and streamlines the collaboration process. Workspaces also update in real time and record every change in version history, empowering teams to move quickly while ensuring that everyone stays on the same page.
Postman workspaces are incredibly versatile and support a wide range of use cases, such as:
Improving developer onboarding
When starting a new role, engineers must quickly familiarize themselves with their team's repositories, tools, and workflows—some of which may be unintuitive or poorly documented. To solve this problem, teams can create onboarding workspaces, which contain all of the relevant assets and information for getting new team members up to speed.
Accelerating the development process
Developer workspaces act as the go-to place for development teams to collaborate. They include documentation, tests, mock servers, and how-to guides, and they can be used in the pre-production, development, and post-production stages of the API lifecycle. By providing a single source of truth for all API artifacts, developer workspaces reduce bottlenecks and improve time-to-market.
Improving internal API discoverability
Small teams may choose to house all of their APIs in a single workspace, while larger companies may create a segmented workspace for each API and the team that is responsible for it. Mapping team structures to API workspaces creates a logical and scalable organizational framework that makes it easier for developers to find and view APIs that are managed by other internal teams.
Running tests and troubleshooting issues
Testing throughout the API lifecycle is a central pillar of the API-first strategy, as it enables teams to catch and remediate issues quickly. API-first teams can leverage dedicated API testing workspaces to create and run tests against APIs that are in development in other workspaces. These tests can also be integrated into any development team's CI processes with Postman's command-line tools.
Establishing API design consistency
Leaders can create style guide workspaces, which contain reference APIs, design patterns, and “dos and don'ts,” to establish and enforce an effective API governance strategy across every team in their organization. Workspace style guides exist in the same platform where teams do their work, which allows developers to interact with them as “living documents”—and use them as jumping off points when developing and iterating on API elements.
Responding to support tickets
Support teams can use workspaces to maintain a log of steps they need to follow when responding to customer tickets, which enables them to fix problems quickly and keep ticket volumes under control. In fact, some developers share collections directly with support teams, which can dramatically reduce the time it takes to resolve an issue.
Connecting with more developers
Solution engineers can use Postman workspaces to create demo environments for external APIs that showcase the API's primary use cases to potential customers. This enables them to close more deals and get new customers up and running quickly.
Public API workspaces also help API producers connect directly with their community. Public workspaces can contain documentation, how-to guides, and other reference material, which reduces the time-to-first call for new consumers. There are hundreds of thousands of public workspaces in Postman's Public API Network, offered by companies such as Salesforce, Stripe, Notion, and PayPal.
What other API collaboration features does Postman offer?
Workspaces, which we discussed above, stand out among Postman's collaboration features for their ability to help teams solve a wide range of complex problems. However, Postman also includes several other collaboration features that complement workspaces and enable API producers and consumers to work together throughout the API lifecycle. These features are:
Postman Collections are groups of related requests, and they are the primary building blocks for all of Postman's features. For instance, collections allow teams to create mock servers, test suites, monitors, and documentation, which can be used by various teams throughout the API lifecycle. Collections also support commenting and version control, and can easily be shared with any stakeholder in an organization.
The API Builder
The Postman API Builder enables teams to collaboratively design and define an API in a wide range of formats—such as OpenAPI, GraphQL, and RAML—from within the API platform. It also allows them to bi-directionally sync their API schema with GitHub and GitLab, which helps establish a shareable source of truth for all API-related work. This enables development and testing teams to work in parallel against the same schema throughout the entire API lifecycle.
The API lifecycle is complex and requires teams to leverage numerous tools for communication, infrastructure management, CI/CD, incident response, and performance monitoring. Postman provides built-in integrations with these tools, which reduces friction and streamlines collaboration workflows. For instance, Postman's Slack integration helps ensure that every stakeholder stays in the know about their team's API activity, as well as Postman Monitor results.
The Private API Network
Teams can use Postman's Private API Network to build a catalog of internal API artifacts, which facilitates API discoverability and helps developers avoid writing redundant code. In addition to helping teams connect and learn from one another, the Private API Network enables business leaders to establish and enforce effective API governance policies across their organization.
The Public API Network
The Postman Public API Network is the world's largest hub of public API artifacts, and it connects API producers with over 20 million developers around the world. The Public API Network allows producers to collaborate directly with their consumers, which shortens feedback loops and reduces ticket volume.