LateRooms.com is speeding up its innovation cycles by using APIs to mock up new features more quickly, which CTO Stuart Hughes says will reduce the feedback cycle from months to days.
The website has recently started using an API management platform from Apigee, which is providing it with a range of benefits, as well as changing how the business develops mobile and website applications.
Using APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), code that grants access to each application in a system, allows Laterooms.com to create new apps by simply configuring features rather than writing code.
"They can build stuff much quicker," said Hughes, the CTO of Manchester-based LateRooms.com who joined from The Hut Group in October 2013.
"We can build mock versions of the service in a couple of days, trial a feature without having to build the whole app."
LateRooms.com is about innovating quickly, Hughes said, which is what Apigee allows the company to do.
"It drives the innovation cycle to have smaller feedback loops," he said, adding that the feedback cycle has gone from months to just days.
APIs are becoming such an important part of the business that Hughes wants his developers to "think API-first".
"We are looking at building the API in Apigee and the mobile development teams start to integrate with the service. We are putting APIs at the heart of everything we do, then you integrate everything with it."
LateRooms.com has created a set of micro APIs, each with a single function, and using Apigee to combine them to create a new feature with richer functionality.
Fostering third-party innovation
Another major reason why LateRooms.com wanted to implement an API management layer was to encourage developers to choose to use its hotel rooms feed, to create apps that sell rooms on the company's behalf.
"If you're a small business, start-up or developer, that needs a hotel-level room feed, I want you to choose us because it's really easy to integrate with us, and because we have the best service," said Hughes, saying that "hundreds" of people connect to the firm's APIs, including Trivago and Travel Supermarket.
"We didn't have an API management layer before. It meant we had to be more diligent. We had to vet developers using the company's APIs more thoroughly."
Another benefit of the Apigee platform is that LateRooms.com can use it to understand the activity going through its APIs.
"We can see error rates and performance levels," said Hughes.
"It gives the service team insight to ensure we provide a great service to our customers," Hughes said. Customers in this context are developers and other third-party users of its APIs.
Last week, as part of an attempt to create a "culture of innovation" across the company, LateRooms.com ran its first internal hack day for anyone in the business, from the call centre to finance, to spend 24 hours building something new for the business.
"They will then demo what they've built. With technology, we are trying to create a culture of innovation," said Hughes.
LateRooms.com hopes to run these hack days on a quarterly basis.
The idea of involving people in all different areas of the business in the development of technology is similar, but separate to, the multidisciplinary hubs that LateRooms.com's parent company, Tui Travel, is creating across the group as part of its 'One Mainstream' strategy.
Other businesses that are beginning to see the benefits of APIs in transforming their companies for the digital age include mobile operator Orange and TV company ITV.