Calculating the Cost of API Integration

By David Honan in Developer Posted Aug 8, 2014

The process of API integration takes more time and money than most would imagine. When considering building a custom integration into a cloud service, it’s important to map out these costs to have a realistic view of your budget. Having been through the process of building integrations multiple times, we have discovered just how much time each step really takes. Below is a list of seven steps we have identified within the process, as well as considerations and estimated time spent for each.
 

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BUDGETING FOR TIME SPENT BUILDING A CUSTOM INTEGRATION

  1. Research: Research is a key, yet often overlooked step in the process. Research includes familiarizing yourself with the API- it’s nuances including data structures, protocols, and user authentication.  If done thoroughly, this step will set you up for success. The amount of research needed depends on the category of cloud services you’ll be working with; For example, creating an integration to a CRM service is typically more complex than creating an integration to a document storage service. For this reason, you’ll want to budget two full days for researching a cloud document storage endpoint, and three full days for a CRM endpoint.

  2. Build A Prototype: In this step, the goal is to build minimal functionality to prove the connectivity, allowing developers to get to know the product and understand the endpoint. Budget three days for a cloud document storage endpoint, and five days for a CRM endpoint.

  3. MVP: This step tests the prototype and extends it to create the MVP (Minimum Viable Product). In doing so, you are actually connecting it to your product with the basic set of functionality.  Note: Once this step is completed, you will likely need to budget additional time for revisiting the MVP and building out the remainder of the needed functionality as a Release 1, for example. Budget five days for the MVP step regardless of endpoint.

  4. Transaction Management: This step is the hardening process that will account for the durability of the integration. Questions like, “What happens when something fails?” and “How do you back out of transactions?” need to be addressed here. Budget five days for a document storage endpoint, and 10 days for a CRM endpoint.

Your job doesn’t end once the integration is built. Time spent servicing your integration is significant and needs to be taken into consideration as well.

  1. Logging: Every time a transaction is completed, it has to be logged for debugging and customer support reasons. Budget 2.5 days regardless of endpoint.

  2. Monitor and Alerts: The process of monitoring your integration includes adding service alerts and webhooks. Budget 2.5 days for a document storage endpoint, and five for CRM.

  3. Documentation: Don’t forget API documentation, a commonly overlooked step. This is important as it cuts down on maintenance and allows other team members to pick up where you left off. Budget two days for this.

To get a realistic view of what this process will cost you, take into consideration the recommended budget for each step and multiply it by your fully burdened developer rate. Using our time recommendations (above) and multiplying it by the industry average pay, we’ve estimated that building an integration for a document storage or CRM endpoint will take you anywhere from five to seven weeks. In addition to the cost of production, we recommend budgeting 25-30% of the original development cost for ongoing maintenance.

Oh, and then there’s project management costs on top of all this…

Knowing how long each step of the process takes will help you to decide if you have the budget, development cycles, and frankly, the willpower to repeat the process for multiple integrations. If your answer is no to any of these points, then leveraging an API integration platform, like Cloud Elements, will dramatically cut down on the cost of time spent integrating and could be a great fit for you.

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