Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Original API closes tonight after changing the game at Tesco.com

Tonight at 6pm (17:00 UTC), the original API that we launched privately back in October 2008, then to external developers two months later, will be shut down.

The CTP API's end coincides with the demise of our old grocery platform which it accessed, as we have moved nearly all our customers to the new grocery service now.

The API, known as our 'Community Technical Preview' (CTP):
  1. Powered the prototype 'Kitchen PC' that I demonstrated on stage at Microsoft PDC in November 2008;
  2. Helped us think how we could improve our health & beauty range through a 'Beauty Room' silverlight application in Spring 2009;
  3. Provided the search and add-to-basket functionality for our live 'Back To School' web application that ran throughout the summer holidays in 2009;
  4. Allowed us to try new ideas with third party organisations that linked it to their technology when demonstrating possibilities to us;
  5. Powered (until last week) the Tesco Finder iPhone application.
As a result of what it allowed us to do, suddenly our business realised the 'art of the possible' and as a result put in both time, effort and money that made our TJAM innovation event the success that it was.

As well as doing great things, the CTP API nearly got me into trouble with my colleagues:

During a regular senior team meeting last summer involving both IT and business managers, an IT manager had to inform that meeting that one of his projects was going to be delayed. This was greeted with some dismay by the business unused to such news.
The next item on the agenda was the 'Back To School' application which Marketing informed the meeting had been built in just a week "on the back of Nick's API" and was now live and taking money.
A senior director exclaimed, "Why can't the rest of IT be like Nick Lansley?". Turning to IT manager, the director told him, "Go and talk to Nick and find out how he does it!".
And he did (that was interesting conversation!).

The later that day I wrote an email to the director thankful for their praise, but pointing out one thing:
"It is thanks to the hard work, attention to detail, performance and resilience of our existing systems that I can do my job. It is thanks to the work by this IT manager and his colleagues that I achieved what I have - because they let me stand on their shoulders."

I never received a reply back, but when I saw the senior director in the distance a couple of days later, they saw me, smiled and nodded.

When the CTP API closes tonight, it will still exist at its endpoint, but whenever it is accessed it will respond:
StatusCode: 999
StatusInfo: "Please see http://www.techfortesco.com/forum for news of the next version of the Tesco API. Everything that has a beginning has an end. Let me sleep."

1 comment:

  1. After wrestling with the new Tesco.com grocery shopping software for an age, trying to find a way to print or copy my shopping basket content to a doc file, I telephoned the helpline only to be told I couldn't - and the helpline operative loathed the new system as much as I'm beginning to. She advised me to search for "techfortesco nick lansley" and leave a message to tell him how I feel about the new system.

    It's not bad enough that it's deliberately designed to prevent customers from easily keeping their own record of the prices and offers they've agreed (so that when the odd 2 for 1 or half price offer isn't reflected in the invoice that comes with the delivery, we have some proof of what we actually agreed to pay and that it was ordered for delivery in the time window of the offer) - it's also hideously slow - and a load of things that are still stocked, have disappeared from my "favourites" list.

    My first shop using the new system was a nightmare and took so long that a warning message popped up to tell me that I was about to lose the delivery slot I'd reserved TWO HOURS ago, when I started.

    In the end, I had to copy each item on offer that I selected, individually, and paste it into a document file. It would have been a heck of a lot quicker to go to town and get the shopping myself.

    It's very sad. The old system worked well. I'm going to miss it. The new one is an absolute stinker!


As this blog grows in readership - and because it carries the Tesco brand - I have had to become more careful about the sort of comments that are acceptable. The good news is that I'm a champion of free speech so please be as praising or as critical as you wish! The only comments I DON'T allow through are:

1. Comments which criticise an individual other than myself, or are critical of an organisation other than Tesco. This is simply because they cannot defend themselves so is unfair and possibly libellous. Comments about some aspect of Tesco being better/worse than another equivalent organisation are allowed as long as you start by saying "in my personal opinion.." or "I think that...". ... followed by a "...because.." and some reasoned argument.

2. Comments which are totally unrelated to the context of the original article. If I have written about a mobile app and you start complaining about the price of potatoes then your comment isn't going stay for long!

3. Advertising / web links / spam.

4. Insulting / obscene messages.

Ok, rules done - now it's your go: