Toast Achieves an Improvement to Developer Productivity of 95 Minutes per Week for Engineers Using Postman

Postmanaut working with Toast A P I. Illustration.

About

A passion for great food and creating memorable experiences are the drivers for many restaurateurs. And while successful restaurants usually grow into robust businesses, necessities such as payroll, marketing, and taking payments require an entirely different kind of expertise.

For restaurants of all sizes, Toast provides a single platform of software as a service (SaaS) products and financial technology solutions that give restaurants everything they need to run their business, including point of sale, payments, supplier management, digital ordering and delivery, marketing and loyalty, and team management. Delivering such a core part of so many restaurant businesses requires engineering processes that center on code quality, ease of onboarding, and agility. Just as Toast is crucial to the businesses of its customers, Postman is a key tool used by the Engineering team for the delivery of high quality software to restaurants and partners.

Results

95 minutes saved per engineer using Postman each week

70% of engineers report that Postman reduces duplicate work

Faster onboarding of internal and partner developers


The Challenge

For Toast's globally distributed software development teams, meeting the company's mission of “helping restaurants delight guests, do what they love, and thrive” means ensuring high engineering quality standards while remaining agile to respond to rapidly evolving customer needs.

Having experienced strong growth over the preceding years, some engineering teams began to experience the limitations of the tooling and processes that had served the company well previously. In response, the company's engineering leadership set about transitioning to a microservices architecture. While that enabled greater autonomy for individual teams, it also exposed further opportunities for improvement.

As the number of microservices grew, it became harder for Toast's engineers to discover what other teams had already built. This led to duplication of effort, as teams would inadvertently implement functionality that already existed. Lack of documentation as well as differing standards and tooling meant that learning an API often required working backwards from the microservice's source code.

Before Postman, learning a new API meant losing time to reading the code. Now, we can get up to speed very quickly using the Postman Collections.

Jason Fagerberg, Software Engineer, Toast

Similarly, onboarding a new partner was a laborious and lengthy process. Members of Toast's Developer Relations team would teach partner developers in one-on-one training sessions, as the distributed nature of Toast's engineering team led to inconsistent documentation and standards even in the company's external APIs.

For Toast's QA engineers, the lack of consistent tooling and communication methods impacted their ability to maintain the high quality standards demanded by such crucial infrastructure. One particular issue was that testing changes in a microservice required running the entire application. Rather than being able to interact directly with a microservice, QA engineers would have to infer outcomes by interacting with the app's UI.

Then in early 2020, along with the entire hospitality sector, Toast faced its greatest challenge yet. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the restaurant business fundamentally. Deliveries and take-out became the only available income stream in a world of lockdowns and social distancing. For Toast, that meant the need for fast product responses, as API integrations with ordering and delivery partners became crucial to the future of their restaurant customers.


The Solution

To meet these challenges, Toast's engineering leadership chose to focus on a tool that would improve cross-team collaboration, make it easier for developers to onboard with APIs, and provide the infrastructure for robust quality assurance.

The engineering team was already using Postman, which made Postman the natural choice. Thirty six of Toast's engineering teams created their own workspace and, in turn, each team built a Collection for each of their services. Today, Postman acts as a source of API truth for engineering teams throughout Toast's engineering organization. This has made significant, measurable improvements to the company's ability to deliver high quality software that anticipates changing customer needs.

Specially, both internal and external APIs are easily discoverable by any engineer wherever they are in the company. 70% of engineers using Postman say this project reduced duplicate work, as engineers are no longer recreating functionality that already exists.

Similarly, Postman has improved how Toast handles developer onboarding. Rather than needing to read an API's source code, Toast engineers instead can experiment with the API's Collection in Postman. This not only cuts the time to productivity but it also reduces the cognitive burden of context switching from one codebase to another.

Onboarding partner engineers requires less manual hand-holding, as partners can learn the APIs they need through the appropriate Postman Collections. Almost 60% of the Toast engineering team reports that onboarding new hires is now much faster thanks to Postman.

By exposing individual API endpoints without the need to run the full application, Postman provides a lightweight environment for Toast's QA engineers to test precisely each part of an API rather than inferring outcomes based on the UI. This enables them to catch edge cases more easily and put APIs under greater pressure to find potential weaknesses.

A major boost for the R&D team's operational efficiency has been Postman's pre-request and post-request scripts. These allow engineers to set up the environment within which requests run, as well as taking the output from one request and automatically passing it to the next one, thereby allowing the team to chain requests automatically.


The Outcome

Standardizing Postman workspace setup has enabled the Toast engineering organization to improve developer productivity by 95 minutes per week for engineers using Postman. That's almost ten working days per engineer each year.

Postman's impact on how we build software at Toast has been huge. Not only has it saved time; it has enabled a massively distributed group of people to act as one team.

Liz Jackson, Developer Relations Team Lead, Toast

Improving cross-team collaboration, encouraging standardization across APIs, easing onboarding, and supercharging the QA process has enabled Toast's engineering team to deliver higher quality code faster.

During normal times this would be an enormous win for any organization. For a company serving the hospitality industry in the middle of a pandemic, it has made a vital difference. Toast's ability to respond to the changing needs induced by COVID-19 was greatly enhanced by Postman. Specifically, Toast has enabled thousands of restaurants to adopt pandemic friendly operations, such as delivery, remote ordering, and QR-code based menus.

By enabling the Toast team to adopt more agile engineering processes, Postman has made a real world impact both on Toast's business and on the livelihoods of restaurant owners across the United States.

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