Cambridge Assessment: Earning Top Marks in Delivering Business Value
Cambridge Assessment has been around for over 160 years, so we’re definitely not what you’d call a “digital native.” But like many organizations today, we’re on a digital transformation journey, and APIs are playing an important role.
We’re a wholly owned organization within the U.K.’s famed University of Cambridge. We operate three exam boards that provide assessment services to leading academic and government customers in more than 200 countries. Every year, we serve millions of people.
Our assessments are used for everything from visa to university applications and, as you might imagine, our services are of enormous importance to people at pivotal points in their lives. The results of the assessments they take, whether it’s to qualify for a job, temporary residence in another country, or acceptance in a university, can determine their future.
A platform for accelerating business
The nature of assessments is constantly evolving around the globe, and transitioning from paper to digital (though a lot of tests are still completed on paper). Consequently, the materials used for assessments is changing as well, to include more digital, audio, and video. From an IT perspective, we have to manage a growing body of digital information.
How could we be more efficient, better serve our customers, and open up new revenue streams? APIs are a core part of our answer. We’d been using APIs for more than nine years to share information with partners. But now we understand the full potential of APIs to benefit our partners as well as our own organization.
An on-premises platform with powerful management tools
Our initial implementation is on-premise, allowing us to take advantage of the Cambridge University Tier 3 data centers. In addition, we wanted a platform that offered powerful management tools, faster development, and the ability to more securely provide customers with access to our APIs. The Apigee platform performs exceptionally on these and other tests.
One of the first things we did with Apigee was build APIs to enable employee data access from one of our apps. We were able to build those APIs in one month, saving us £50,000 by reducing development time by about three months.
Building a chatbot from conversational APIs
Since then, we’ve put six APIs in production from the Apigee platform, with more in development. For example, we have a new headquarters building, The Triangle, where we’re consolidating staff from 11 offices around the city. We used conversational APIs on the Apigee platform to build chatbots that allow employees to easily find and book meeting rooms in our new headquarters using an app. For us, that’s exciting.
Additionally, with Apigee we created an internal API development portal to accelerate information sharing among our users. The ability to quickly turn on an internal API that allows parts of applications to access data is something that would have taken as long as six months to accomplish in the past.
Gracefully handling sudden peaks
For us, a key requirement in an API platform is the ability to gracefully handle sudden, enormous peaks in people accessing our services. When we release assessment results for universities, there may be a sudden surge of 200,000 candidates, all wanting to access the test results portal. The demand may only last for several hours, and then it dies down for another few months. Apigee handles this surge with ease.
To be sure, Cambridge Assessment is on a transformational journey. And transformations like this don’t occur at the speed of light. And yet, the Apigee API platform has already sped up the delivery of value to our business in many ways—and we’re just getting started.
Sam Patient is head of integration and API services at Cambridge Assessment