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How to integrate your way to digital transformation success

Ian Fairclough Profile picture for user ifairclough September 12, 2018
Getting integration right is critical to the success of digital transformation programs, explains MuleSoft's Ian Fairclough.

Integration is one of the most strategic initiatives an organisation can invest in today. It is at the heart of differentiated customer experiences, empowering organizations to unlock valuable data across legacy systems, cloud apps and devices to make smarter, faster decisions.

Yet, many organisations still struggle to implement integration strategies that speed up innovation, increase agility and put customers front and center. According to recent research, 80% of IT leaders believe their company will lose revenue within the next 12 months if they don’t complete digital transformation initiatives, and over half (53%) list “systems integration” as a top three IT challenge.

As organisations plan their digital transformation journeys, integration needs to be foundational throughout. With disruptive startups encroaching on every industry, organizations can no longer afford to leave valuable data trapped in disconnected silos, stifling the ability to create a 360-degree customer view.

To understand customers better and innovate faster than competitors, organisations need to implement an API strategy to glean actionable insights across channels—whether on-premises or in the cloud—including wearables, mobile devices and hyper-specialised SaaS applications.

The integration challenge

Integration has been one of the biggest unsolved IT challenges for decades, hindering organisations’ efforts to digitally transform. A key hurdle that many struggle to overcome is enabling new digital technologies and customer-facing services to access data that sits in a multitude of traditional IT systems. It’s particularly difficult for more established businesses running large on-premise legacy technology estates, as data is distributed across the organisation. As a result, these organisations must find a way to modernise their legacy systems, so their data can be exposed internally and easily consumed to drive innovation.

Many organizations are addressing this challenge with point-to-point integration to help build ad hoc bridges between two systems that need to share data. However, the reality is that this approach can create more problems than it solves, as the close dependencies between applications and databases make future changes extremely expensive and time consuming. It creates a barrier to ongoing transformation. It’s incredibly difficult to unpick and reconnect these rigid integrations as new systems and data sources need to plug into and out of one another. That’s why four-in-five IT leaders say point-to-point integration has created one of the “biggest IT headaches ever seen” in their organization.

The role of APIs

The answer lies in taking an API-led approach to connectivity, creating a flexible integration layer between systems and data in the form of an application network. By exposing every service, process or asset as a managed API, organisations can repackage data and apps as reusable assets, overcoming the challenges associated with point-to-point integration.

This enables core IT assets to be easily consumed and innovated on top of by any department—not just central IT—democratising innovation and removing IT bottlenecks. Digital services can therefore be seamlessly composed and recomposed according to the changing market and customer needs.

Organizations can enable integration everywhere with an API strategy, connecting everything from SaaS applications to hybrid cloud platforms to mainframes—ensuring that systems and processes can access crucial data wherever it is needed.

One company driving digital transformation with this approach is Airbus, a global leader in aircraft manufacturing whose planes fly more than 25,000 flights per day. In order to meet this growing demand, Airbus implemented an API strategy and built an application network to rapidly unlock the data in its legacy systems and use the data to rapidly increase aircraft production and improve the efficiency of supply chains, while sustainably decreasing costs.

Ultimately, organizations need to create an agile technology platform that is responsive and able to adapt to support the changing needs of the business. The concept of reuse is key to achieving this agility, turning IT from a project delivery bottleneck into a strategic business partner empowering anyone within the business to drive his or her own innovation.

Having an integration layer is absolutely critical, providing the digital glue that allows IT assets to be easily consumed, reused, recomposed and presented in different ways. This fluidity is what takes the business to a place where it can become truly responsive to the pace of change that is required in today’s digital economy.

For more on how you can leverage integration in a digital transformation strategy, tune into MuleSoft’s keynote at Dreamforce on Wednesday, September 26, at 2 p.m. PT.


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