How universal API management can drive digital success for the hybrid, distributed enterprise

Meir Amiel Profile picture for user Meir Amiel December 9, 2021
CIOs are increasingly turning to API-led strategies to manage the complexity of digital touchpoints for speed and flexibility. Mulesoft's Meir Amiel shares how organizations can transition into a composable enterprise.

API - Application Programming Interface. Software development tool. Business, modern technology, hybrid internet and networking concept © Den Rise - Shutterstock
(© Den Rise - Shutterstock)

In the past few years, companies have adapted to a new, constantly changing reality. They've had to use data and digital technologies to reimagine their customer, employee, partner, and product experiences. In-person meetings have shifted to virtual calls. The work experience is now hybrid. Retailers have embraced ecommerce and curbside pick-up and delivery. Doctor visits are being replaced by telehealth. For CIOs, they must reimagine strategies to deliver meaningful digital transformations in days rather than years or months.

The new normal of IT complexity

Cloud and digital transformation projects have become table stakes as companies look to build out seamless experiences for customers and employees. Whether it's automating key HR processes or enhancing customer service capabilities on a public-facing e-commerce site, the focus is on relentless cost efficiency, business agility, and user satisfaction.

Yet amidst this upheaval, IT environments are becoming more complex, not less so. Deloitte claims that nearly all (97%) IT managers are planning to distribute workloads across two or more clouds to enhance resilience and meet compliance requirements. Separate research confirms that the overwhelming majority of organizations already have a multi-cloud (92%) and hybrid cloud (82%) strategy. Employees themselves are also distributed on an unprecedented scale. By the end of 2021, over half (51%) of all global knowledge workers are expected to be working remotely, up from 27% in 2019, according to Gartner.

The challenge for CIOs is that this proliferation of digital touchpoints adds a tremendous amount of IT complexity, as it creates data silos, security and governance headaches, and visibility challenges stemming from multiple management tools.

A reusable, repeatable solution

To overcome these challenges, CIOs are increasingly turning to modern integration and API-led connectivity strategies, as Slalom Global MuleSoft Practice Director, Rahul Pahuja. attests to. "We leverage reusable APIs to link data, applications, and systems, to drive integrated end-user experiences in a repeatable, automated fashion," he says. "That approach gives us the speed, scalability, and flexibility we need to meet our customers' most critical business goals, so we can help them to transform faster."

The global consulting firm is not alone. In fact, research shows that 96% of global organizations currently use public or private APIs – up from 80% last year. That's important when you consider that the average company today uses over 900 applications, the majority of which aren't integrated. However, when you start to introduce different cloud platforms and vendors into the hybrid mix, API-led connectivity can introduce complexities of its own. Organizations can struggle to drive the visibility and control they need to build and manage API-led integrations when their cloud service providers limit service development and connectivity to their own infrastructure.

Universality is the glue

To chart a path through this terrain, CIOs will increasingly need a universal platform that allows their teams to manage APIs wherever they are created, whatever standards they're governed by, and whatever gateways they have. This means they'll be able to run and catalogue their APIs anywhere, and enforce policies irrespective of the underlying cloud or on-premises environment. As a result, they'll be able to open up the tried-and-tested benefits of API-led connectivity – accelerating time-to-market for developers, while adding much-needed security and compliance guardrails in the form of centralized governance rules. The platform they use will need to be lightweight and compatible with any architecture or type of application, so digital teams can operationalize their capabilities at scale without adding any friction to development processes.

With universal API management sitting front-and-centre of their strategy, organizations can drive the kind of digital agility that's essential to their competitive advantage in the new post-pandemic era. The ability to integrate data, apps, and systems to drive innovative experiences that customers and employees love will be key to long-term business success. Automation and reusability are also critical components, not only reducing costs and saving developers time, but also empowering teams outside of the IT department – business technologists – to drive their own innovation using low and no-code tools.

Driving digital agility

In turn, these capabilities will enable organizations to transition into a composable enterprise – one made up of reusable building blocks that can be quickly assembled into new digital services, helping to circumvent IT bottlenecks and accelerate time-to-value. One company already doing this to great effect is women's clothing and lifestyle brand Ashley Stewart. The firm upgraded its e-commerce platform to enable it to deliver seamless omnichannel experiences for customers at scale. Universal API management capabilities were key to its success, helping the organization to integrate disparate systems and automate processes across order management, point-of-sale, and other IT systems. Now, Ashley Stewart boasts delivery of IT projects up to three times faster than before.

There are many more firms doing similar things all over the globe to achieve the agility their business and its customers crave. Those unable to unlock value from their APIs in this way may struggle to manage the complexity of an increasingly hybrid and distributed technology ecosystem. Competitive advantage over the digital decade to come will increasingly start with API management.

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