IT’s new role - the business catalyst

Profile picture for user pcrerand By Paul Crerand March 25, 2019
If IT can build a flexible foundation, it can change the way that organisations win, says MuleSoft's Paul Crerand.

It’s no secret that most organisations today are investing in digital transformation. From improving customer experience to increasing operational efficiency, the goals are clear.

However, integration challenges are stalling digital transformation initiatives for a majority of organisations. According to recent research, close to half of respondents report more than 1,000 applications are being used across their business, but only 29 percent are currently integrated together, trapping valuable data in silos.

Adding more fuel to the fire, business demands on IT are only increasing. IT leaders are anticipating project volumes to grow by 32 percent this year while budgets remain relatively flat. What’s more, nine in ten IT leaders predict business revenue will be negatively impacted if digital transformation projects aren’t successfully completed.

IT is under an unprecedented amount of pressure to deliver more, faster. It’s widening the IT delivery gap—what the business expects of IT and what IT can actually deliver. To keep up with project demands and ultimately lay the foundation for continuous change, IT needs to transform from a tactical function to a business catalyst.

Overcoming integration challenges

As organisations race to digitally transform, they are looking for solutions that can help them understand their customers better, provide differentiated experiences across channels, and operate more efficiently in real-time. As a result, lines of business are increasingly investing in emergent technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data. However, it’s difficult to integrate new technology into organisations that still rely heavily on legacy systems and infrastructure—the most frequently reported challenge to digital transformation.

To drive greater value for the business, IT needs to eliminate data silos by seamlessly integrating all applications, data and devices—regardless of what decade they were built in. If successful, IT will empower lines of business to quickly extract data-driven insights that can help drive innovation, differentiated customer experiences and entirely new revenue channels. IT has a major opportunity to set businesses up for lasting success and are increasingly turning to API strategies to help.

Supercharging the business one API at a time

If lines of business continue to rely on central IT for every project, organisations will fall far behind competitors and fast-moving startups. Instead, lines of business need to view IT as a strategic business partner that empowers them to self serve and drive innovation forward. For this vision to become a reality, IT needs to implement API strategies that package up existing data and capabilities as discoverable and reusable assets. By creating reusable assets, IT enables the wider business to increase overall delivery speed and capacity.

This approach worked well for global communications satellite company SES. Looking to transition from a wholesale infrastructure provider to an end-to-end service provider for customers, SES built reusable APIs that exposed key applications, systems and data sources. From there, SES’ IT team built a global library of reusable components, reducing the burden on IT to deliver every project from scratch. As a result, SES was able to improve the customer experience by offering a unified customer portal that shares insights on satellite traffic patterns and more.

In addition, global athletic footwear and apparel company ASICS sought to unify seven global brands onto one eCommerce platform and, thereby, create a more consistent customer experience. To achieve this goal, ASICS built reusable APIs plugged into its application network to allow its new platform to access customer information, order status, real-time inventory and pricing—all data previously held in silos. As a result, ASICS was able to reduce development time by reusing components.

For organisations to succeed at digital transformation, an API strategy is critical. From unlocking valuable data to speeding up development time, APIs are hidden heroes in today’s digital world. Organisations experimenting with APIs are already finding success. For example, the average revenue gain attributed to API adoption is 25 percent. When treated as discoverable and reusable products that live beyond one project, APIs help lay a flexible foundation for continuous change.

Building for change

Digital transformation, which started as an IT initiative, has evolved into a business-wide charge. As a result, IT is proving to be a critical business partner responsible for creating an application network that integrates every application, data source and device via APIs. If IT builds this flexible foundation, it has the power to change the way organisations win.