Why expanding integration is the key to driving digital success

Profile picture for user pcrerand By Paul Crerand December 18, 2020 Audio mode
Empower your user integrators for a more connected experience, says MuleSoft's Paul Crerand.


Digital-first is the new reality many global organizations find themselves in today. Due to the unprecedented pressures placed upon them by the pandemic, they’re being forced to find fresh ways to streamline internal processes and deliver new digital experiences to customers.

Unfortunately, just over a third of organizations currently believe they have the skills and technology to keep pace with such projects. This is particularly frustrating given that a new generation of citizen integrators is fast-emerging, capable of unlocking and integrating data to drive innovation-fuelled growth. These citizen integrators are everyday line of business (LoB) users – marketers, salespeople, finance administrators – who rely on data and integration to effectively do their jobs.

The key to delivering critical, time-sensitive projects and innovation at scale, while making products and services more connected than ever, is to empower these users. That will require a new operating model to enable businesses to go faster, plus easy-to-use, self-service tools to overcome integration issues and unlock value.

COVID-19 drives digital

The pace of digital innovation during the pandemic has been astonishing. Organisations that used to talk about digital strategy in one to three-year phases must now scale up in just days or weeks, according to McKinsey. According to MuleSoft’s ‘The state of business and IT innovation’ report the number of digital projects in the UK alone has increased by 21% during the pandemic.

At the centre of these projects is data. The vast majority (82%) of LoB users agree that access to data is vital for employees to do their jobs effectively. Unfortunately, too often it’s spread out across the organisation in siloed applications, and manual integrations slow down the pace of change. COVID-19 has shone an uncompromising light on these challenges. LoB respondents cite a lack of connectivity between IT systems, apps, and data and an over-reliance on the IT team as significant barriers to innovation.

Breaking down internal barriers for a more connected experience

The majority (68%) of LoB users say that IT and LoB should collaborate to drive innovation. However, for many organizations this is easier said than done. When IT is operational tasks rather than innovation-focused ones, it can be a bottleneck for digital transformation. The speed at which it can deliver the latter is a constant source of frustration to line of business users.

Integration is often at the heart of these frustrations. Over half (54%) of line of business users say they are frustrated by how challenging it can be to stitch together disparate IT systems, applications, and data to drive new business value. Even more agree that a lack of data connectivity can hamper business growth and the customer experience, and impact automation initiatives that are increasingly important to streamlining business processes.

A more flexible approach

API-led connectivity is one of the most effective solutions to these challenges; helping to democratise integration and innovation to business users via “clicks, not code” tooling. In fact, an overwhelming majority (80%) of LoB users agreed that if data and IT capabilities were discoverable and available in pre-packaged building blocks, they could deliver digital projects more quickly.

But this approach can only work as part of a broader shift to a new operating model, which includes the creation of a Centre for Enablement (C4E), which brings IT and business divisions together. The focus for this centre is to productise, publish, and harvest reusable assets and best practices to encourage self-service and drive time-to-value. At the same time, this model can ensure greater compliance, governance, and security. Through following API development best practices and standards organisations can build the required security and assurance into processes every step of the way, to drive faster but also safer innovation.

Whether it’s a new online self-service portal or an innovative customer-facing mobile application, these are the true outputs that matter. The tools you use, while important, are a means to an end. As organizations finally emerge from the shadow of the pandemic next year, those able to empower their citizen integrators to unlock and integrate data – no matter where it resides – will be in the driving seat.