Digital transformation challenges go far beyond what to run, what to move to the cloud, and what processes to streamline.
Digital transformation is vast, encompassing everything from cloud, integration, AI, data analytics, IoT, customer experience, innovation, and more—and touches all areas of the business. Companies are investing in their digital transformation initiatives for a variety of reasons, including improving operations, increasing the value they deliver to their customers and stakeholders, and/or outpacing their competitors.
It's a major shift involving integrating digital technology into all functions, levels, and processes—as well as cultural, operational and organizational change. The potential benefits are significant, including increased efficiency, accelerated innovation, superior products and experiences, and greater profitability.
Integration is a major component of digital transformation success. Most organizations find that, the further they go into their transformation initiatives, the more that they need to connect and integrate.
Everything as a Service (XaaS), the Internet of Things (IoT), and mobile require seamless integration for you to get the most out of your investment. However, the traditional point-to-point approach to integration won’t work for the rapidly increasing number of endpoints and the constantly changing IT landscape.
By putting a comprehensive integration strategy in place and adopting API-led connectivity, organizations can meet these challenges head-on and accelerate digital transformation success. Let’s explore what this looks like.
The New Digital Landscape
Today, IT leaders are tasked with managing a slew of digital transformation initiatives, from cloud migrations to connected sensors to application modernization. Business users expect IT services on demand, with the ability to log in from anywhere and access necessary data. Customers want real-time information at their fingertips, and business partners want to connect to systems for mutual benefit.
The problem lies in how many systems need to be integrated to share consistent and accurate information and improve the organization's agility. XaaS, IoT, and mobile devices, along with legacy on-premise systems, are all a part of the digital landscape, and not all the endpoints lie within your organization. Even something as ostensibly simple as payments—which once were processed by checks—now use multiple channels like mobile, online, and telephone banking, and must be integrated.
Adding to the complexity is how often systems and the data residing within applications change. Endpoints need to be able to access the data within quickly, no matter how rapidly applications change. Point-to-point connectivity is financially unsustainable, and traditional service oriented architecture (SOA) often is poorly implemented.
However, API-led connectivity provides a more sustainable, flexible and repeatable approach to integrating these disparate systems and endpoints, leveraging existing investments while also unlocking new business opportunities.
Leveraging API-Led Connectivity
API-led connectivity takes the best of SOA principles and builds upon them to connect and expose assets to the appropriate parties. According to our partner Mulesoft, it calls for a distinct building block that includes three main components:
- The interface, which presents the data exposed by the API
- Orchestration, which applies logic to the data
- Connectivity, which provides access to source data from physical systems or external services
These work together to allow parties to access data, binding them by an acceptable use contract and securing and managing access to that data. API-led connectivity is more than an API; it provides orchestration and connectivity that overcomes the problems inherent with point-to-point integration.
When used properly, API-led connectivity allows businesses to leverage IT as a platform. Different lines of business can self-serve and access what they need. IT can better predict and ensure delivery against code changes, avoiding significant impact to the rest of the systems. It also allows for re-use of basic building blocks, saving time and money in managing integrations and developing new APIs, while avoiding delays and duplication of work.
As for IT, an API-led connectivity approach recognizes that a one-size-fits-all strategy works for no one and lets the team address issues in small pieces. It also lets IT operate on separate layers: layering API tiers to allow for different governance of user-facing systems and core ERP systems.
Utilizing Application Networks
Application networks build upon API-led connectivity by connecting applications, data, and devices. The new IT landscape—including mobile, IoT, and XaaS—requires it. These application networks allow different applications to be plugged into the overall IT network, facilitating information exchange. They enable people inside and outside the enterprise to access business data and make it easier to create a useful application, data use case, or API for a particular purpose.
Reuse is critical for application networks to reach their potential. Application networks must enable the re-use of content and components via the connection to the network. APIs allow for this by establishing who has access and how the data flows between endpoints.
Application networks also cater to each endpoint's self-interest, providing the data that meets the needs of the data consumer. Ideally, the application network keeps some data, services, and APIs private while exposing the assets that would benefit the intended users.
To serve the needs of business users, partners, and customers, application networks need to be clearly defined, discoverable to those that will be using it, accessible and flexible enough to accommodate rapidly changing business needs, and scalable enough to introduce applications faster.
With an application network, the central IT organization can govern and manage all of the services, while development teams can leverage them for their specific projects. Those building new products or services across the organization can use these services as they are—or add to them to create new capabilities. They can also publish new building blocks and share them with others, opening the doors to getting more value from them across the organization.
The Impact of API-Led Connectivity and Application Networks
By introducing application networks and API-led connectivity, digital transformation can happen at a faster pace. Organizations can meet their employees, customers, and partners' needs without relying on fragile point-to-point connections or exposing too much data or too many assets.
IT's focus can shift from delivering projects to directing projects—while also ensuring quality, reusability, and security across them. They can focus on more strategic initiatives rather than spending so much time and effort managing integrations or executing an array of disjointed projects. By simplifying and streamlining connectivity with a variety of systems and applications it frees them of the need to secure specific expertise for every project. Projects get completed faster, visibility and control are significantly better, and the organization can move much quicker.
API-led connectivity and applications networks help companies thrive in the face of change. And at a time of unprecedented change and disruption, this is more critical than ever.
Check out the guide below to learn more about how API-led connectivity and application networks can help your company. And as always, feel free to contact us for assistance with your digital transformation initiatives.
About the Author
Lori Angalich is the VP of Marketing at Lightwell. She enjoys exploring new technologies and business models, learning how things work, solving problems, and developing new ideas with others. She has a Bachelor of Science and an MBA in Marketing, and she enjoys applying her knowledge from both each and every day. Lori has a passion for travel, art, wine, music, wildlife (including her two dogs, who are a bit on the "wild side"), and most of all, creating great memories with her family.