How integrations are enabling digital transformation

Digital transformation through the use of APIs, iPaaS, DevOps and KPIs

13Aug

Technology is one of the components of digital transformation. A modern technology stack, complete with all the bells-and-whistles, doesn’t lead to a successful transformation alone. Technology is one of the four key principles that drive the digital transformation, the other three are strategy, leadership and culture. Even though technology is the enabler that helps in digital transformation, strategy is the key driver. “customer-focused” approach is central to digital and the journey should always begin with the end customer needs in mind.

Bill Schmarzo, CTO of Dell EMC Services, offered an excellent definition for digital transformation:

“The coupling of granular, real-time data (e.g., smartphones, connected devices, smart appliances, wearables, mobile commerce, video surveillance) with modern technologies (e.g., cloud-native apps, big data architectures, hyper-converged technologies, artificial intelligence, blockchain) to enhance products, processes, and business-decision-making with customer, product and operational insights.”

Customer attraction, customer experience and customer retention all necessitate a simplified web user experience. From the customer’s viewpoint, even though your web portal is the single façade of the business, there is a significant amount of complexity and automation that happens in the background. The front-end portal interacts with several back-end applications in an enterprise in order to offer a single, consolidated view to the customer. There must be a consistent and effortless user experience even though the “data” and “actions” are associated with several downstream applications.

Integration is fundamental for digital strategy. As “digital transformation” predominantly shifts the focus toward cloud, mobile, social and analytics, it is the role of the “integration platform” to establish consistent connectivity to the entire hybrid applications portfolio, with agility and speed.

The following are the key aspects of “integration platform” for digital transformation strategy:

Application programming interfaces (APIs)

APIs are the crucial components that offer agility and speed required for digital transformation. Reusable APIs typically speeds up the delivery of digital projects. A well-built API, with specific functionality and appropriate granularity, can be “reused significantly” with defined scalability and performance considerations. APIs “abstract” the essential complexities associated with integrating heterogeneous applications. They provide a standardized and uninformed way of managing hybrid IT environment that consists of recent cloud technologies and legacy on-premise infrastructure. As mentioned in the Gartner report, APIs delivers the demands of digital strategy to support bimodal IT, where the legacy business operations and modern innovative solutions are simultaneously addressed.

The API-based strategy paves the way to Microservices architecture that breaks the traditional monolithic applications into fine-grained services offering greater agility, easier adaptability and faster deployment.

A well-built API is only as good as it is discoverable, accessible, and comprehensible. Hence, a well-built and well-managed APIs are pre-requisites to an API-based strategy. API Gateway and API Management are essential building blocks. They provide a single entry point and performs functions such as management, security, authentication, throttling, caching etc.

It is essential to consider that the whole API-led Architecture must be designed based on overall digital strategy and enterprise-wide adoption, but should not be viewed just as an isolated silo or point-to-point integration.


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Data integrations

Data is often distributed in silos among multiple applications in the enterprise. This data must be acquired and aggregated to derive “meaningful” information to participate in the overall business process flow.

The key to successful digital transformation project requires a pervasive or non-invasive integration approach. The integration platform should establish seamless connectivity to any end-point that utilizes any protocol or technology - be it cloud, on-premise, mobile or IoT. It should also establish connectivity to newer cloud solutions as soon as they are available, for faster innovation.

Building “self-service” integrations is another key factor for faster delivery as it reduces the dependency of dedicated IT resources for development and opens the platform for citizen developers. The integration platform should also address data quality, filtering, masking and security requirements in accordance with compliance and governance, rather than just moving the data. The ideal state for integrations is to provide a unified platform across the enterprise for all the data services, leveraging traditional on-premise tools and newer iPaaS products.

Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD)

The integration solutions must be deployed faster to foster rapid experimentation and innovation. The build process should be automated and streamlined. A matured build tool can perform many more functions rather than just deployments. There are several aspects of the build process that can be automated: deployments, code-reviews, review code complexities, verify naming conventions, validate obsolete libraries etc.

Many build and automation tools are used in conjunction to streamline the build process. Unit testing of code artifacts whenever the code is deployed or committed to source version system will always ensure a well-maintained deployment-ready code. The deployment process to environments such as system-integration, user acceptance testing (UAT) and finally production is automated.

DevOps is a pre-requisite for a successful digital transformation project.

KPIs and metrics

The Integration platform should provide a unified and controlled view to the data and operations that it manages across different applications: legacy on-premise or modern cloud applications. This enables us to properly govern the integration assets and introduce services to new partners and businesses for new monetary opportunities. KPIs are an important measure of success for Integration Platform’s contribution to Digital Transformation.

KPIs should align with the overall objectives of the digital strategy, and not just the technology-level or integration-level metrics. The KPIs are normally formulated when the business strategy is established. A good KPI should provide actionable intelligence to make smarter choices, and should quantify a specific goal of digital transformation, for data-driven decision-making.

Conclusion

As a conclusion, Integrations plays a significant role in digital transformation. It is imperative to have a solid integration platform with best practices in place. The integration platform through APIs, data integrations and DevOps improves speed and agility necessary for transformation. The organizational objectives and key opportunities are measured through KPIs in making smart decisions.

Sources

The author would like to thank Nikhil Padhi, Sr. Solution Architect, for his insightful comments.

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