Connectivity driving workplace transformation

MuleSoft

By Will Bosma, VP Asia Pacific, MuleSoft
Wednesday, 28 October, 2015


Connectivity driving workplace transformation

Faced with tough market conditions and unprecedented rates of change, growing numbers of businesses are embarking on projects designed to fundamentally transform the way they operate.

Motivational factors vary: from the need to improve customer experiences and optimise internal processes, to a desire for a complete change in business model. The catalyst for this could be a shift in demand for products or services or the appearance of a new competitor.

In these cases, maintaining a ‘business as usual’ approach is no longer an option.

At the heart of any transformation process is technology. With an increasing proportion of business activity now conducted digitally, ensuring the IT infrastructure and systems that are in place can support large-scale change is critical.

The challenge of connectivity

For the vast majority of businesses, totally replacing existing IT infrastructure is not an option. Constructed over a period of years, it usually comprises a range of different elements and represents a significant investment in both time and capital.

Often, disparate systems underpin different activities. In one part of the business, there might be servers running core customer relationship management (CRM) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications. In another, a different system might support a warehouse management application while another drives sales and marketing activities.

It can be difficult to ensure this range of different platforms and applications is able to properly support an overarching transformation program. Making changes or replacements in one area could have unplanned and costly negative impacts in another.

For this reason, many organisations opt to instead focus on the way their systems and applications are connected together. By having a thorough understanding of the interdependencies between systems, potential problems can be minimised or avoided altogether.

The challenge of connectivity for businesses has changed significantly during the past few years. Traditionally, it involved connecting core applications using middleware and keeping everything housed in a corporate data centre.

However, the rise of cloud computing has changed things dramatically. Now many businesses rely on a mix of in-house systems and externally provided applications and capacity. This has made the task of managing IT during a program of transformation even more challenging.

Taking a bimodal approach

As a result of the rising complexity within their IT infrastructures, growing numbers of businesses are adopting a new approach to their management and evolution. Dubbed ‘bimodal IT,’ it is helping them make the changes required while avoiding potential disruptions.

Bimodal IT has two key components. The first deals with traditional integration, where many organisations have already done a decent job of unlocking value between the applications within their data centre.

The second, called ‘Rapid IT’, deals with the best way to connect and orchestrate data so that it can provide more value as part of the transformation process. From a customer perspective, this could take the form of improved ways to interact with the business. For partners and suppliers, it might involve better integration with and access to back-end systems.

For employees, Rapid IT could result in new applications that support workflows and improve productivity. This could be delivered using a mix of in-house and cloud-based services.

Sitting at the heart of these approaches are application programming interfaces (APIs). They enable applications to be linked together in ways that add value without the risk of disruption.

For example, perhaps a business wants to equip its sales team with a new app that accesses an important customer database. The salespeople will want the app to keep improving; however, the IT team will want to protect the database.

The traditional approach would have been to have the IT team approve each new version of the app before release to ensure it doesn’t damage the database in any way. Under a bimodal approach, an API is created that gives developers just the database access they need and no more. They can then experiment with the app without it having any impact on the database.

Enabling real business benefits

Taking such an approach to IT during a transformation project can deliver significant benefits. Rather than being constrained by technology, management can focus on the required business changes.

The usage of APIs within an organisation can allow different business units to gain access to data and digital resources without having to go through a central IT department. With APIs enabling the business to ‘self serve’, initiatives can be adopted much more quickly and with significantly lower risk.

At the same time, armed with APIs, the IT department can manage interactions between legacy IT systems and the newer, fast-changing front-end applications such as mobile apps and analytics.

Overall, the transformation project will be completed much more quickly and processes and productivity improved. As a result, the business will be well positioned to gain a competitive advantage in a rapidly changing market.

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