APIs, microservices, applications, services — call them what you will, but you better be calling them. The API economy has arrived, and businesses everywhere are racing to get up to speed, to get digital, join the conversation, and make those conversions.
So what’s causing the digital stampede? We’re seeing 3 drivers behind the big business push towards microservices adoption: IT Modernization, Digital Transformation, and Growth & Expansion. We’ll explore these three drivers and their differences. We’ll cover their specific pain points, best practices to address the challenges, and of course we’ll plug in a few of our own solutions along the way. And lastly, we’ll touch on that question in the back of all of our minds: Is everyone running in the right direction?
What’s the Venn difference?
IT Modernization is all about updating old IT systems. Or is it about — modernizing legacy applications? Getting to the cloud? Exposing what you’ve built for reuse? We think all of the above and more. Choosing design-time governance that spans the full API lifecycle will help enormously here, more on that later. In contrast, Digital Transformation efforts are concerned with doing digital business. A retailer making core business functions available across channels, for instance. Turning a physical product into a digital experience and owning a key part of a new marketplace, where third parties are able to innovate on top of your capabilities — now you’re working with the API economy. The big idea behind this driver is to unlock what made you a Fortune company in the first place and adopt a new model that brings your disparate technologies together. So you can be there for the full customer experience, gain insight into future opportunities, and thereby obtain a clear roadmap amidst the flurry of new activity/sales/rich data that is digital.
Where do these two drivers align? Both are on the hook for finding opportunities, leveraging expertise and experience to adopt, standardize, and eventually consolidate new technologies. Both rely on fantastic architecture for flexibility, responsiveness, and speed — speed with built-in governance that will decrease plan/design/build/runtime bottlenecks for the company, and ultimately help with cost containment (“The cruel truth of capitalism is each firm has a finite capital” https://www.l2inc.com/no-mercy-no-malice/shark-repellant-fighting-amazon ). Both will want to find a model that stands on tech-agnostic SaaS, bets big on data and design (rather than implementation), and prepares you for whatever the future brings (you’re not the only company sitting on tons of ‘enterprise’ SOAP services you wish you could turn into REST APIs, trust us.) Lastly, in both instances businesses and their teams will need to push for change against a stream of resistance and limited bandwidth.
If the first two drivers are the sails of the sloop, the third is the propeller. In our 3rd category, Growth & Acquisition, the drive is not so much integration — perhaps a business already has up-to-date IT systems, or is already set up to do business in digital, but they simply want to go faster. For this category, the need is innovation and disruption, the goal; to build fast and scale out. The overlap is where IT Modernization and Digital Transformation intersect with growing pains. While there are certainly more drivers out there — and please, feel free to let us know if you think we’re missing something — these are the 3 key categories we’re seeing in the field.
1. IT Modernization
Life is hard for a modern day IT manager. Technology is changing at a rapid pace. It takes serious gusto to trust your gut on which technology to adopt, take charge of the ship, and set everything in the right direction. Along the way, you’re dealing with compliance from legal, cost containment pressures from business, and better leverage of data for your own good. Meanwhile, in a large enterprise, you’re suffering from a lack of flexibility and scalability due to rigid legacy architecture. I’m getting stressed out just writing about it.
So let’s consider this driver the mainsail (we’re rolling with the sailboat metaphor.) You have to be steady, go with the flow of customer demand (starring: The Wind), and meanwhile, you’ve got holes in the sail, like undocumented code, the inability to refactor old code, and the lack of capacity/knowhow to keep up with emerging technologies. What’s the model for you?
Model Must-Haves for IT Modernization
A. Tech-Agnostic systems
Getting to the cloud does help, but it’s not all about floating. You need to have the technology to navigate what comes, to be flexible. Adopt a model that provides you with a promise to integrate with the technologies of the future, and you have eliminated your need to worry about what comes next.
B. Design-time governance
The cloud will likely help you hit the speed contract in those SLAs, but is it going to keep undocumented code from happening, the kind that causes bottlenecks that slow your overall speed to market? Go for a model with design-time governance, where mistakes are cheaper to fix.
C. Find a model with reuse
Maybe duplication is slowing you down too, causing applications to drag behind on SLAs, and you know you want to switch to a canonical model that speaks the language of the business to allow for future IoT/VR/AI/AR initiatives. Carving your resources down to reusable decoupled building blocks is the only way to go.
2. Digital Transformation
Our second driver, digital transformation, is like the jib sail. Business leads the way for these initiatives, and so they tend to have more flexibility, budget, and direction, as they are closer to business than initiatives in the technology silo. What do pain points behind this driver look like? Lack of resources for innovation and new technology adoption, unclear roadmaps due to rapid advances (there’s quite a current, but it’s hard to navigate on a cloudy night), keeping up with inventory and compliance in the digital space, and obtaining seamless omnichannel messaging across all lines and experiences.
Model Must-Haves for Digital Transformation
A. Get a model with a view
Remember when we mentioned the powerful high-level view of your portfolio? It’s crucial when you’re pumping out products to know what you have, what you don’t, and what you need next. Establishing a proper glossary and information model, and classifying your services correctly in the Plan and Design stage allow for incredibly rich data down the road. We’re seeing 400-2,000 microservices that span across 20 domains. In every industry.
B. Go full dashboard
It’s imperative when you’re in rapid-launch mode for business to be able to see what’s working well and what’s broken so you can fix it before the hurdles hurt your sales. Go for a planned portfolio strategy that provides a holistic view across your business, service, and stakeholders systems, one that can report back on planned vs. actual performance and align to ownership and funding. Set KPIs early on to provide those much-needed insights that make the roadmap clear. Say it with us, “But does it have a dashboard?”
C. Reuse is Imperative to Omnichannel Initiatives
Lastly, if your goal is a seamless experience at scale, you need to make your internal and external experiences available and ensure they’re under control. This might mean ensuring your APIs are built in the language of the business, it might mean getting multiple lines of business sharing the same capabilities, and it definitely means planning your portfolio to ensure you deliver the right experiences at the right time. These complexities can be aided by the help of microservices built on a good reuse strategy. Some SaaS platforms (ahem…) even let you bring in what you’ve already built so that you can carve down to what you need in your new model. After all, you spent time and money building it — why should you have to throw it away?
3. Growth & Expansion
Our last big business driver for API integration is growth and expansion. While all of our drivers certainly overlap in some areas, one area that fits purely in this category is the simple need to pump out new products in a jiffy — to be able to innovate fast, and to reuse what you have built rapidly when needed.
Model Must-Haves for Growth & Expansion
A. Task Automation
If growth is your initiative, you want to be ready for the strain on bandwidth — it’s hard to keep up with what the business wants when 80% of your effort is on maintenance and 20% is for new functionality. The only way to do that is through automation and frictionless lifecycles. Time to market has to keep getting faster and cheaper, and you can reduce these costs by 10x with the right platform that automates, reuses, and removes bottlenecks early — think: well-designed specifications, standardized building blocks, and click-of-a-button APIs.
B. Affordable Innovation
Innovation doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t have to rent out a think tank lab in Silicon Valley just to play mix and match with your assets — wouldn’t a search & discover portfolio be more than sufficient to get the gears spinning? One that facilitates self-service business development that both, IT and business can use? You already know you have brilliant minds on your team. Why not give them a few tools and a holistic view of what’s under the hood to see what they can come up with themselves? After all, your devs are going to have tons of free time after you tackle the previous challenge of task automation. Don’t settle for anything less than a fully-searchable catalog of your entire repository of resources, with views spanning from domain to your own customizable classification; third-party APIs and digital products, right to their atomic capabilities.
C. An API Portfolio is your Ticket to Scale
Getting your assets down to their atomic decoupled units is key for quick building and well-governed reuse. Find a model that allows you to import your existing assets, breaks them into their units, and stores your microservices in an easily searchable portfolio. Until you get there, you haven’t given your company the chance to explore its potential in the pure digital state.
Are You Running in the Right Direction?
Many businesses are rushing to digital. Some race to get to the cloud, they believe everything is going to be okay when they get there. (It’s easy to plug into 3rd party APIs when your data’s flying faster than the speed of light, right?) Others, whose models require the security/backup of local servers, aim for a cloud-hybrid solution — they know that true digital arrival begins when each of your business functionalities are exposed and available to use in a moment’s notice. But we believe the best of the best take it one rung higher, turning those exposed functions into decoupled building blocks ready to go in a searchable portfolio of resources; organized by domain and perfectly aligned to one information model — only then can you get that powerful high-level view of data-in-motion that sets you on the path to success.
Do you have an API Portfolio? What is your Portfolio goal? We’d love to chat with you. Otherwise, check back soon to take our API Coverage Survey. By contributing to our study, you’ll be among the first to receive our annual Enterprise API Portfolio Reporting stats.