“What?” you ask, “How can Business lead API and service design, when most folks in Business don’t even know that you are building APIs and services?” True, yet this conundrum reflects the central challenge for most IT organizations, which often struggle to align technology investment with business strategy. The solution lies through significant organizational realignment, placing key business stakeholders at the center of your efforts to build your digital business.
All firms today are digital businesses. Really! Even when the business centers on delivering physical products, experiences, or services to its customers, no business today can succeed without engaging its customers to deliver maximum value through all relevant digital touchpoints, and by embedding digital experiences in product experiences. The most accessible example of this today is the rapid evolution of the auto industry into the digital realm, amply on display at CES 2014.
Succeeding as a digital business requires new business competencies, such as evolving your approach to product design and lifecycle management to reflect the much more rapid and iterative nature of delivering the software that lies inside or underneath those digital experiences. Getting this wrong can have painful consequences – consider the recent software update Nest pushed to its innovative thermostats, which some customers assert caused their heating to fail and pipes to freeze during the Polar Vortex cold snap of 2014 (Nest has since been acquired by Google).
So it’s only natural that as product owners take ownership of the digital aspects of their products, they must extend their business strategy to include their digital business, and then extend their product strategy to include their products’ digital experience. For banks, telecommunications firms, and others that are already well down this road (since their products have been primarily digital for years), this organizational transformation is already well under way. But now it’s time to recognize that it must become the way of doing business for all firms, but with the trend playing out at widely varying rates in different industries.
This means that your firm must:
- Deliver your capabilities as APIs and services. Whatever the source of these capabilities (off-the-shelf applications, custom code, or partner services), you must expose them to your customers and partners through applications and the APIs those applications require.
- Manage your digital business. This ranges from devising the right approaches to monetizing these services, to managing their lifecycle, to marketing and selling your services, to building a partner ecosystem.
- Integrate your digital and physical businesses. Firms that excel at delivering physical products that embed digital experiences understand that the teams that deliver, sell, and service these products must be as integrated as you want the experience to be for your customers. Allowing hardware engineering to remain separate from software engineering leads to product disasters – and possibly very cold (and unhappy) customers.
- Understand your digital business outcomes. Many firms that excel at producing sophisticated analytics about customers’ use of physical products are not accomplished at developing similar insights into the digital realm. The good news is that digital products are brimming over with data – you just need to learn how to analyze it, and to incorporate those insights into a rapid feedback loop that governs business execution.
This is why DigitalML asserts that you must have a business-led approach to managing the design and lifecycle of your APIs and services. These are your digital business, your digital products – and they have become the critical levers your business leaders must learn how to operate if your digital business is to succeed.
What does this mean for you? It means that business leaders must make all the crucial decisions about which capabilities are the most important to deliver through APIs and services, which customers and partners they target, and what customer outcomes they should drive. Business leaders must also stay intimately engaged throughout the development and delivery process, working with developers and architects to ensure that what these teams deliver actually fulfills and embodies their strategy for the digital business.
This requires a collaborative environment that engages all these stakeholders, each from their own role-based perspective, to drive toward the right outcomes – an environment like the ignite Service Design Platform.