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Heard At The Forum: Design Matters To Enabling APIs And Big Data To Succeed In Large Enterprises

It felt good to be attending digitalML’s fifth annual customer Forum, the Service Design Forum at the beautiful Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago, as digitalML’s Chief Customer Officer. I’ve presented at every other customer Forum in prior years as a Forrester analyst, and now that I’ve joined digitalML, I’m feeling so much more engaged in helping major enterprises succeed than ever before!

How Much Do You Love The Noodle You Made?

I opened the conference with a session titled “Winning The Digital Enterprise Race Demands An Effective Portfolio Of APIs & Services,” which you will soon be able to download from this link, along with other decks from this and prior Forums. We had a lot of fun starting out with this image, to depict the point-to-point mess all large firms struggle with:

Spaghetti Girl

Spaghetti noodles representing point-to-point integration became a “meme” that recurred through other sessions at the Forum. One of the more amusing versions was when one presenter said that “programmers love the noodle they made,” representing the obstacle that status-quo thinking presents to moving to a new approach to integration based on a portfolio of shared APIs and services.

If we only had to worry about old spaghetti, it might be easier to cope, but we’re constantly inventing new forms of “integration pasta” to add to the mess! One thing that distinguishes the fastest-moving large firms in the Digital Enterprise race is that they have been forced by the scale of this problem to effect a major transformation in their approach to delivering services and governing data in motion. These same firms are the ones that have the most compelling business case for ignite.

Key Themes In 2014: Design Matters, And APIs And Big Data Are Hot

The 35 large firms attending our Forum, a mix of customers and prospects, are already pushing the edge of the envelope in their efforts to win the race to become a Digital Enterprise. T-Mobile, a large retailer, and MetLife led excellent interactive sessions on how they are using ignite to boost them in this race (more on their sessions below). Throughout the Forum we heard consistent buzz on three key themes:

  • Design matters. From my opening session to the three customer sessions to the future view presented by our Chief Architect Andy Medlicott, this theme resonated, as reflected in customers’ tweets and coffee conversations. The bottom line: your firm will only get the APIs and data-driven outcomes you need if you actively manage the design lifecycle for these critical elements.
  • APIs are hot. Most firms said they are now mainly focused on RESTful APIs as opposed to SOAP services, but they all felt that the two are both part of the broader and ongoing SOA trend. The bottom line: you will probably need way more APIs and services than you currently estimate, so speeding up and easing their delivery and consumption will be a critical success factor.
  • Big Data is the next big thing for Design. We demonstrated support for Avro Schemas, which we plan to ship in late Summer, in response to growing customer demand for a design-led approach to governing the flow of data into and out of Big Data repositories, especially Hadoop. The bottom line: governing your data-in-motion is also critical to Big Data success.

A Large Retailer Sped Time-To-Value With A Reuse-Based Strategy For Ignite

A large retailer’s session illustrated the importance of design by telling the story of the design successes and failures that BC Hydro experienced in delivering the Terzhagi Dam and two others in the same system. This retail IT leader argued that systems can be made much more adaptable by spending more time designing and planning their delivery. The retailer is working to deliver better, more adaptable digital systems by improving alignment across business and IT around architecture standards in three areas: applications, information management, and business functions.

The firm’s efforts to speed delivery of APIs and services with ignite fall into the first area, applications. Since the firm has mainly packaged applications at the core of its enterprise backbone, the shortest path to a robust portfolio of APIs and services in ignite was to import the services these applications expose, then add metadata to their service definitions to make them easier to find and reuse. The retailer based its canonical model for data-in-motion primarily on the information model exposed by these core applications.

Following this path enabled the firm to move from zero to well over 200 services in only two months in early 2014, giving it a rapid start on exposing a core portfolio of common services for easy discovery and consistent reuse by multiple projects that are ongoing this year.

T-Mobile Is Speeding Time-To-Value For New Service Delivery With Ignite

Bob Anderson and Tim Matts of T-Mobile explained how three of the firm’s critical business objectives, OmniChannel, the digital supply chain, and optimized retail assortments, depend on an effective portfolio of APIs and services for success, and how the firm is using ignite to achieve those goals. T-Mobile built its canonical model for data-in-motion by discovering 20,000 attributes associated with five existing layers of integration middleware, which it then organized into domains by business capability. The model has already been used to speed systems convergence for several acquisitions in Europe, and is now supporting an ignite-fueled service delivery lifecycle for critical 2014 transformation projects.

The services layers T-Mobile is delivering through this lifecycle will provide greater isolation between its business processes and its application providers. In the process of becoming an “Un-Carrier,” T-Mobile is reinventing many aspects of telco conventional wisdom, driven by its visionary CEO John Legere and his new CIO hire, Gary King. King has been personally involved in driving the agenda for APIs and services for the firm, based on his experience in delivering OmniChannel at his former employer, Chico’s. ignite is helping to make this transformation real through a combination of top-down leadership on business goals and bottom-up leadership on how to achieve those goals using ignite.

Ignite Continues To Expand Its Range Of Impact

As mentioned above, we demonstrated support for Avro, as part of Chief Architect Andy Medlicott’s closing session on new product capabilities and roadmap. Andy also demonstrated newly expanded capabilities for rapid API design, integration with other lifecycle and development tools through ignite’s own APIs, and expanded support for agile development.

So if you are facing these same challenges with “integration noodles,” and you need to achieve the same kinds of outcomes that these firms are seeing, contact digitalML to learn more. And stay tuned for another blog post in the near future in which I will share more insights from more of the Forum sessions.

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