Embracing the digital evolution approach in 2020 and beyond

This is a guest posted by by Marc Caltabiano, vice-president for ANZ at Mulesoft

Companies across industries have been gearing up for digital transformation, which has become a buzzword in the tech sector in recent years. But what is digital transformation? In simple terms, it is a complete shift from one digital existence to another – particularly one that is more efficient and effective.

What it means to each organisation, however, differs greatly. Some define this ‘reimagining of business’ as the application of software solutions that will disrupt how the business operates or earns revenue. Others perceive it to be the deployment of digital technologies to encourage a cultural shift or enhance customer experience.

Whatever it might mean for your business, it’s important to remember that despite what the phrase itself implies, there is no end point to digital transformation. Rather, successful digital transformation requires a reiterative and an evolutionary route – or what we call: the ‘digital evolution’ approach. This is particularly relevant today, at an age where the rapid rate of change means that the end state is ever changing, requiring businesses to adapt and evolve in order to keep up.

Digital evolution encourages organisations to approach the digital transformation journey at each stage with a well-considered strategy, to ensure that change ultimately creates a positive and real business impact. For organisations that embrace evolution, the process is more measured, more organic and thus more sustainable.

Now that we are in a new decade, how can companies embrace this continuous process of digital evolution, build a solid foundation and stay ahead of the curve?

Take a data-driven approach

One of the great benefits of going digital is the ability to unlock and analyse data, which is central to every business’ success. However, we still see that data silos are largely present in most organisations. According to a Mulesoft study, 83% of IT decision makers reported that data silos create immense business challenges and must be broken down – a critical step for organisations to drive ahead on their journey.

Not only will breaking data silos help enable sharing of insights across the company but it also improves customer experiences, streamlines operations, and enables organisations to quickly launch new products and services.

Take, for example, the forward-thinking retailer Lane Crawford, who is using an API (application programming interface) strategy to deliver personalised, omni-channel customer experiences. The retailer exposed access to its customer relationship management and e-commerce applications through APIs in its application network, enabling it to create a data-as-a-service platform. The platform can orchestrate 360-degree views of customers and inventory, including up-to-date loyalty balances and shopping history. The same APIs are leveraged across digital channels, including its new mobile app, website and WeChat.

Companies who are putting their data to work are the ones who are able to improve customer service, streamline operations, and innovate at speed.

Provide a connected customer experience

Customer experience (CX) is at the core of business success and delivering best standard customer service has become paramount for organisations. According to Harvard Business Review, 93% of business leaders say that delivering a relevant and reliable customer experience will be critical to their company’s overall business performance two years from now.

Delivering best practice in CX depends on businesses’ ability to provide a seamless digital experience across multiple channels and touchpoints – whether it is through mobile, desktop, a kiosk, or in-person. Without adapting to customer needs in the mediums they prefer to interact with, a company is at risk of losing valuable business.

For Service NSW (New South Wales), a government initiative delivering services like driver licenses and birth certificates through a one-stop-shop digital network, helped to increase digital service delivery by over 60%, and has led to a 97% customer satisfaction rating.

The companies that are developing mature digital strategies are earning the trust, respect and loyalty they need from their customers to give them a leading edge over their competitors.

Move towards multi-cloud computing

Organisations are increasingly moving towards multi-cloud adoption in order to meet their specialised needs. It gives them the freedom to explore best-of-breed services, and enables them to achieve greater flexibility, scalability, agility and enhanced performance, all at a more competitive price.

Even though there are considerable advantages to multi-cloud environments, it does not come without its challenges. Specifically, the struggle to move application workloads from one cloud to another and how to approach its integration. With this in mind, it’s critical that organisations have effective multi-cloud strategies in place to realise the full benefits of the cloud.

An API-led approach is key to ensuring multi-cloud strategies are successful in delivering the desired efficiency, agility and accelerated innovation benefits. Using APIs, companies can build an integration layer that decouples on-premises data and applications from the systems they reside on. With this new integration layer, organisations can form an application network, which provides IT with an architecture of reusable building blocks that can be utilised to rapidly connect new cloud services.

HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, used the multi-cloud application network to meet its customers’ growing demands. The bank published thousands of APIs that were deployed across multiple environments, using containers to unlock legacy systems and power cloud-native application development. As a result, HSBC produced customer offerings that extended beyond basic finance and insurance needs and helped them realise their customers dreams – like buying a home or sending their children to college.

Co-create value through digital ecosystems

As technology continues to move at a breakneck pace, many companies are recognising the importance of building a wide digital ecosystem to boost their competitive strength, produce new products and services, and enhance customer experiences.

These connected ecosystems provide a combined economic opportunity of $1tn dollars in revenue to the companies investing in digital transformation, according to McKinsey Digital. This makes the role of APIs even more crucial in linking organisations and technologies in the ecosystem.

Take the example of one of the biggest ride-sharing platform in the world, Uber, which used APIs to co-create value with external stakeholders. The company exposes an open Uber API, driver API and deliveries API to the market, with the hopes of discovering new uses, such as food delivery, driver rewards, and more. This will ultimately drive new revenue streams and suggest new investments by Uber itself. The company is enabling others to create customer journeys powered by their API, rather than trying to retain complete customer ownership.

As we head full speed towards a new decade, the pace of digital transformation shows no signs of slowing down. Organisations seeking to compete in this ever-changing digital age need to reframe their approach and consider the path of digital evolution. This incremental, well-considered route to digital transformation will provide an optimal means for businesses to stay relevant, competitive and ahead of the curve in 2020 and beyond.

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