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Edging closer to composable business

Covid-19 forced organisations to try radical new things. Building apps from pre-built functions is one that Mulesoft believes has longevity

The role of application programming interfaces (API) in building composable business was one of the key themes of the Mulesoft Connect 2021 virtual conference.

In his opening keynote, Mulesoft CEO Brent Hayward said “nearly 60% of customer interactions became digital when the pandemic hit”, which is double what it was prior, adding that “digital is the new normal”.

In Mulesoft’s vision of digitisation, digital transformation projects require integration, data, security and governance.

For Hayward, a composable enterprise is one that makes use of standardised building blocks to create new experiences and services much quicker than if it had to start from scratch, developing new software to support new business initiatives. He said a composable business uses “a flywheel of reuse to build faster”.

According to Hayward, each software project accelerates the time to value. When applied strategically, Hayward believes APIs offer organisations the ability to draw on existing code to create composable applications, which integrate applications and data sources.

Cindy Hoots, chief digital officer and CIO at AstraZeneca, was a guest speaker in the opening keynote. The pharmaceutical giant has been using Mulesoft as part of its strategy to deliver self-service software development. “We are trying to deliver self-serve technology with an API approach to help employees work at the speed they want and democratise technology,” she said.

Her hope is to encourage citizen developers. “As more technology is integrated into every job function, we can provide them with an environment to leverage APIs in a self-serve mode.” This, she added, can be done safely and securely. 

For Hoots and many other tech leaders, 2020 provided insight into how it was possible to make changes at a speed that no one could have anticipated prior to the pandemic. She said she saw the past year as “a mindset shift”. Her advice to fellow IT chiefs is to think strategically about IT integrations, rather than on a project-to-project basis. Such an approach encourages the development of reusable components, which help the business build new applications quicker. “Think about integration at the beginning of the project,” she said.

Convenience store 7-Eleven has also been building out APIs to support the business. Another guest speaker at the event, 7-Eleven integration architect Nishant Kumar, discussed his approach to selecting what APIs to build to support a composable enterprise strategy. Mirroring Hoots’ remarks, he said: “Think about what the enterprise needs, not the project.”

Over the past three years, the company has been working on IT projects to support an omni-channel customer experience. “Our approach was an enterprise-wide API and defined API catalogues.” The catalogues describe the APIs the company has made available.

Mulesoft recently introduced its Composer no-code platform. Given that there are only about 20 million software developers around the world and a genuine shortage of IT skills, its ambition is that the billion or so skilled knowledge workers around the world will start using no-code and low-code tools to create new applications for the companies they work for.

As in the AstraZeneca example, these applications should be built in a way that requires little or no IT intervention. For Mulesoft, this means pre-built functionality needs to be available and catalogued to enable citizen developers to compose applications themselves using no-code or low-code tools.

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