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Turning IT into ‘building blocks’ and creating digital ecosystems: four priorities for the evolution of IT in 2020

(Image credit: Image Credit: MK photograp55 / Shutterstock)

By the end of 2019, the importance of delivering a good customer experience was well understood. According to Gartner, two-thirds of firms now compete on the basis of the experience they offer, while Altimeter claims that it’s the main reason organisations invest in digital initiatives.

Understanding the importance of customer experience is one thing, being equipped to deliver a good one is another thing entirely. As organisations look towards technologies such as multi-cloud and AI to support more sophisticated customer experiences, their IT teams face an uphill struggle to integrate these initiatives with their existing systems. According to research, more than four in five (84 per cent) of IT leaders claim these challenges are putting the brakes on their organisation’s digital efforts.

To get around this challenge in 2020, organisations now need to focus on re-imagining their IT departments in order to unlock their digital capabilities and empower business-wide innovation. Here are four key areas that IT teams will need to focus on in the year ahead to make this a reality.

Turning IT into a business enabler with reusable building blocks

IT efficiency is crucial to the success of digital transformation initiatives, and there is increased pressure on IT departments to deliver more, faster. However, IT can no longer keep up with the demands of the business; little over a third (36 per cent) of IT professionals were actually able to deliver all projects asked of them last year.

In order to reduce this growing IT delivery gap, we’ll see IT move away from trying to deliver all IT projects themselves in 2020. The IT team’s role will evolve to changing, operating and securing core IT assets along with building and managing reusable APIs, exposing the functionality within the core IT assets that the rest of the business can consume to create the solutions they need. Essentially, IT begins to create new building blocks (APIs) that can empower both the technical and the broader lines of business users to innovate and build new technology solutions without compromising the core IT estate of the business. With API-led connectivity and organisations educating teams on the power of integration, IT will empower companies to digitally transform and innovate faster than ever before, shifting from being an “all doing” to an “enabling” organisation and avoiding being a constraint to business expansion.

Unlocking data to supercharge AI

Businesses are investing more in AI each year, as they look to use the technology to personalise customer experiences, reduce human bias and automate tasks. Yet for most organisations AI hasn’t yet reached its full potential, as data is locked up in siloed systems and applications.

In 2020, we’ll see organisations unlock their data using APIs, enabling them to uncover greater insights and deliver more business value. If AI is the ‘brain,’ APIs and integration are the ‘nervous system’ that help AI really create value in a complex, real-time context.

Harnessing APIs and containers to navigate multi-cloud complexity

The majority of large enterprises today use multiple clouds (both public and private). But multiple clouds are difficult to manage and being able to move workloads between them remains a challenge for many organisations.

In 2020, we will see organisations use APIs in tandem with containers to navigate multi-cloud complexity. APIs will unlock the data and unique functionalities of applications residing in multiple cloud environments, while containers will neatly package up code and all its dependencies, so the application runs quickly and reliably from one computing environment to another. For example, HSBC has built a multi-cloud application network to meet growing customer demand. Turning to the cloud to accelerate IT delivery, HSBC has built and published thousands of APIs that were deployed across multiple environments using containers to unlock legacy systems and power cloud-native application development.

Adopting a digital ecosystem mindset

In 2020, we will see the continued rise of digital ecosystems, enabling companies to seamlessly incorporate new products and services into coherent customer experiences. This will see a further shift from today’s economic model, where businesses look to ‘own’ customer engagements entirely. In the new model, ushering in a new model of service delivery, each of these providers will coordinate their services across the same ecosystem, without ever ‘owning’ the customer.

Organisations will look to extend their own capabilities and their own customer data to other businesses via APIs. For example, Mastercard has turned many of its core services into a platform of APIs, allowing it to create the Mastercard Travel Recommender, which allows travel agents and transportation providers to access customer spending patterns and to offer customers targeted recommendations for restaurants, attractions and activities. Expect to see more organisations take this approach in 2020, along with focusing on providing an excellent developer experience around their APIs to drive competitive advantage.

2020: the year of connectivity

Over the past few years, data and digital transformation have steadily risen up the corporate agenda, to the point that both are now well-established priorities for every organisation. As we kick off the new decade, attention will shift towards the connectivity that unlocks the value of data and underpins the success of digital transformation initiatives.

APIs will play the key role in meeting new connectivity requirements. By reimagining digital assets as a set of digital building blocks, organisations can enable every stakeholder within the business to contribute to digital projects, democratising the ability to innovate. By doing so, organisations can transform the IT department from a cost centre into a source of value.

Ian Fairclough, VP Services, Office of the CTO (EMEA), MuleSoft