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You know how important integration is, but how do you convince the board?

business meeting
(Image credit: Image Credit: Coffee / Pixabay)

There aren’t many IT professionals that still have a hard time convincing the board of the importance of digital transformation. The unique challenges brought about by the pandemic demonstrated just how important digital capabilities are to adapting and thriving in rapidly changing circumstances. Yet while priorities such as launching new services and improving customer experience are now high on the agenda in every boardroom, it’s more difficult to drive interest in the integration that powers these initiatives. According to our research, only 29 percent of the applications organizations use are integrated, leaving IT estates siloed. As a result, many organizations lack the means to fully embrace and accelerate digital transformation. 

Who really looks at the foundations? 

Part of the reason for this is that integration is a tough sell when compared with the technologies we usually associate with digital transformation, such as cloud or AI. IT and development teams will likely understand that integration provides a foundation for digital transformation, but it’s unlikely that other decision-makers in the business will pay as much attention. It’s easy to understand why. Who really looks at the foundations as a major selling point when buying a new house?

Another reason is that change isn’t a major priority for many on the board. They will often take the view that traditional approaches to integration, characterized by tightly coupled, point-to-point connections, have powered their digital strategy up to this point, so why change now? Addressing this mindset can be difficult, no matter how much IT leaders might emphasize the benefits that a more modern approach to integration, such as an API-led strategy, brings in areas such as efficiency or competitive edge.

Creating a compelling pitch 

To gain support for a new integration strategy, IT leaders should start by identifying what they want to achieve, based on the organization’s needs. Is it the ability to innovate more quickly, or fostering greater agility to respond to changing circumstances faster? Or is it something else? The next step is to develop a clear idea of what the challenges are with the organization’s current approach to integration, so that the board can clearly see how addressing these issues will deliver tangible benefits to the business.

For instance, is it taking too long to get products to market when systems and applications are stitched together with custom integrations? Are rising workloads impacting the team’s ability to deliver projects? Our research found that IT teams were asked to deliver nearly a third more projects last year, but only 37 percent reported that they were able to deliver all of them. It’s also important to emphasize the costs of an antiquated approach to integration. It also found that custom code integrations are costing large enterprises around $3.5 million on average each year, based on the IT labor needed to manage such projects.

The right tools for the job 

With a clear strategy in mind, the next stage in gaining more support from the business is to raise awareness and understanding of the benefits. Start with the technological benefits. An API-led approach to integration sees rigid point-to-point connections replaced by loose coupling between applications, data, and devices. This means less time and money spent adjusting custom code whenever a change needs to be made, all while featuring a single, standardized approach to security, which makes governance much easier.

Most importantly, an API-led approach is also characterized by reuse. Using APIs, IT assets and capabilities can be packaged up in a way that makes them easily consumable and reusable by employees outside of the IT team, and even by partners and other third parties. This is what’s known as composability, which means that new applications and services can be launched much faster, all while lessening the burden on the IT team.

What’s in it for the board? 

Next, it’s important to highlight the benefits to the business. The main elements to emphasize are the ways in which APIs power the organization’s transformation priorities. For instance, if moving to the cloud is on the agenda, it’s important to highlight the value of APIs in connecting applications running in the cloud with those in on-premises environments. If the goal is building a platform for omnichannel customer engagement, it’s important to explain how APIs seamlessly connect the various sources of customer data, such as conversation histories, which are scattered across the IT estate.

For every outcome that the organization wants to achieve, IT leaders’ role is to show how their technology strategy – a new approach to integration in this case – can deliver it. Ultimately, they need to show how an API-led approach to integration delivers value. Whether this is via improvements to the customer experience or driving greater operational efficiencies, API-led connectivity helps reduce costs, increase productivity, and drive revenue.

A virtuous cycle 

Fortunately for every IT professional trying to figure out how best to build support for their strategy, both the technological and business benefits that API-led integration affords reinforce each other. Extolling the virtues of APIs in terms of factors such as reduced maintenance overheads makes it easy to outline how they benefit the bottom line, and vice versa.

This was the experience of City National Bank, which aimed to improve customer experience through an omnichannel strategy. Naturally, the board’s priority was the final outcome, rather than the technologies used to get there. The IT team embraced APIs as a means of connecting the various customer data sources and applications that its omnichannel platform required and demonstrated how this directly improved the end-user experience. With this approach, the IT team effectively used one benefit to sell the other to the board, and ultimately secured the buy-in it needed for an API strategy that will underpin future business priorities.

In the end, every organization has a different set of goals, and will need different technologies and strategies to meet them. Yet regardless of which approaches the organization prioritizes, integration will always be the glue that holds them together.

Lila Dorato, Senior director, solutions engineering, MuleSoft

Lila Dorato, Senior director, solutions engineering, MuleSoft