Monday, 19 September 2016

Financial Services - 3D of success

The world is changing, it's seeing the biggest and fastest revolution of mankind. The emerge of digital devices have become the backbone of the revolution, thanks to apple and Google of the world. This has impacted all the industry domains across and financial services are not untouched. Since the emergence of industrial revolution 4 finance sector has to gear up to deliver up to customer satisfaction and expectation.

Industry Challenges

There are many challenges that the finance industry face and I have tried to cover them below

The major challenge is that they hold data which is confidential and thus need to be secured without any compromise. We have seen the amount of damage the data compromise can cause to specific institutions. When we talk about data being accessed from anywhere anytime then it has to be secure as well. 

The second challenge is around having too much of data being available but not really leveraged for providing better customer experience and business benefit.

Apart from these, there is a need to follow the guidelines from regulatory bodies to be more open and dynamic to provide customer values. This is definitely pushing the institutions to adopt the market trends even faster then they expected.

Then there is a challenge hosted by new players in the industry who are changing and challenging the traditional business methods. Welcome to the word of Apple and Google where they are changing the way you do the transactions via using latest technologies and mobile wallets. That's just the start , other niche players are coming with some other disruptive innovative ideas as well. Have a look to TransferWise that is changing the way you send money to overseas and hear what their CEO has to say about "Changing the World for Better".

So what should be done by traditional players?

I believe it's all about focusing on 3 D’s - Digital | Data |Dynamics with customer centricity in the middle.

3D Engagement



Digital 

Digital is not just the need of the time but it's important for existence in the market. It's really important to adopt platform of innovations and keep the pace with the competitors. To highlight that the API Management platforms are key to this, it doesn't only provide you a medium to innovate but also provides a robust security layer to secure the transactions that are performed from outside world. I have talked a lot around Journey of Digital and it's importance, now it's time to talk about Data and Dynamics.

Data 


Data is power and financial services hold all of it. It's not only important to expose the data securely but also to understand the fast moving corners of it. Having data is important but the power of it lies when it's delivered on right time to right consumer. It's also important that you share the data with use of open API's so that innovative app ideas can revolutionize the customer experience and help traditional banks to look and compete with future banks like Monzo, Atom and Starling 


Data has two major aspects -

  1. First is sharing the data using the digital platform and thus improving the business proposition by monetizing it. e.g share customer data with customer approval with a third party app like Mint and charge Mint for using api's to get the data. This is also a PSD2 use case.
  2. Second is analyzing the stream of data and use it for operational excellence and on other hand create new business products out of it. Let's see it with couple of examples -
Scenario 1 - End2End customer Payment monitoring, mitigate operational risk with real time analytics and  help relieve regulatory and stakeholder pressures. Advantage is reduction in processing costs, time to revenue, full visibility and ability to react faster to changes and eliminate risks, improving customer satisfaction.

Scenario 2 - Customer transaction analysis for behavior understanding and recommending products based on that. Predictive analytics is the way to go, you can not only sell better products but also help reach next level of customer satisfaction as customers don't want reactive measures they love to know things in advance and predictive analytics tool can help you achieve both.

There are lot of products in the market both on cloud and premise. Tech giants like AWS, Google can help on cloud and players like Axway Decision Insight for operational intelligence, and open source Apache can help on-premise. There are many other niche players like DataRPM in the market as the market for data science is getting hot.

Dynamics

Keep the pace with market dynamics, that's one area where the traditional banks have lagged big time. You don't want to be the Blackberry or Nokia of financial services.

Market dynamics can change due to N number of reasons -
  • Regulatory bodies introducing new norms like PSD2 or Open Banking initiatives 
  • New tech trends like mobile platforms, IoT.
  • New innovations like Bitcoin/Blockchain 
So it's really important to quickly adopt the new emerging business beneficial changes and stay in the market competition not as a competitor but as a Leader.


It's big time for financial institutions to come out of the traditional thinking and be more innovative. Open Banking and PSD2 norms have to be seen as the model for new business and a transformation phase for Banking pushing for focus on Digital and data analytics. However, tracking innovations like Blockchain is very important as well as it's changing the way transaction happens. So it's important that Dynamics(changing aspects) are not only kept in mind but are adapted quickly to make new customer base being the center of innovation in Financial world.


Thursday, 28 July 2016

API {1st} - Gateway to Digital Innovation

API first is the new paradigm and there is lot of focus towards it. So what does it really mean and why there is so much of talk about it? 


What is API First?

Application Programming Interfaces (API's) are the interfaces provided on the resources that you want to leverage in the interaction process from your customers, partners, employees, business users, etc. via the application or GUI created on top of it.

That means that your applications or GUI will be as good as your API's because what you reflect on your UI is what you get from your API's so it's really important to have good design in place for the API's, that adds:

  • Consistency
  • Flexibility
  • Usability
  • Agility 
  • Performance
  • Security

API First means different things to different people in an enterprise, for CxO level it means that they have to think about investing into a platform that can support the development of API's, being the top priority. For architects it's about focusing on the API design first and deciding the catalog of API that will be made available to the developers for building the apps or webpages around it. For developers it's about how to manipulate the set of API's and develop the award winning applications and be the part of trusted community to provide positive feedback.

So API{1st} design is what we are talking about here, as it's the core for enabling the digital business. Companies like Netflix, Uber, Twitter, etc. have created the whole new business model powered by great API design and architecture around it because it provides a far better customer experience compared from the traditional software development approach where the heavy customer experience was built first and then the API's were created to access and manipulate the data. 

Design has been an important aspect of everything you build and it applies to the API's as well. It's important to have a right design in place up front so that you can understand how your API is going to look like:
  • URL format
  • supported Message Format
  • supported Methods
  • Custom Headers if any
  • Parameters
  • Pagination
  • versioning
  • exception management
  • authentication

It's always good to keep the API's simple so that the developer can look into the definition and work out what it does without reading much of the documentation. I am not suggesting that you should avoid having the documentation around API's, what I am trying to say is that API's should be self -explanatory and consistent across. 

Once the API is designed, share it with the team who are the consumers of it and let them try the Mock API to see if they like it or they want to suggest changes. Once it's finalized move the design to build the API. That's what API{1st} is all about

API{1st} Cycle

Great API's are part of great team work and it's important that there is an effective collaboration between the producers and consumers of the API as all of them will have different perspective and will help in designing a great API.   

To help you with the API{1st} iterative approach many vendors have come up with the products to support that, for e.g -  swagger.ioapiary.ioraml.org, etc.

There are multiple API description languages (ADL's), some of them are very popular (like Swagger) and sort of becoming standard for API's. API Transformer is one online tool that can help you convert one ADL to another and yes at back of it are API's.

Once you are done with design you need to choose a platform to convert the great design into real API's, there are many vendors with API Management products to help with that and my organization Axway is one of them.

If you are looking to start a Digital Journey then for sure API's are the starting point and API{1st} is where you start from. 

Monday, 27 June 2016

Journey of Digital

Digital transformation will be a major business priority for the next 12 months.
Though the biggest challenge organisations face today is on "How to approach and get enabled for Digital disruption" so basically how to start the journey.

Cultural Shift 

Business environment is changing fast and so will the organisation structures and culture. Digital business means NO IT department anymore, yes you heard it right. Business is becoming more involved in IT strategy so IT means Business and Business means IT now. Business need a platform of Innovation so that they can do business in an innovative way, they can't do that in traditional IT method. It requires out of box thinking, that is to bring the culture of Innovation, so that's the key starting point with below considerations-

  • Promote the culture of Innovation.
  • IT teams are no more traditional delivery teams for information technology, they are rather business innovators. 
  • Provide the platform of Innovation with goal to move towards 3rd generation platform 
  • Collaborate and work towards what customers are demanding but don't stop innovating, so form a balance between two.
As a starting point I talked about on how organisations should change the culture and embark on the Journey of Digital. Now as I have spoken about the Platform of Innovation and 3rd generation platform, so let me elaborate on what they are.

3rd Generation platform 

Let's first see how the platforms have evolved and then focus on 3rd generation.


Platform Evolution - Courtesy IDC 

The picture above is self-explanatory so I will leave it there.

However, it's important that we talk about the 3rd generation platform as that should be the target of an enterprise, not only to open the door for the innovations but essential for changing the way business works. Being innovative, agile, efficient and grab opportunities that are outside-out.

3rd Generation PlatformCourtesy  IDC 

Above picture depicts the 3rd generation platform and shows the innovation accelerators. It's focused towards transforming the IT value proposition and making it Business centric. It's not necessary that you adopt the 3rd generation platform as big-bang or all of it, definitely it need evaluation on what accelerators are on the priority list.


Technology Value Proposition - Courtesy IDC


Technology value proposition has changed drastically and technology is now driving the new products and services that business wants to sell transforming the customer experience from better to best.


3rd generation platform is certainly changing the business model and reducing the gap between business and IT, bringing more collaboration and stickiness.


Business Proposition - Courtesy IDC




Platform of Innovation


There are multiple products that can form the platform of Innovation but to me the most important one that glue everything together and provide the FOUNDATION for it is API Management, as it not only enables the enterprise to do innovation but also provide a wrapper for the 1st and 2nd generation platforms so that you can leverage the functionality provided by those platforms in a modern way. It allows you to expose your assets via API's and hence allow all the innovation accelerators to leverage the data that they need.  

API First is the way to go to start and encourage innovations as that will form the base for the customer experience that you want to bring in. It will provide developers a platform to do innovative thinking and do technology clinics (hackathons) to showcase what is possible.

This will help provide all other accelerators in 3rd generation platform with the data sets that they need to work on, whether its internet-of-things, robotics or predictive engines. All of them need to communicate to the enterprise and exchange data via a centralized and secure hub and that is none other then API Management which not only provide enhanced security but also helps in managing the consumers of the data/API.  

Approach

Implementing API management can be taken in stages rather then just start thinking of API first, as organisations have to bring the change in the culture, thought process and change in the existing enterprise integrations that you do till now. The communication was more Inside-In and Inside-Out but now we are talking about Outise-In and Outside-Out communication so its important that the integration and security strategy is written keeping that in mind.

Key consideration are:

  1. Existing investment on Enterprise Service Bus and Messaging platform
  2. Communicating between on-premise and Cloud Applications
  3. Communicating between cloud applications
  4. Securing the communication
  5. Support of new technology trends and quick adoption if required. Choose the products that align with the 3rd generation platform features, for e.g. product that support easy cloud adoption, automation via container technology, etc. 

It's important that we understand the To-Be state architecture with the API Management solution in place. 

To-Be State
  • The red color box are the one introduced with API Management
  • Orange lining are the one that are new in each layer
  • This is first stage change in to the To-Be state. Once the enterprise is ready to adopt the cloud services either partially or fully the To-Be state of all below will reflect as a Service "_aaS".
  • All other innovation accelerators can be either used in parallel or later as the business deem it fit and ready for bigger disruption.



To-Be Architecture



Given that the existing integration products are kept intact, how to change the world with API's?

It's a million dollar question given the ecosystem that most of the enterprises have, it gets tricky to get hold of the right approach.

The best is to have the API Management implementation done in 3 stages:

API Stage Implementation 



Move from Left to Right with your API strategy 

  • Stage 1 - Wrap the existing SOA services based on enterprise service bus (ESB) by using the policies created in the API Gateway. This will quickly enable you to provide the developers with something that they can play and innovate. The challenge can be coarse grained services but you can use the wrapper to make them fine grain by specifically choosing the operations that you want in a particular API. 
  • Stage 2 - Enable the existing applications to start using the API Management platform to create API's directly instead of using any other layer.  
  • Stage 3 - Make API's the core of all the applications that you have in the ecosystem. Not only the customer facing applications but most of the applications of record should also move in that direction and once you start adopting SaaS platforms that will happen. The reason being that legacy applications will struggle to scale with the growth required. Even the best and effective API will struggle, if the back end application can't respond quickly and scale based on the number of request then you have a challenge. 

If you see all the above three stages require some design upfront to understand what is that you want to do with the API's and hence its important that you start thinking of two things:

  1. What you want the API's to do 
  2. What data set you want access via API
It's really important that you design the API's first with tools like Swagger or Apiary and provide the developers to do the innovation out of it and see if it works, otherwise go into iterations till you improve it. Once you are happy with the design convert that into real API. 

Your application will be as Good as your API's, so make sure that the foundation is right and strong.

3rd Generation platform require change in all the layers of the architecture, infrastructure with new containers technology so that you can scale up with the unlimited growth that you can see with new innovations that you put in place. It requires change in your analytics layer as you will have more and more data that you can use to create information that gives you business edge. Right information at right time is very important for business and now with 3rd generation the time taken to provide and use that information is equally important, predictive is way forward not reactive. Change in the integration layer and change in applications by moving to SaaS based. 

Operational efficiency is equally important so its not only about scaling up but you need to automate the process to scale down when you are using cloud services as its "pay as you use" model and you don't want to pay for something that you are not using.

It's not going to be easy journey and hence a short term and strategic plan is important.

Short Term Plan

  • Fast track the API management deployment. 
  • Start with small perimeter, select the business area for creating API's
  • Leverage existing services and wrap them up with API by using API Gateway product.
  • Start innovating focused on enhancing customer experience by using the API's 

Strategic Plan

  • API as a core(API First), start building the API's directly from the Data source and applications that you have got, replacing the legacy services.
  • Start focusing on Predictive Analytics, turn information into competitive advantage.
  • Omni- experience transformation - Any data, Any time, Any Where with consistency.
  • Cloud adoption
  • Operating model transformation

Before I conclude, I thought of reiterating the key points

Key Take Away-
  1. Introduce the culture of Innovation
  2. Replace the word IT with Innovation - Chief Innovation Officer
  3. Build Platform of Innovation 
    • API First
    • Start small and accelerate
    • Go Big and iterative
Remember, Digital transformation is not a destination it's a journey.

Go Digital because Digital is Life and you need to be innovative part of it.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Digital is Life

Life has drastically changed in the last couple of years. I used to wake up to buzzing alarm but now I get up with the favorite song on my Sonos music system. By the time I complete my breakfast the smart gadget tells me how long it would take me to drive to work and if you have smart applications then they will start the navigation as soon as you are in car. Imagine in cold weather you can operate your car heating from your smart device and pre-heat and make it ready to go, welcome to the cozy world. (This is already being done in JLR and BMW's of the world)

Thanks to Digital disruption and API's.

From wake up alarm to the bed time reading all has changed or changing, just because of digital disruption.

This disruption has been acknowledged as the 4th Industrial Revolution, and it is exponential growth rather than traditional linear. So either the businesses adapt the future or get knocked off, as we all know Digital is Destiny for organisations to stay in the market and given its exponential growth the time to react has to be fast enough.

Till now I was talking more about the changes that are visible to everyone (on the canvas stuff), now let's talk about what is changing behind the scenes due to this revolution...

Making of Digital - 

So from the face of the change it looks pretty cool as it gives customer's what they are after - everything has turned smart, just a touch away with faster delivery model and better quality. All this simplicity, agility to respond to customer needs, quality products with better pricing can be achieved by using below technology landscape -

                                                                                               Figure 1 - Technology Landscape with API Management

  • Mobile Backend as a Service(MBaaS) - 
  • API Management
  • Analytics
I will not go into the details of each of it as its too technical and can be read over the web. The crux is that API management is at heart of it.

Changing Business Proposition -   

Let me bring the focus back on how the business proposition is getting changed -

  • Movies and TV series on the go, stream anywhere anytime, you know the brand I am talking about.
  • Car service on demand with auto receipt
  • Paying Parking on the go
  • listening music via streaming 
  • Ordering take away has become so easier.
If you look your daily life you will find N number of similar examples. We as a customer are getting so used to it that we can't even think life without it.

Let's look into some scenarios that companies might be already working on or need to start thinking in that space..

  • Fit bands can be integrated with fitness clubs and apps like MyfitnessPal or may be also with health clinics.
  • Bank account opening within 2 hrs via video call and online document submission instead of going to the branch which currently takes around 2 days to a week.
  • Smart offices - Give your employees a better experience and ease of using organisation assets by reducing operational cost.
Definitely there are hundred and thousands of other ideas and all this would be targeted to give enriched customer experience and tap outside-out opportunities. Opportunities which are unknown and are outside of your current business boundaries but are waiting to be tapped with a model that can attract and push them towards the usage of the product or services provided by your business. Below is the Gartner view on the same suggesting to take advantage of the Internal and External Business algorithms -


                                                                                                Figure 2- Courtesy Gartner AADI London 2016 


Technology has enabled and helped towards the growth of self service or subscription based business model, helping customers to take their stuff along with them and use whenever they want. That's the ease and value added by digitalisation and thus generated the demand from customers to have more similar value added services in each area of life, will it be health, utility, grocery, home security, home appliances, etc.

Soon we will see cross business model where the apps will get integrated with multiple services from different vendors, because that's the customer experience we want. for e.g booking taxi's via maps and then ordering food on your way through one user interface. Above Fit band example also falls in the same category.

Various survey have shown that the growth of the API economy will be immense in coming years, below are some useful links around different domains with emerging changes and the adoption of API's around that -

TelecomTelecom Network API Marketplace
BankingThe Open Banking Standards
                Banking Reform
Water UtilitiesChanging Water Utilities norm for wholesale and retail
Public SectorSingapore Government API


Last week I was in Gartner AADI London event and my take away of the 2 day event was "Imbibe and Foster APIs" if you are in business.

Digitalisation has changed life style and in coming years I can see that its going to change the way we live, both for good and bad(health impact by using smart phones :) )!

Monday, 29 February 2016

Going Digital

There is lot of attraction around Digital Engagements in Business & IT arena. Every enterprise have either started looking around it or have already started thinking about it. Let's get an understanding around Digital Engagements - What does "Going Digital" means to an enterprise and why they are destined for it. To start with, it's important to understand what Digitalization mean.

What is Digitalization - 

"Digitalization is a technology enablement of a business model that open channels for better business growth by placing prime focus on rejuvenating customer experience."

Does using API mean Digital Business?

Using API's doesn't mean Digital; it's an enablement towards it, hence focus should be to use "API First" approach. There is lot of misconception that using API's mean the enterprise is using Digital business model. Let's get into bit more detail to clear the air -

What are API's - 

I believe everyone know what API's (Application Program Interface) are but in today's world the term is widely being used to reflect REST oriented architecture (ROA) and the API management products facilitate in achieving the ROA. API's in an enterprise can be categorized in multiple ways but for the purpose of the topic I believe that below is what is usually the enterprise uses it for -


If enterprises are just using API's for making partner interaction better apart from using B2B products and SaaS integration API's to integrate with the SaaS applications they have subscribed to, then I think it's just part of the enablement journey towards digital and using the API Gateway product as first line of defense. When organization start exposing the data, content and Business Process supporting functions through API's that is when they reach next level of maturity of using API's and a level up towards the adoption of Digital Model

Multiple vendors have launched API management products for API life cycle management, Analytic around it and Developer/Partner enablement; let's quickly see what API management comprise of -


Most of the enterprise doesn't use the full API management suite rather just leverage the API Gateway for different category of API's. So just adding a layer of security or just using it as a proxy which probably is not the overall purpose of the product. We will see below on how other components of the API management suite adds value to the Digital engagement.

Then what does going Digital means?

Going digital means an engagement that is focused around rejuvenating the customer experience by -
  1. Knowing who your customer is
  2. What type of content customer is after
  3. When to reach the customer
  4. How and where to reach the customer
You can read in detail about above 4 point in here

It's all about customer journey, engaging with customers in such a way that they stay loyal towards your brand and help grow the customer base by further recommendations. To achieve the level of expected services, organizations have to build on below -



User Interface(Web UI/Mobile Apps) + Content Management + Predictive Analytic (fast data) + Digital Marketing & Customer Communications + eCommerce & Marketplace and API (working as a glue) technologies make together the Digital Business Model.

API Management covers the API, Analytic part and also help developers to test the web UI and mobile apps with the help of Community management module. It also provides the predictive information to the Marketing and other department of the enterprise to keep the customer engaged with the relevant marketing and promotions around the products. It's very important to get value out of the data, on-time and accurate, which is made possible by using predictive analytic modules by analyzing the customer behavior from the BigData that enterprise holds. It's obvious that "API First" is building block and definitely needs an early investment on API Management product.

However, Mobile application Platform, User Interface Platform and Digital Marketing product investment are equally important for the digital engagement of an enterprise, to make it true Digital Business.

Digital is Destiny, enterprises without a digital strategy and initiative will be out of the game. Competitors and new start ups with the use of digital technologies will have the upper edge to impress customers and attract them towards the new business model. If you don't change with time then you will not have time to get changed. So what are you waiting for, it's time to GO DIGITAL....


Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for more..