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.  


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.

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