Digital Recombination is Key For Enterprise Innovation
Recently, digitalML’s CEO Jeremy Sindall and CRO John Bogard hosted the first webinar in our Becoming a Digital Enterprise Series: The Roadmap to Digital Recombination for Enterprises. We highly recommend listening to the webinar recording in full here, but have pulled some of the key insights from the session in this post. We’ve also documented some of the best attendee questions on realizing the digital recombination goal state below.
To start, let’s recap – what is digital recombination and why is it a goal state for enterprises?
Enterprise-wide digital recombination is the ability to combine existing business capabilities, along with the IT functions that support them, rapidly and innovatively at scale, while enabling business and IT alignment. These business capabilities are exposed as high-quality and reusable APIs, Services, and Events. Digital recombination is key for delivering on innovation and IT modernization priorities. You can learn more on why you need digital recombination for market leadership in this blog post here.
During the webinar, Jeremy and John shared the following key insights and best practices….
How can enterprises get to digital recombination?
- The Covid-19 pandemic, combined with the digital disruption we’ve seen over the last 5-10 years, has accelerated the pace of digital transformation. A great example is the payments space: 2020 saw a sharp fall in ATM withdrawals – many of us have moved to digital payment options and there’s been an explosion of fintech offerings in the space to respond to these changing consumer trends. Therefore, large enterprises have an increased urge to digitally transform and respond, and it’s captured the attention of Business leaders.
- Rapid innovation must be enabled – the new enterprise KPI is idea to launch in 6 months or less.
- Most large enterprises already have the capabilities they need to compete at digital and innovate. Core business capabilities haven’t changed, but the way they are consumed has. APIs can be used to expose IT functions as digital building blocks that can be aligned to the business and recombined. BUT, in reality, at enterprise scale it’s more than APIs that are needed – legacy services such as SOAP, as well as modern architectural types such as events, batch (and whatever comes next) need to be utilized too.
- …. but there’s a lot of digital complexity that needs to be managed. We looked at a banking example of a bank trying to recombine existing capabilities to launch a money transfer offering to rival Wise. There were a number of internal and external/3rd party building blocks identified for reuse. But, just within one capability building block – that to check you were an account holder – we saw a huge back-end complexity. This bank had 28 CRM systems that needed to be interrogated. That’s a lot of API methods to call each one, and a lot of mappings to link everything together! Then there’s the change management, dependencies, owner approval, SLAs and NFRs – it all needs to be captured and overlaid onto those building blocks.
- Getting everyone involved in the process is key to digital recombination success. Great digital companies don’t rely solely on developers to deliver solutions; to coin Jeremy’s anecdote during the webinar – that’s like having half your players on the bench during a soccer match – you want the whole team playing to win! A holistic view of your capabilities is a key enabler – ideally abstracted away from code so it’s easy to understand and interact with. It’s also important to enable multiple roles across all stages of the lifecycle.
- The transition can also be managed quickly and safely through automated API lifecycle management, which can enforce governance, and compliance, while maintaining flexibility. It’s much more than relying on a few API style guides and peer reviews.
Q&A From the Digital Recombination Webinar
Q1: How do I get to the digital recombination goal state when we have already invested in an API management platform, and have multiple API gateways (as well as other runtime environments) running?
This is a common question we see with large enterprises; you want to enable digital recombination, but are noticing a gap in your architectural framework using API management platforms alone, but you don’t want to lose your hard-earned existing API investments. Well, thankfully there is a solution: the ignite platform complements what you already have – focusing upstream of CI/CD with bi-directional integrations to existing systems. A platform like this only displaces manual and error-prone processes, while helping enable digital recombination, speed, and proper governance.
Q2: Which roles should we be trying to enable to interact with our digital building block APIs, Events, Services?
We’ve identified 12 roles that want to interact with your APIs, and have a blog post on how to enable them across the API lifecycle – you can find it here.
Q3: What’s the set-up time and effort to build a holistic catalog and populate it with our existing APIs and Services?
Building a holistic catalog of APIs, Services, and Events can seem like a daunting task. While building manually can indeed take a lot of time and effort, with the ignite platform the process can be much faster than you’d expect. That’s because ignite facilitates import of multiple service types (e.g. OpenAPI for REST APIs and WSDLs for legacy SOAP), but also taxonomy classifications, information models, mappings, and lineages including provider/consumer relationships, to ensure your catalog is rich with metadata and easy to organize. What’s more, ignite will also automatically generate abstracted designs for your API and Service artifacts on import.
Q4: How do I create new services to grow my catalog and capability coverage to help enable digital recombination?
We’ve learnt from working with our Fortune 500 customers that often two types of API development needs to be facilitated to help build out coverage in support of digital recombination. That’s why we built our ignite platform to support both top-down (business-led) and bottom-up (developer-focused) development. More on that in this blog.
Q5: How is a holistic catalog different from a developer portal?
A developer portal is standardly part of a runtime offering, and comprises an API catalog of external APIs available for developer consumption. There are some key differences between a developer portal and a holistic catalog:
1. DevPortals are only for well documented, hand-crafted external, or open APIs – they do not help catalog internal APIs which are also critical to enabling digital recombination.
2. They do not enable cataloging multiple service types e.g. OpenAPI, SOAP, and Events all in once place.
3. They hold the system of record for the APIs in code – making them difficult to understand beyond developers (and therefore hard to get the whole team playing!) We have a blog post on the difference between a runtime API catalog in a developer portal and a holistic catalog here.
Q6: How do we ensure the digital building blocks are properly governed?
Your digital building blocks, once realized as APIs, Services, and Events, need to be enterprise-grade quality. That means reliable, reusable, consistent, and with a great consumer experience. Enterprise-quality APIs means more than API style guides with a manual approval process. With the right platform, flexible auto-enforcement, and by applying rules upstream in the lifecycle, APIs, Services, and Events can be aligned to a whole governance model; including conformance to governance rules, coding rules, data standards, and industry standards. The second webinar in our Becoming a Digital Enterprise series was recently hosted, and covers API governance strategy for enterprises in full. You can watch our API governance webinar here.
The ignite Platform supports Digital Recombination for Enterprises
To see digital recombination in action, we recommend you download the full webinar recording here. John took us through practical examples of enabling digital recombination at each stage of the roadmap: API, Service and Event chaos to digital building block catalog, assisted normalization and standardization of assets, and capturing and managing digital complexity.