How to solve IT’s biggest unsolved challenge: integration
In today’s connected economy, software rules the world.
Market leadership is increasingly driven by the speed at which organisations can digitally transform to deliver new applications and enhanced experiences for their customers. This trend has been amplified by the COVID-19 crisis and will continue to gather momentum in the years to come. Indeed, within five years, nearly two-thirds of global enterprises will have become digital innovation factories, deploying new application code on a daily basis. However, as the demand for new software experiences increases, IT departments are struggling to keep up.
The highlighted that 85 percent of global organisations have significant integration challenges, which are stalling their digital innovation drive. Of the almost 900 different applications in use across the average enterprise, just over a quarter are integrated, leaving data trapped in silos. This makes it harder to create connected customer experiences and collaborate with external partners effectively. What’s more, just two-in-five global enterprises completed all of last year’s digital transformation projects in light of the challenges they faced. Clearly the status quo is unsustainable. Traditional IT operating models are broken, and organisations must find new ways of working to accelerate project delivery.
IT’s biggest unsolved challenge
Integration has been one of the biggest headaches for IT departments since before most of us can remember. The problem goes back to the way organisations connected applications and databases before modern integration platforms existed. The most widely used approach was to create point-to-point custom code, which was embedded directly into the application or database that needed to be connected. This effectively built a bridge between two systems, enabling data to cross from one to the other so information could flow freely across the organisation to deliver digital services.
However, while this worked to a reasonable extent during the early days when IT systems were less diverse, dynamic and complex, today it creates more problems than it solves. Custom integration code usually results in a tight coupling between applications, databases and devices, creating close dependencies that are difficult and even risky to untangle. If organisations want to introduce a new application or enhance digital experiences, they often need to break apart existing integrations to ‘rewire’ things, which can impact service functionality in unexpected ways. This makes it incredibly difficult and costly to introduce the change, and almost impossible to achieve the speed that digital transformation demands.
The only way is API
Custom code is clearly no longer a viable approach to integration. Instead, organisations should embrace API-led connectivity, putting an application programming interface (API) in front of the systems they need to connect. This creates a loose coupling between applications, data and devices, so changes can be made quickly without impacting on existing integrations or the functionality of digital services. It therefore becomes easier to accelerate innovation and deliver new products and services faster, without increasing the risk of business disruption or spiralling costs. However, APIs should only be built where they add value. For example, SaaS applications often come with standard REST APIs that can be used to connect them to other applications and services, removing the need for organisations to build their own custom API.
Organisations can take these strategies even further by encouraging self-service and reuse of both internal and external APIs. This enables them to become much more responsive to regulatory and market changes, and able to innovate faster to unlock new revenues. The best way of achieving this is through API-led connectivity, which creates a composable enterprise with a flexible integration layer that drives the complexity out of digital transformation. IT assets and capabilities can thereby be more easily consumed and reused by employees, partners and third-party service providers, enabling them to become citizen integrators who create their own services and digital experiences without needing to write a single line of code.
Building a composable enterprise
All the evidence points to the simple truth that the demand for digital innovation is only set to grow. The ongoing crisis has raised the stakes even further, driving greater demand for digital experiences, and accelerating the transformation process within many organisations. Given that they’re already struggling to keep up with the existing pressure, it’s imperative for IT teams to find a new and more sustainable approach to answering IT’s biggest unsolved challenge if they’re to put their business in a position to lead and succeed in the future. The tightly coupled integrations of the past are simply unsuited to the demands of modern digital businesses. Only with a flexible integration layer built on the principles of API-led connectivity and reuse will today’s businesses be primed to become the digital innovation factories that tomorrow demands of them.
This article was contributed by Ian Fairclough, VP of Services EMEA, MuleSoft
Startup spotlight: SIMON adds Nationwide to its platform
Headquartered in New York, SIMON has a singular goal: transforming the digital experience for financial advisors and unlocking greater levels of service for their clients. It achieves this through:
- A comprehensive platform featuring a full suite of digital tools
- On-demand education
- An “intuitive” marketplace
- Real-time analytics
- Lifecycle management
The company’s fusion of cutting-edge tech with leading expertise is resulting in a new industry standard, one that is simplified, codified, and consolidated within a single ecosystem.
Creating value for financial advisors
At the time of writing, SIMON works with over 85,000 finance professionals who collectively manage more than US$3tn in assets.
The startup’s solutions include:
- Spectrum: A multi-dimensional framework that quantifies the risk profile of investments using five metrics - protection, upside, liquidity, simplicity, and history
- An investment platform: Featuring risk management tools, over 90 educational videos, inclusive product training, a compliance tracker, and more.
- Analysis tools
Furthermore, SIMON’s quality as an organisation is attested by both its awards (such as being listed among the NYC Annual Awards’ ‘Best Places to Work’ category) and the status of its investors. So far, these include Barclays, JPMorgan, Prudential, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, and others.
Another high-profile name has now been added to SIMON’s list of associations: Nationwide. The Fortune 100 US insurance firm has been added as a carrier to SIMON’s marketplace. Nationwide, which is almost a century old, is an ideal fit for an insurtech focused on delivering broad solutions and expertise in a rapidly evolving sector.
Protecting peoples’ financial futures
Regarding this latest partnership, Scott Beshany, Chief Distribution Officer at SIMON, said, “Nationwide has an incredible history of innovation and advocacy and we couldn’t be more thrilled to collaborate with their team and make their products available in our Marketplace.
“Both firms are strongly aligned in the value we seek to create for financial professionals. SIMON’s dedication to delivering intuitive technology that builds simplicity and transparency around annuity offerings supports Nationwide in its mission of helping people prepare for and protect their financial future.”
Craig Hawley, Head of Annuity Distribution at Nationwide, expressed similarly positive sentiments about the collaboration:
“Nationwide has a decades-long track record of incorporating smart technology into the financial professional’s day-to-day workflow. This is another big step forward in that effort, with a proven, innovative partner at our side.
“With SIMON’s platform, financial professionals can seamlessly integrate a range of annuities into their holistic planning process, creating greater efficiencies for their practice and a more comprehensive wealth management experience for their clients.”
Images sourced from respective companies