According to Wikipedia (the be-all, end-all source for everything, right?), ‘digital transformation refers to the changes associated with the application of digital technology in all aspects of human society.‘ Well, I suppose that is one definition we can agree with.
Depending on your role, digital transformation may be something that has permeated your world for some time now. Marketing, for example, has been at the center of these discussions for many years.
But the B2B software world has hit an inflection point … and as many of us have learned, marketing alone is not sufficient to fully capitalize on the opportunities that digital transformation presents.
For the past several years, digital transformation has been at the heart and soul of 2 very different solutions I’ve had the opportunity of leading for two different companies. Both B2B software related, both oriented around the FinTech space. And in each case, APIs were/are the building blocks for achieving success.
Far from just a marketing play, this requires an organizational shift & alignment … you have to make people Yearn for the Sea (I’d encourage you to check out a previous post for context). To over simplify, people need to understand where you are going and more importantly why.
Once they are on board with the vision, technology will be a key component. Admittedly, there was a time where technology/development seemed liked a means to end. In today’s world, and in the context of participating in a broader ecosystem of capabilities to serve the end customer, I’ve come to realize it is more critical than ever. Consider this Gartner quote …
How clearly defined are your responsibilities for digital business? Are you the a) champion; b) influencer; or c) facilitator of digital strategy — or d) a bit of all three?
If your answer is “d,” you aren’t alone. Digital business is changing market paradigms and enterprise priorities at blink-and-you’ll-miss-it speed.
It’s not surprising to find many reports centering on IT, digital capabilities, and/or innovation being at the heart of CEO/CIO concerns moving forward. This quote in particular was from a January 2016 report titled Six CIO Responsibilities for Digital Business.
I also like this perspective from a whitepaper titled Winning in the API Economy (although admittedly it is missing one key element … digital engagement at the end-consumer level)
|Yesterday’s Enterprise||The API Driven Enterprise|
|Mobile||Mobile applications for specific platforms, each with a separate code base and ad-hoc server back end.||A single backend API, addressable from clients on any platform and a succession of different front-end clients.|
|Customer Integration||One-to-one custom integrations at a high cost, using rigid point-to-point integration technologies such as SOA.||Provision of multi-use API services, which customers and partners can integrate on a self-serve basis for adaptation to their individual use cases.|
|Digital Distribution Channels||Limited choice among automated advertising style channels and expensive, custom integrations with each partner. Limited opportunity to reach new audiences.||Provision of content and transactions via well-structured APIs, often with software development kits (SDKs) added to speed partner integration of the content or transactions.|
|Direct Access to Infra-structure||High capacity infrastructure is accessible only internally within the company through restricted interfaces.||APIs are used to open up core infrastructure directly for use by outsiders, so it can be turned into a key business.|
|Internal Development||Direct to database and backend systems applications across multiple departments, creating fragile interdependencies, security issues and slow-moving innovation.||Insertion of a uniform API layer to abstract access to backend services from new applications, creating a more modular, flexible, and well-documented application development environment.|
The B2B software world is at an inflection point … a time of significant change in a situation; a turning point. You need to understand this as a product leader! More importantly, you have to help your organization understand this.