Don’t forget the data: the risks in tunnel-visioning API investments

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Don’t forget the data: the risks in tunnel-visioning API investments
When APIs are part of a cohesive environment, enterprises have the right level of business intelligence when ‘building their houses’.
Photo by Chris Leipelt on Unsplash

While tech trends are tempting, Australian companies first need to get their ‘house’ in order and use the resulting data to build on their ambitions.

Australian companies are under increasing pressure to offer fully-personalised, app-centric experiences, instantly to their customers and employees, while managing the swathe of hurdles being thrown their way as they work through their business recovery.

This is spurring immense technology investment. In fact, Australian enterprises are expected to spend $98 billion on technology this year. My conversations with local executives indicate it comes down to the need to form more cohesive operations and subsequently improve internal and external stakeholder engagements.

Application programming interfaces (APIs) are providing a gateway for this accelerated post-COVID-19 business rebound; they offer pre-built blocks that enable communication between digital assets – think Lego – so they can be used to very quickly and easily roll out new applications and services. They also tend to be cost-effective due to their reusability.

In the last 12 months, APIs have been highly sought after to jump-start new business processes – anything from instant chat through to digital forms.

But there’s a common symptom inhibiting the return on investment (ROI) enterprises stand to gain, and often creating unseen complexity that requires significant retrospective change and budget.

The problem is that many try to tunnel-vision their way to the promised outcomes of APIs, and simultaneously neglect to establish an integrated digital framework to support them.

In using a construction analogy, decision-makers are putting up the doors of their house before building out the foundation, walls and utilities.

As the company expands, and more staff and (digital) assets enter, needs change, complexity increases, and IT teams find themselves retrofitting ‘doors’ that went up too early as they can no longer serve their intended purpose of linking people and processes.

That quickly becomes unmanageable.

Before diving into APIs, organisations need an accurate, real-time view of what is happening in and impacting the business by connecting the dozens of disparate systems and data sitting in different clouds and in-house.

Drilling down before you deploy

Last year, one of Australia’s leading utilities providers was able to launch digital health check-ins for hundreds of essential workers as the pandemic swept through the country. Pre-empting State and Federal government social distancing measures, the new service meant employees and contractors could avoid physical office visits before attending COVID-safe work sites.

The company was able to complete this project in less than a week as it had already deployed integrations between its digital assets. It could therefore access accurate data in real-time to ensure each worker’s profile contained the right information in one place.

As well as preventing thousands of unnecessary physical interactions, the enterprise can continue to capture and synchronise data to inform its APIs, and launch new services proactively and on-demand. 

Meanwhile, an Australian financial services provider is leveraging its connected technology foundation to update API processes multiple times a week. With customers whose needs and expectations continuously evolve, the company can’t afford to spend months or even a year developing new services – by that time, they would already be obsolete.

Having invested in creating a connected technology framework prior meant data from dozens of systems and processes was already synchronised. Each time a customer logs-in online or calls the company, the experience is personalised to their unique requirements – including account information, as well as customised alerts pertaining to major events such as the pandemic.

Plastering the walls with a digitally connected core

Beyond these examples, a digitally connected core provides a layer of assurance for enterprises as the data being leveraged and communicated by its systems and APIs remains within a protected environment both when it’s stored locally or in data centres.

Whether it’s adapting for customer expectations or meeting industry regulations – may it be managing workforce changes at scale, personalising interactions with consumers or launching new offerings – organisations can execute on these requirements while protecting data from unauthorised parties, keep it safe in transit and at rest, and allow customer access as needed.

This level of validation has been especially pertinent in the aged care and financial services sectors – both of which are managing ongoing operational change following their respective royal commissions – as well as local, state and federal government agencies where tech spend has become a top priority.

When APIs are part of a cohesive environment, enterprises have the right level of business intelligence when ‘building their houses’. They will be adding doors to buildings already pre-fitted with plumbing and electrical, so when they step through the front door the environment is switched on and running as intended.

The resulting integrated data foundation makes it possible for businesses to better manage their APIs and operations, deploy new applications and services for their stakeholders, demonstrate compliance and ultimately extract the most value from existing technology investments.

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