Would you put a one litre engine into a Ferrari? In our experience working with customers to select and implement customer experience management solutions, clients have often overlooked how digital platforms are connected to their broader systems landscape. There are any number of platform vendors in the market offering impressive, captivating product demonstrations. These look great in a staged environment, but often present a more difficult challenge to realise benefits when deployed in customer real world environments.
To leverage the capabilities of these platforms, realise digital ambitions and get the return on investment from these shiny new toys, an important element is often overlooked; connectivity. The platform vendors will tell you that their platforms can connect to anything and have an Application Program Interface (API) for every imaginable scenario. Often the constraints lie closer to home; within the clients own digital landscape.
Is it possible to access the underlying data to fuel your digital platform? For example, your customer information, your products, your fulfilment systems, etc. Is the data easy to consume and surface on your digital platform?
Data and connectivity requirements should be considered carefully; is it possible to connect digital platforms to your enterprise landscape, particularly systems that hold system information? Connectivity should be the enabling building block before you start selecting customer experience platforms
Ask yourself the following questions:
Often the answer to the last question above is far from ideal. Therefore, clients are often constrained in terms of what they can achieve on their digital channels regardless of how impressive the features and functions on their digital experience management platforms are.
So, what’s the solution?
We believe API-led connectivity provides the building blocks to join these dots. In modern enterprises, where the volume and speed of change are vast, an API is far more than just a technical interface on top of a system. The main purpose of API-led connectivity is to enable the integration flows to be reused by many - both within the organisation and indeed outside. These API's can be implemented in layers aligned with the Pace Layered architecture as defined by Gartner. This architecture facilitates innovation and high-speed pivot and change at the digital layer while exposing data and capabilities from the slower speed systems of record in a controlled, managed and reusable way.
The diagram below illustrates the approach.
This is the foundational layer of the three-layer architecture. These API's can be defined for various domains of the organisation e.g. CRM Platform, custom databases and data warehouses, etc. System API's provide the means to access these systems of records abstracting away the complexity of the solution itself and the specialised skills required to integrate with them.
The benefits are that access to systems is controlled and managed via a well-defined API. This abstraction allows underlying systems of record and databases to be replaced under the hood without impact to the experience management platform or other upstream systems.
Process layer API's are responsible for orchestrating and choreographing various data by calling multiple System API's. The orchestration involves the aggregating, splitting, and routing of data. The main purpose of Process API's is to strictly encapsulate the business process independent of the source systems (System API's) from which the data originates.
For example, providing a single view of the customer which aggregates data from multiple downstream systems. This process API provides a valuable, usable business asset.
Of course, all API consumers are not equal and many have different requirements in terms of the data slice, format etc. Acknowledging this fact, Experience API's are defined to meet this need. Basically, they involve only the transformation or provision of a particular subset of data to meet the needs of a particular consumer; Experience API's do this rapidly, increasing speed to market.
With the reusability of the already available logic (implemented in flows), the developers can evolve their logic in faster and safer ways, leading to a shorter time to market. API's are created in layers and the best advantage over an end to end approach is that more components (flows) can be reused which makes it easier to integrate your digital experience platforms and realise your digital ambitions.