Integration Is the Foundation of Digital Business

Most of the discussions we have with customers today revolve around the digitalization of their business. Digital keeps on transforming our daily lives and provides the ground for incredible capabilities. These are the kinds of things we used to read about in anticipation novels, such as artificial intelligence or human-shaped robotics. As we as consumers adopt new services, replace our devices, and seize the benefits of digital in our personal and professional lives, it is easy for us to remain at the edge.

For organizations, it is more difficult to project themselves in the digital era. They are looking at great ways to amplify their businesses and expand the services they provide in various ways:

  • Technology, such as the Internet of Things, Cloud or Mobile, provides them with new ways to provide the usual services. If we take the example of services, the number of channels available ensures a closer proximity between the organization and its customers for a constant conversation, a constant experience. This proximity combined with the expanded reach these channels provide the organization ensure a growth of the business. As an example, manufacturers can leverage 3D printing by selling not add-ons items, but digital files to print these items. The packaging of the services or functionality can be adapted to improve the business. With most devices being connected, manufacturers can limit functionalities so as to lower the prices and foster adoption, to then propose to customers to unlock additional options when needed.
  • The same technologies also act as a gigantic source of data about customers, their context, the organization’s operations. This influx of data combined with the ability to extract better insight from Big Data provides the organization with a unique vantage point on its business. Not only can these insights be used to optimize campaigns, offers, and operations, being turned into new services—in addition to current classical services—allows their monetization. Examples include agricultural equipment manufacturers helping farmers optimize the productivity of their fields, airplane manufacturers providing predictive maintenance for airlines to lower cost and increase availability of planes, or even insurance companies providing health advice to customers based on data captured from their sensors.
  • Finally, net-new services can be created to complement existing ones or to take the organizations into new business territories. These services can be developed by the organization’s own team as well as its partners, or be provided by third-party companies, thanks to APIs. Organizations can propose shipping services with tracking without having any logistics experience, complete their customer shopping experience by dropping them back to their home, etc.

All of these opportunities allow organizations to differentiate. But the Digital Transformation is not the first evolution that organizations had to go through. The last 20 years had them going through important evolutions enabled by the technology that they, as well as their counterparts (customers and partners), had access to. First they had to have some web presence and start differentiating with their web properties. Then came the era of e-Business, in which the web became a platform for transactions, not only with customers, but also with partners. Quality of service, and the ability for the organization to commit to it, became an important differentiator. The rise of mobile and ubiquitous connectivity has disrupted marketing, changing forever the knowledge, but also the intimacy organizations have with their customers. And now comes the era of the digital business, with new services—an era that has organizations facing new challengers, organizations built to be digital.

It’s important to understand that each era is building on each other, acting as a launchpad for each other. It’s certainly true for the technology, but it has to be true for the organization. There would be nothing worse than an organization starting each initiative from scratch, operating them in silos, unable to leverage any service or differentiation it has achieved before. This is why integration is at the heart of all digital transformation conversations we have with our customers. Of course, integration is very often thought about to onboard a new SaaS application or to fuel mobile applications with data. I should even say that integration is thought about after these initiatives are launched.

But…

  • When organizations reverse that thinking and design integration first.
  • When their critical business systems and data are easily accessed.
  • When they can easily onboard new technologies without disruption and have these new technologies consume the services that power other channels such as the web. When they are able to compose their own services with third-party services to expose a new service.
  • When they have a robust way to access this data from potentially millions of consumers.

In short, when they have a strategic approach to integration… that’s when integration becomes the business fabric from which new initiatives can be built on data. That’s when innovation and differentiation not only rhymes, but resume instead of starting from scratch. This is what helps startups, as well as organizations that have been pioneering innovation for several decades, gain confidence they can leverage their existing business.

That is why as part of these digital business discussions we take a look at the state of integration in the organization. Yes, it is an oxymoron, but it is important to be reminded that data fuels the digital business as much as technology. So, to start their digital business initiatives with right foundation, organizations must start with integration.

Assess your integration maturity here.