Digitalizing Your Business: How to Be One of Tech’s Great Love Stories

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In a recent post, Peter Reinhardt, CEO of Segment, explains how companies like Uber and other startups use APIs to get rid of organizational middlemen by directly linking providers of services (such as drivers for Uber) and their consumers (those looking for a ride). This provides, of course, a great advantage of flexibility for the organization, but also for providers who enjoy personal flexibility without the confines of a 9 to 5 job.

What caught my attention is that in as many discussions about digital businesses or some of the key technological initiatives that drive it—such as API Management or microservices—the companies used as examples all belong to the same category. They are all recent startups that were designed with one mission in mind while embracing a large audience: Amazon, Netflix, Uber. They have no legacy, nor have they gone through the kind of consolidation required after a few acquisitions. This does not mean they are small businesses; some of them have fully seized the digital opportunity and driven major revenue or at least major valuation.

So is digital business just an opportunity you can seize if you start from a blank sheet of paper? Not at all. Many examples of companies that have dozens, if not a hundred, years of history and have started their digital transformation prove the opposite. Digital business is an opportunity open to every business, big or small. Businesses just need to understand the playing field is more level than ever. What matters is the approach to innovation. As Nielsen’s CEO mentioned during TIBCO NOW in November 2014, “There are different ways to innovate: find new ways to do what you do today or just do new things.” Many businesses have followed that advice and used their core analog business as a launchpad for the digital part of their business.

Examples include:

  • Our own customer, Yellow Pages Canada, went from selling phone books to being the biggest provider of data in the country in just a few years. The raw material is the same: data. But improving the accessibility and the quality of it made them a reference used by the likes of Google and Microsoft.
  • Manufacturers are looking to amplify their business by making their devices connected, so as to provide companion services that improve the quality of service… at a premium.
  • Manufacturers also seize the ongoing digitalization of their customer base and sell them plans to print some parts.
  • Life sciences and insurance companies are partnering to leverage health devices for better advice and experience for their customers.

What are the common traits between these companies? They started from the inside by removing the barriers. By connecting to all key applications that define their business, whatever the age or technology of the applications. By quickly onboarding new technologies for capturing or pushing data and communicating with any person or device. By onboarding, just as quickly, partners’ APIs and combining them with their own services. In short, by integrating.

Data fuels digital business and integrations holds the digital fabric together. But this is not enough. The real value is providing the relevant services, in the way that is relevant to meet consumers’ expectations. And customers, across geographies, segmentations, and especially over time, have different requirements, and change these requirements often. These business need to be able to evolve much faster than they ever have. They need to understand the evolution of their context. Analytics provides them with the right vantage point to identify and, most importantly, understand these changes they can seize as opportunities, before they turn into threats.

And finally, they need to adapt, to anticipate the call. For this, they need to update the behavior—the intelligence of their platform—with technologies such as Event Processing that will combine insights from the past and data on the current context to take the right action. With this foundation in place, which we at TIBCO call the Fast Data platform, customers have the right vehicle to consider all the opportunities that are available to them as a digital business.