With the word “digital” peaking in the hype cycle, organisations realise that “digital” is critical to everything they do. Little wonder, then, that every IT vendor is cloaking their products as “digital”. All of this urgently prompts the question: what exactly is digital, and why is it any different?
To understand digital and why it is different, take an example like retail. Many of us have shopped online, so we are familiar with buying things on the web. With the widespread adoption of smart mobile devices, we shop on our mobile devices. However, companies that think it is just about adding an app as an additional channel are missing the point. It is not just a new channel — it is about creating an entirely new experience.
Mobile devices digitise our physical presence and enable anywhere anytime interactions. Moreover, the channels are blurring — for example, you can buy online and pick up in-store. Or a retail store app that remembers your purchase history and, upon recognising your presence in-store, makes recommendations or offers you a discount on items you liked online.
Digital enables partnerships that can be rapidly on-boarded in a low-cost, self-service manner. Traditional partnerships often involve large teams from both sides and take months of contracting and costly integration. Digital simplifies all of that. Cross-selling programs, loyalty points, payments — indeed, anything that used to be done physically — can be digitised. Walgreens is a great example of a bricks-and-mortar retailer that uses digital partnerships to great effect, as this Forbes article demonstrates.
While the allure of digital is usually demonstrated in sexy apps and cool customer experiences, what is often forgotten is the operational dimension of going digital. Unlike “digital natives” such as Google and Facebook — who built their systems from scratch — most companies have legacy systems where their core data and business processes reside. These legacy systems are not built for digital.
It is not feasible for companies to throw away everything and start from scratch. How can they keep their legacy core systems while enabling digital experiences and partnerships at the edge? The general consensus is that companies can accomplish this with two-speed or bi-modal IT.
APIs underpin digital — whether enabling new customer experiences, digital partnerships or two-speed IT. Indeed, the Harvard Business Review wrote about the strategic value of APIs and how companies use APIs to gain competitive advantage. CEOs who believe that APIs are geeky will need to rethink their opinion — particularly as IoT brings about further digitisation, APIs will become a C-level agenda. Contact me if you want to know how APIs can be a strategic enabler for your digital business.
If you want to learn more about how APIs can be a strategic enabler for your business, feel free to get in touch.
About the Authors
Chee Keong Law is the Director, Channel and Alliances, APJ at Apigee which is a corporate member of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit. Members contribute their expertise and insights to Which-50 for the benefit of our senior executive audience. Membership fees apply.