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Digital Transformation

The Key to Digital Transformation: Becoming a Composable Business

Shaun Clowes

As consumers increasingly demand all-digital experiences, digital transformation is now an imperative. Companies that embrace composability will meet customers where they are and ultimately, thrive in a digital-first world. 

We sat down with Shaun Clowes, SVP of Product Management, MuleSoft, to hear how companies can successfully make this transition.

Q. What are the main challenges IT teams will face in the next 12 months?

Organizations need to offer digital experiences that meet the needs of their customers — wherever they are. To do that, they have to move more quickly than ever before. 

But how do you deliver a seamless customer or employee experience on top of fifty, sixty, or seventy different systems? 

We went from having systems of gravity, where companies would put most of their work around one or two critical systems, to a proliferation of domain specific tools, where a new system is used for every important task. We’ve seen this explosion in the SaaS ecosystem, providing these “best of breed” tools, but they make the overall process of running a business dramatically harder. 

Organizations must connect these systems, apps and data — and integration is the key to making it happen. However, according to the recent Connectivity Benchmark Report, data silos remain a challenge for 90% of organizations, and almost 9 in 10 point to integration challenges as a blocker to delivering on digital transformation. 

Q. What is composability? What is a composable business?

Composability means using standardized, reusable building blocks of packaged capabilities to build new experiences, products, and services with greater speed, agility, and efficiency – instead of using custom code or starting from scratch each time.

A composable business recognizes that there’s no such thing as one system (or even a few) to rule them all, and there never will be. Companies need the ability to integrate business processes in order to produce the seamless experiences needed. They also need the ability to decompose and recreate those experiences in an agile way so when new technology appears, they can leverage it. 

Q. What is the first step a company can take to actually become composable?

Start thinking about the assets in your organization  — every piece of data, every process, every application — as building blocks. These building blocks are the foundation of composability.

At MuleSoft, we call that API-led connectivity. Whenever you want to create something new, you first work out what other components or APIs need to be leveraged. You create building blocks for those APIs and catalog them for discoverability, accessibility and reuse.

By doing so, you’re sowing the seeds of your future success. To scale the benefits of this approach across the company, a leading practice is to then form a center for enablement (C4E). The C4E is a collaborative, cross-functional team that acts as the champion of all assets and promotes reuse across the company. Rather than keeping expertise in one team, the C4E empowers all teams to use assets, provide feedback, and create connected experiences faster.

Q. What are some of the challenges businesses face when shifting to a composable model?

Businesses often try to approach the composable model with a “big bang” mindset, trying to overhaul their entire process at once. The problem with that approach is that it’s very disruptive to the business and often fails. By the time the new system is implemented and replaces all of the old ones, a whole other set of new capabilities would need to be added to respond to the market.

In reality, the composable model is more about defining a program, a way of thinking about the world, and what your composition fabric looks like. It’s a mindset change, process change, and technology change.

The advantage of the API-led approach is that you can slowly but surely reduce your complexity by replacing unknown, unmanageable capabilities with understood, managed reusable pieces. 

Q. How does MuleSoft help solve these challenges?

Our goal is to make it easier for people to securely use, reuse and share their capabilities with other people in the enterprise so they can quickly roll out new capabilities. We provide a series of technologies and processes that help organizations create the building blocks they need to become a composable business.

For example, we provide a series of API management tools that enable companies to put a gateway in front of existing APIs to monitor, manage, measure, and govern them. 

We make it easy to create APIs in front of major systems by providing connectors to over 140 different important systems. We also provide a tool called Anypoint Exchange, which is a catalog that enables reuse. Our latest release, Anypoint DataGraph, helps developers create new building blocks faster by creating a unified GraphQL API that can query across existing APIs with no additional code. 

For example, TAB Bank, a modern, digital-only bank that serves small and medium enterprises (SMEs), uses MuleSoft to automate complex business processes. They leverage reusable building blocks like APIs and are now processing SME loans 60x faster than before.

Q. What advances do you expect to see in digital innovation post-pandemic?

We have to accept that some things will not return to the way they were. During the pandemic, customers have had to rely on digital experiences for almost everything that they do. In fact, 58% of customer interactions became digital in the past year, according to McKinsey & Company

Customers don’t want to go from system to system, from website to website, in order to get what they want from a company. They expect it all to be brought to them quickly. Companies that can meet and exceed these expectations will win, while the ones that can’t will be left behind. 

What I expect to change is that the organizations that successfully capture the ability to create and reuse composable building blocks will move faster than those that don’t. There will be a lot of innovations to help organizations move quickly and securely to deliver new digital experiences.

More Information 

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