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Seven digital transformation trends to be aware of in 2021

by gbaf mag

By Ian Fairclough, VP of EMEA Customer Success at MuleSoft

As the world becomes increasingly digital, IT teams are under more pressure than ever to provide the connected experiences and services that customers crave. However, demand is outstripping IT teams’ ability to deliver. According to MuleSoft’s State of Business and IT Innovation Report, little more than a third (37 percent) of organisations say they have the skills and technology to keep pace with digital projects.

The disruption caused by COVID-19 has exacerbated this further, with global lockdowns seeing demand for digital services soar overnight. To keep pace, IT must rethink its operating model, to ease the pressure on their teams by providing self-serve capabilities that enable business-wide innovation. There are seven key trends that will shape their journey towards this in the next year.

  1.     The dawn of the digital-ready culture

This year has heightened consumer expectations to be able to engage with service providers digitally. To match these demands, in 2021, more organisations will embrace a ‘digital ready’ culture, investing in new service delivery models to meet and serve customers through digital channels. Agility and rapid innovation will be key, so more organisations will harness API-led connectivity to accelerate project delivery by reusing existing digital capabilities. Generali UK, for example, exposed its capabilities and data with APIs, creating dozens of new services using the same functionality. As teams did not have to begin every project from scratch, Generali UK’s digital transformation roadmap was accelerated dramatically, leaving the company ‘digital ready’ for the road ahead.

  1.     The rise of the composable enterprise

On average, organisations have around 900 applications, and yet less than a third (28 percent) of these are integrated. This leaves data trapped in silos, hindering IT’s ability to harness it effectively and power new digital capabilities. However, connecting these applications with rigid point-to-point integrations leaves organisations unable to respond to changes quickly, and makes it harder to reuse existing capabilities to support additional services. By adopting an API-led approach to integration, organisations can connect applications and data sources together more flexibly, re-imagining them as a network of reusable capabilities to quickly compose new services.  It also makes it easier for organisations to “fail fast”, minimising the time and effort required to trial new third-party innovations and identify whether they add value for customers and employees. This will give rise to what is known as the ‘composable enterprise,’ as more organisations embrace the benefits of API-led connectivity.

  1.     Innovation will be democratised

The composable enterprise will also fuel the rise of ‘citizen innovators’ next year. In the UK alone, organisations saw an average increase of 21 percent in the number of digital projects they needed to deliver this year. IT cannot keep pace with these mounting demands unless the task of digital innovation is shared more widely with other teams. By reimagining digital assets as a network of reusable capabilities, anyone in the organisation can compose new digital services without starting from scratch every time, or writing a single line of code. Enabling these citizen innovators frees up time for IT to create more value-driven digital experiences.

  1.     Automation will accelerate

The value that automation brings to organisations is huge, from freeing up time for innovation to boosting productivity and streamlining customer journeys. This trend will continue to accelerate in 2021, as organisations continue to automate more tasks. APIs will be crucial to enabling this. Legal & General, for instance, took an API-led integration approach to automate its home insurance quote process. This resulted in accurate quotes being produced in just 90 seconds, and revenue opportunities increasing twofold.

  1.     API Security will be paramount

In the era of ongoing breaches and cyberattacks, security is pivotal in keeping and growing a customer base. Despite their benefits, APIs can be a weak link if they are not managed effectively. Gartner predicts that API abuses will be the most-frequent attack vector for web application data breaches by 2022. Next year, as the use of APIs continues to climb, organisations must take steps to ensure robust API data security – including using multi-factor authentication, token-based credentials, and digital certificates.

  1.     Microservices will grow in prevalence

Agility in 2021 will be everything, and organisations will need to adapt quickly to changing customer demands and market shifts. As such, they will continue to move away from monolithic applications and tightly coupled integrations that could slow them down. In their place, we will see the uptake of microservices and API-led connectivity, which eliminate custom code complexity and offer a way to rapidly build new digital experiences and services. Unilever, for instance, harnessed a microservices-based approach to digital service creation. This resulted in the speed of deployment for new initiatives increasing fourfold.

  1.     The data divide widens

Today’s customers expect a digital-first, connected experience from the organisations they deal with, and 72 percent of them say they’d consider changing service providers if those expectations weren’t met. Finding new ways to unlock and unify data to create a single view of the customer and drive more connected digital experiences will therefore be essential in 2021. Of course, simply unlocking data isn’t enough; the quality of the data is also hugely important. Strong data analytics capabilities will increasingly set organisations apart from their competitors and be paramount to post-pandemic growth, driving personalised experiences, better business decisions, and faster innovation.

The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has compelled every organisation to accelerate their digital transformation, whether they were already on the journey or not. This urgency and pace of transformation will not slow in 2021, and organisations’ survival depends upon their ability to be agile, innovate quickly, and provide customers with the seamlessly connected experiences that they expect. The last 12 months have been extremely trying. The silver lining is that the investments organisations have made in their digital transformations will fuel long-term growth and resilience long after this crisis has passed.

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