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Bring the Integration Trailblazer Mindset to Your Organization

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Explain the Integration Trailblazer mindset.
  • Reimagine your end-to-end customer experience through API-led integration and partnerships.

Let’s consider everything that’s happening behind the scenes when someone gives a command to a smart assistant, “Add orange juice to my shopping list.” 

  1. The ability of the device to recognize what you said is based on the millions of voice commands issued to the smart assistant service by you and other users.
  2. The machine, hosted in a datacenter, is constantly learning through artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). It’s adjusting to the nuances in human speech.
  3. The AI and ML informs the service, which successfully puts orange juice on your shopping list, which is synchronized between your phone and the cloud.

Know Where Data Gets Its Value

It’s only when AI is connected in context to a larger ecosystem of users, things, applications, and data that it becomes the Fourth Industrial Revolution technology that it is. It’s why the research company IDC envisions the market for AI to reach approximately $98.4B in revenue by 2023. 

Without the ability to connect AI into specific contexts in real time (like how smart assistants work), AI wouldn’t be nearly as valuable. The same exact thing is true for any of the other technologies like IoT or blockchain that have been labeled as Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies. Just the phrase Internet of Things suggests that the things are interconnected in some way.

Something else is also true: connectivity-in-context would not be possible without the most important technology of them all, the application programming interface (API). The API is the Trailblazer’s key to success. Once you understand the role APIs can play in forming vibrant, modern-day ecosystems that lead the digital economy, you will be on your way to helping your company lead in this new age.

Adopt the Integration Trailblazer Mindset

APIs, AI, the IoT, Blockchain and other technologies will define success in the new digital economy. History will repeat itself in much the same way, where the leaders who emerged from the Digital Revolution were the ones who uncovered the potential of new technology, and then went to work.

This takes imagination and a willingness to consider the types of connected experiences that no one dreamed possible before. It will take completely different types of operating models to deliver them. Organizations will have to completely rethink their approach to serving their customers, looking for more efficient and personalized delivery of goods and services. 

So, what can you do to bring this mindset to your company?

Rethink the End-to-End Customer Experience

Recall in the previous unit, the traditional “ends” of the customer experience for tracking health information started and stopped with someone taking note of their sleep and activity patterns. With API-led connectivity, those “ends” are changing—the end-to-end customer experience is expanding to include partner-provided capabilities that weren’t so easily included before. 

If you stop to think about the companies that have endured for a century or more, one of the keys to their staying power has been their ability to transform over time. They moved from owning and building every part of their end-to-end customer experience to becoming master outsourcers and integrators. Having this mindset of transformation is critical.

According to MuleSoft Chief Technology Officer Uri Sarid:

“In 1920, one of the most admired companies in history owned a power plant, they had the machine shop, they had a foundry, they had a rubber plantation in Brazil. They had coal mines in Kentucky, they had acres of timberland and iron ore mines in Michigan and Minnesota, they had a fleet of ships, they had an entire railroad. Ford was bringing together every raw material in the process of manufacturing an automobile. Today, 99% of the parts that go into a Ford car are actually outsourced. Even the engine block is made by somebody else.”

Companies like Ford can now spend more of their limited resources on car designs that win customers, and fewer of those resources on non differentiating activities like manufacturing brake pads. Somewhere in the car industry’s journey were a handful of Integration Trailblazers who saw outsourcing for the business opportunity that it was, and forever changed the industry, to the point that it’s unthinkable for any car manufacturer to take a non integrative approach. 

Integrate to Delight Customers

Now, with APIs, Integration Trailblazers of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will get to design and assemble innovative customer experiences from a giant palette of physical and virtual parts. Some of that functionality will be dynamically sourced from across the internet at the exact moment a customer needs it. 

For example, think about that moment when you want a snack and you realize you don't have any more popcorn in the house. Imagine you can press an Order More Popcorn button right on your microwave oven. You may not have this capability on your microwave now. But it’s not hard to imagine it in the near future. That microwave will become one of the many things on the IoT that is connected-in-context. 

But before any Trailblazer creates that customer experience, they have to know something about the power of APIs, how they enable these sorts of rich purpose-built and personalized experiences, and how APIs enable parts of the customer experience to be outsourced in the same way that a car manufacturer outsources the majority of the parts in its cars.

This can very well be the start of your journey to understand and use connectivity as well as APIs to transform your business. Or, if you’re ready to move on to build great solutions, this can be a refresher. Wherever you are in this journey, know that you’re blazing trails in the Fourth Industrial Revolution when you take this integration mindset back to your company and work toward true digital transformation.