Learn How Trailblazers Lead Business Reinvention

Learning Objectives

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

  • Explain the historical significance of highly disruptive business technologies.
  • Identify the Trailblazers who championed their adoption.
  • Explain why APIs will fuel the next wave of disruption.

Being a Trailblazer isn’t always easy. Sometimes you need to do something new, something that not too many people understand. This is what leaders do with disruptive business technologies. And we’re not talking about forward-thinking executives or even managers (although some Trailblazers did have corner offices).

In the early 1980s very few people had personal computer (PC) skills. It was rare that you found someone who could set up a PC, let alone operate spreadsheet software. You often had to learn these skills on your own. No classes. No online videos. Not even the internet. 

But just 10 years later, businesses—especially ones that had these self-taught PC experts who showed their passion and offered new ways to work—began to recognize the power of the PC to revolutionize productivity, communications, and their overall industries.

This is why we at Salesforce call them Trailblazers. They saw the potential of the PC and transformed their companies from within, with their passion for what’s new, for what they saw had potential, even if others didn’t immediately see the same thing. At first, many enterprise executives lacked the vision to mandate PC deployment in the name of improved productivity, efficiency, and profitability. Instead, that business revolution was driven from within organizational ranks by a handful of Trailblazers who recognized the PC’s potential for what it was and seized the day. Today, few organizations could exist, let alone survive, without widespread deployment of PCs.

History repeats itself. In fact, this pattern would repeat itself multiple times all the way to today. 

Lead the Way with Connected Technology

These kinds of opportunities don’t come along frequently. And the window to make lasting change does not stay open for very long. After the PC, technologies involving connectivity became the basis of the next waves of disruption. And Trailblazers found ways to go even further, connecting us in ways we never expected.
Illustration of a local area network showing PCs connected to each other and to shared storage and a printer

Local area networks (LANs). The first PCs operated independently of one another, and the productivity was often restricted to whoever operated them. Trailblazers saw the benefits of networking PCs together in ways that drove more efficiency, through the sharing of printers, storage, email, and more—things some businesses take for granted today. Today, it’s nearly impossible to buy any computing device that doesn’t have this networking capability already built in.

: cart, tv, money, antennae, phone, and factory connected by a web with www. In the middle

The World Wide Web. The web adds another level of connectivity. You’re not just connecting hardware and software in a single office, but entire networks of media, commerce, and information around the world, opening up to nearly everyone with a PC. Trailblazers who saw the web’s potential to democratize information and commerce proved to the world just how disruptive a new connected technology can be. They led their organizations to new levels of success, with websites that marketed their products and services, and even facilitated online transactions, making it easier for their customers to connect with them.

Illustration showing old world IT blending with new world consumer technologies in the office signified by an outdated PC and merging with a smartphone and tablet

Consumer products in IT: Leading companies found that in order to continually attract talent, they had to rethink the tools they offered to get the job done. Smartphones, tablets—the things we use in our personal lives—are now what we use to keep businesses connected with their communities. This is a direct result of the expectations and cultural shift driven by customers, and by the Trailblazers who brought PCs, networks, and the web into the workplace, and connected them, and us, to the right services and content at the right time. 

But things don’t stop there. We're on the cusp of more change focused on integration. And this is where you come in. 

The rules of today’s digital economy are completely different than just a decade ago, or even 5 years ago. In order to emerge as a leader, you can help your organization to completely re-tool itself for a different culture and customer engagement model. 

Find APIs at the Heart of This Revolution

The next wave of disruption will come at the hands of some innovative Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies and sciences that are changing the world. To be a Trailblazer now, just like those who drove the previous waves of disruption, you need to demonstrate imagination, ingenuity, and innovation when it comes to the application of these new technologies and sciences. 

Before advances in technologies and sciences can be used to revolutionize your organization and prepare it for success in the new digital economy, someone—hopefully you—must blaze a new trail and inspire a culture of integration based on API-led connectivity. API (application programming interfaces) may sound too technical to be relevant to business. But rest assured that much the same way the PC, the LAN, the Web, and consumer technologies have fundamentally changed how we do business, APIs will have a similar if not more profound impact. And thanks to an emerging class of citizen integration tools—like MuleSoft Composer that relies on clicks instead of code—integration trailblazers will make an even bigger impact.

However, in the same way that it took a while for each of those disruptive technologies to gain widespread business acceptance, many of today’s businesses will be inclined to cling to familiar, but outdated, operating models. So, as the world plows its way towards a fully digital economy, the mandate to change is not likely to come from the top. As with previous revolutions, this next shift will be driven from within. 

Inspiring this next revolution will have its own challenges. Whereas previous revolutions were inspired by discernable technologies we can touch, the API cannot be seen or felt. Even so, its pervasiveness across your organization’s systems, culture, and ultimately its strategy, is an imperative.


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