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Strategic digital transformation requires a mature integration capability and a network of connected applications.

Today’s business and IT leaders understand digital transformation is necessary to maintain leverage amid constantly changing customer preferences. They also have a clear picture of their desired end state — exemplified by leaders like Amazon, which launches more than 70 new services and features every year at their annual AWS re:Invent conference, Google, which has set the golden standard for productization and unveils hundreds of announcements at Google I/O each year, and Microsoft, which has revolutionized the enterprise cloud industry with its core business model and end-to-end hybrid technologies. Digital enterprises are producing thousands of patents every year. However, only a small minority of have a clear understanding of the path they need to lead the market.

Speed of integration is a key factor in achieving digital transformation

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Digital transformation comes not from the implementation of any single technology, but from an architecture that is built for constant innovation, enabling companies to bring multiple technologies together again and again to create a compelling and consistent customer experience — quickly. The rapid growth of SaaS applications and increasing the number of integration endpoints has created an urgent need to expose information internally and externally through digital channels.  In fact, the average business transaction now crosses 35 disparate systems. An organization’s ability to drive integration in an agile and responsive way has a direct impact on its ability to drive digital transformation in an agile and responsive way.

Successful businesses have a foundation that allows them to quickly integrate new technologies such as cloud, the internet of things, artificial intelligence, and big data across the entire enterprise. From there, they are able to adapt and deliver quickly to stay ahead of customer expectations. For example, enterprises who have worked with MuleSoft to develop an integration capability now deliver integrations 64% faster and lower their cost to maintain integrations by 63%. They also benefit from increased agility, with improvements in measures such as time-to-market, IT throughput, change success rate, and lower OpEx as percentage of revenue.

An integration capability is key to enabling an enterprise to constantly innovate and rapidly scale. It ties directly to improvements in business key performance indicators (KPIs) such as IT operational expense, variance from forecasts of business results, time to market, project success, employee morale, and turnover. It also increases key IT performance indicators including rate of reuse, variance from forecast of technology results, higher degrees of visibility into IT and business results, higher rates of standards and regulatory compliance, “tech debt,” staff onboarding time, and development factory metrics like test coverage, mean time to resolution, defect escape rate, mean time between failures, change success rate, resiliency, and throughput.

So how do they get there? Beyond the ability to integrate the systems they have today, organizations are looking for ways to help them speed up the development of new integrations and maintain them as the applications around them change. This requires a fabric of connectivity across the enterprise, a concept we explain in the next chapter.

Welcome to the application network

At the heart of modern integration is a network of application programming interfaces (APIs). APIs are the messengers that allow software to talk to software. APIs are the building blocks that allow your systems, data, and devices to communicate with one another. While binary API adoption predicts a 10.3% increase in a enterprise’s market value, building APIs doesn’t automatically transform an organization.

The problem for enterprises is that they are sitting on a pile of building blocks. True business transformation requires a platform that enables productized composition, an operating model that is ingrained in SDLC, and a community that is constantly innovating to extend the value of your network. This is where the application network comes in. The application network provides an infrastructure for information exchange and then allows applications to be ‘plugged’ into the network. Unlike point-to-point approaches to unlocking data in the enterprise, the application network is designed for an era where many people within and outside of an enterprise will be able to access parts of the network using consumption models that are familiar to their way of working. This modular, easily pluggable infrastructure enables the digital platform by making it easy to create, change, and monetize new capabilities.

Application networks change the speed of innovation at enterprises by connecting data, applications, and devices in a standardized way using APIs. The next time you need access to data you don’t create another point-to-point connection. Instead, you create an API to access and connect it. And you can do this for every new project, each time adding a new node to the network. Consumers, like your employees and partners, can also discover and use the assets on the network to build new products, services, and processes. The network then manages the communication, security, and tracking of your data. It’s this self-service and reuse that drives agility and enables innovation at speed.

How to assess your digital maturity

Building an application network is a journey. The more mature an application network, the more impact it has on a business. An application network can be as simple as two applications connected by APIs that enable two systems to share information. This would be reflective of a very early or nascent application network. Every new node added to the network will increase the value of the network because the data and capabilities of that node are discoverable and consumable by others inside and outside network.

A mature application network doesn’t merely expose systems — it is an interface for information exchange that allows developers to discover and reuse assets to create new applications and services. This includes assets both within the enterprise and in the broader ecosystem. It also requires an enterprise-wide integration platform. For example, MuleSoft provides a single cloud-native platform to efficiently integrate both SaaS and on-premise applications. Digital transformation also requires a mature strategy, organization and governance, software development lifecycle, discoverability and self-service, operations, and community, which we will outline in detail in the next chapter.

Your digital transformation blueprint

In our work with more than 1,400 enterprises, we’ve witnessed the struggle between business goals and IT execution. MuleSoft’s digital transformation blueprint has been instrumental in helping our most successful customers establish and advance their application network maturity and integration capabilities.

The blueprint encompasses six key elements: strategy, organization and governance, software development lifecycle (SDLC), discoverability and self-service, operations, and community and evangelism.

Download the Hands-on guide to digital transformation to access the full digital transformation blueprint and assess your company’s integration capability, application network maturity, and plot your path forward.