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MuleSoft recently published its global 2020 Connectivity Benchmark Report, surveying 800+ global IT leaders on the state of digital transformation. A large number of respondents from Greater China gave their insights displaying vast differences between Greater China and the global respondents, which can inform our local strategies.  

Compared to our global findings, Greater China respondents report they have the highest increase in projects asked of them (43%). However, this group was also the least likely (30%) to say they successfully delivered on all of their projects last year. What can IT do to be more effective at delivering successful projects? The survey respondents seem to answer this:

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#1: Developers from Greater China love APIs. Hong Kong developers are amongst the most likely (86%) in the world to use private or public APIs. No surprises there — as this region has good developers that look for great technologies to work on complex problems.

#2: But we rarely have an integration strategy. Of all of the countries surveyed, Greater China respondents are the most likely (96%) to not have a company-wide strategy for API integration. Greater China is also one of the least likely regions to have dedicated teams driving API sharing and reuse.

IT leaders in Greater China understand the value of the integration technology but our leaders struggle with a strategy to optimize its use across multiple teams. Integration and data silos remain key challenges for organizations, with many lacking the company-wide strategies and dedicated teams to solve them.

#3: We want connected experiences!  Respondents in Greater China are among the least likely (36%) to report that their organization provides connected user experiences and are more likely (64%) than the global average to say that such experiences are hard to deliver. From a region that created Alipay and WeChat Pay, it is no surprise that the benchmark is set high.

#4: Integration tasks are slowing us down. Respondents from Greater China are more likely (94%) to say that integration challenges are slowing progress. Most (90%) report that data silos are creating business challenges. Nearly a third say that legacy infrastructure and systems are amongst the three biggest challenges they face when digitally transforming.  

#5: Connectivity is the most valuable IT contribution to the business. Our respondents are more likely (88%) than the global average to say that IT is measured on delivering great customer experiences. There are demands from all sides: nearly all (94%) report that integration solutions are needed from groups beyond IT, ie: citizen integrators. But the majority (64%) admit that their team struggles to introduce new technologies because of their IT infrastructure.  

While these findings paint a concerning picture for organizations in the region, the solution is in the numbers. Without a company-wide strategy for API integration, organizations struggle to achieve progress on their digital transformation projects. 

However, companies that drive sharing and reuse as part of a wider API integration strategy can leverage a significant increase in their development efficiency to improve the speed of digital transformation and innovation. This, in turn, will enable IT leaders to increase their output and deliver more projects each year. 

If IT leaders are looking to deepen their value to the business, establishing an integration strategy needs to be a centerpiece of their digital innovation plan.

How reuse improves the speed of digital transformation

While there’s a large community of highly-skilled developers in the region, IT leadership struggles to implement a framework for developing consistency and executing reuse. That’s because Greater China organizations are project-oriented. Each project has its own team of developers who run the show. But each team may use different development languages, which limits reuse and creates inconsistencies. 

So it makes sense that when we ask the CIOs how much reuse they are getting from APIs, their answer is often “not much” or they “don’t know.” The right reuse strategy can knock 60% to 70% of the development time off the project schedule.

For example, let’s say the IT team was asked to deliver a mobile app. Either the internal IT team builds the app, or it’s outsourced to an external partner.  

Then project #2 comes along that has similar components as the project that was just delivered. But with no ability to share — or reuse — the development from the first project, the development team starts from scratch. That’s incredibly inefficient. 

But with reuse as part of your API integration strategy, your development speed goes up so you can launch new services quickly, and that improves your return on investment. 

Reuse and collaboration gives you the space to innovate 

Leveraging the inherent efficiencies of reuse also means you can experiment more. Say you want to launch a new mobile app in the market to see if it works. With a reuse strategy, you can treat the project as a lean startup. You don’t need a large budget because reuse is making the project more affordable and faster. 

And when you’re continually launching small services, you’re using a process of experimentation to make incremental innovations. No single project has a boundary, but gradually enhances because you have more flexibility during development and deployment. That will allow you to innovate and enhance your competitive edge. The more you apply this, the richer the set of assets you’ll build. 

The Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN) is one company that we’re seeing put the benefits of reuse into action. HKBN began with a project to integrate multiple back-end systems for its CRM strategy. Now HKBN is leveraging the same technology and strategy for other parts of their business. HKBN views integration assets akin to LEGO blocks: “so long as you’ve built a solid foundation, you can build your own stack, testing, and learning until you find something that works for you and your market.”

Through those projects, HKBN acquired new capabilities for IT delivery and are measured by their agility, e.g., over the past year, the company moved from three month launch cycles to two week sprints, with three to four releases per sprint. The business leverages best practices built from multiple projects and launching a Centre for Enablement it uses to make its business customers and other delivery partners successful in implementing their own API integration strategies.  

How to get started building an API repository

To get started, I encourage companies to start small and select a project that has great potential for innovation, and apply an integration strategy in a stepwise manner. 

For example, luxury department store Lane Crawford used MuleSoft and an API strategy to integrate its CRM with eCommerce applications as their first project. Exposing these systems through APIs enabled Lane Crawford to create a data-as-a-service platform to orchestrate 360-degree views of customers and inventory, such as up-to-date loyalty balances and shopping history. The same APIs are leveraged across digital channels including their new mobile app, website, and WeChat.

So you might start with one project, but if you keep applying the overall API framework to each new project, in a few years you may end up in a position like HSBC. One of the largest banks in the world, HSBC is building a digital platform with APIs to unlock open-banking opportunities. With MuleSoft’s Anypoint API Community Manager, HSBC is co-creating new customer experiences with a broader ecosystem of developers and partners in the API economy.  

That’s a rich repository with many different types of services that will be the basis for connected experiences for nearly every business unit in every geography around the globe. 

Download the full MuleSoft 2020 Connectivity Benchmark Report for more insights.