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Each year, Deloitte’s Tech Trends reports take a look at the technology landscape and examine the trends that have the potential to transform business, government, and society and impact organizations – across industries, geographies, and sizes today and in the future. The theme for this year’s report is the fusion of business and IT.

MuleSoft’s very own Ross Mason, Founder and Vice President, Product Strategy, and Uri Sarid, Chief Technology Officer, contributed to the report, discussing how CIOs are using APIs to help drive innovation from the inside out, turning integration into a competitive advantage.

Ross’ thoughts

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In order to survive, companies need to open up their digital channels. More and more, businesses large and small are recognizing the important opportunities being created by establishing an open approach to data. The common way to accomplish this is through APIs, which allow for the fluid exchange of information between internal systems and those belonging to third parties. Adopting an open approach to sharing data through digital channels will be a driving force for companies of all size this year.

Read the excerpt below for more information on what Ross and Url had to say, and be sure to download the entire Tech Trends report to explore all the trends.

Over many years, companies have built up masses of valuable data about their customers, products, supply chains, operations, and more, but they’re not always good at making it available in useful ways. That’s a missed opportunity at best, and a fatal error at worst. Within today’s digital ecosystems, business is driven by getting information to the right people at the right time. Staying competitive is not so much about how many applications you own or how many developers you employ. It’s about how effectively you trade on the insights and services across your balance sheet.

Until recently, and for some CIOs still today, integration was seen as a necessary headache. But by using APIs to drive innovation from the inside out, CIOs are turning integration into a competitive advantage. It all comes down to leverage: taking the things you already do well and bringing them to the broadest possible audience. Think: Which of your assets could be reused, repurposed, or revalued— inside your organization or outside? As traditional business models decline, APIs can be a vehicle to spur growth, and even create new paths to revenue.

Viewing APIs in this way requires a shift in thinking. The new integration mindset focuses less on just connecting applications than on exposing information within and beyond your organizational boundaries. It’s concerned less with how IT runs, and more with how the business runs.

The commercial potential of the API economy really emerges when the CEO champions it and the board gets involved. Customer experience, global expansion, omnichannel engagement, and regulatory compliance are heart-of-the-business issues, and businesses can do all of them more effectively by exposing, orchestrating, and monetizing services through APIs.

In the past, technical interfaces dominated discussions about integration and service-oriented architecture (SOA). But services, treated as products, are what really open up a business’s cross-disciplinary, cross-enterprise, cross-functional capabilities. Obviously, the CIO has a critical role to play in all this, potentially as the evangelist for the new thinking, and certainly as the caretaker of the architecture, platform, and governance that should surround APIs.

The first step for CIOs to take toward designing that next-generation connected ecosystem is to prepare their talent to think about it in the appropriate way. Set up a developer program and educate staff about APIs. Switch the mindset so that IT thinks not just about building and testing and runtimes, but about delivering the data—the assets of value. Consider a new role: the cross-functional project manager who can weave together various systems into a compelling new business offering.

We typically see organizations take two approaches to implementing APIs. The first is to build a new product offering and imagine it from the ground up, with an API serving data, media, and assets. The second is to build an internal discipline for creating APIs strategically rather than on a project-by-project basis. Put a team together to build the initial APIs, create definitions for what APIs mean to your organization, and define common traits so you’re not reinventing the wheel each time. This method typically requires some adjustment, since teams are used to building tactically. But ultimately, it forces an organization to look at what assets really matter and creates value by opening up data sets, giving IT an opportunity to help create new products and services. In this way, APIs become the essential catalyst for IT innovation in a digital economy.

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