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The past year brought with it an unfathomable level of disruption to norms: impacting business priorities and digital transformation initiatives and drastically altering expectations from customers. While 2020 is in the past, the key learnings and radical shifts it has prompted will be ever more relevant this year. Organizations are seeking to navigate a new IT landscape — one punctuated by an uptick in demand for digital projects and heightened expectations from customers, as traditional experiences like brick-and-mortar stores give way to a digital-first world. 

MuleSoft’s State of Business and IT Innovation report confirms the demands being felt by IT, with an increase in digital initiatives by an average 11-23% since the pandemic. These pressures aren’t just experienced by IT however but are also being felt organization-wide. Over half of line of business (LoB) employees are currently frustrated by the speed at which their IT team can deliver digital projects. To meet these challenges, organizations must turn to digital strategies like leveraging reusable APIs to quickly connect systems, applications, and data.

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Our MuleSoft thought leaders give their take on what’s ahead in 2021 and how organizations can navigate in order to grow and thrive in an increasingly digitally connected world.

A digital-first, digital-ready culture

In 2021, organizations will need to embrace new service delivery models to meet the rising demands of customers who expect seamless connected experiences — however they are served. 

Ada Westerinen, EMEA channels solutions consulting manager, MuleSoft

“This year we can expect to see banks take their first steps towards an ‘ecosystem mindset,’ whereby they re-imagine their traditional model in favor of one where their services are offered as a platform. In this approach, banks whitelabel their services for others within their ecosystem to use. A property platform, for instance, might make use of a bank’s mortgage application capability to enable customers to apply for a loan directly from within the app. In this way, banks will be able to reach more customers through indirect channels, rather than ‘owning’ every customer relationship in the traditional sense. 

For this model to work, banks must become more composable enterprises, by embracing APIs — the lynchpin of open banking. By using APIs, banks can re-imagine their digital assets as a network of capabilities that can be exposed for others to discover and tap into. A third-party wishing to make use of a certain banking capability can simply plug the bank’s API into their own product or service. The more that banks are able to open themselves up in this manner, the more opportunities they have to join new value chains, unlocking more revenue as a result.”

Marc Caltabiano, vice president, Australia and New Zealand, MuleSoft

“Over the past year, the way consumers interact and transact with retailers has changed considerably, with the pandemic rapidly accelerating trends in eCommerce that have been building for years. Consumer shopping behavior has certainly evolved, and with it, so too have their expectations for companies’ digital capabilities. Almost half of the consumers surveyed expressed their intent to embrace digital replacements for in-person experiences in the long run, and there’s no doubt that e-commerce will continue to entice consumers. In 2021, consumer preferences will continue to ebb and flow between in-store and online, and those retailers that can act quickly on digital initiatives to offer consistent shopping journeys across all channels will maintain customer loyalty.” 

Democratization of innovation

In 2021, organizations will need to empower LoB and other non-technical teams to self-serve digital innovation in order to meet heightened demands, without needing to write a single line of code.

Brent Hayward, CEO, MuleSoft

“To move fast and thrive in today’s hyper-competitive landscape, organizations need to democratize access to data to scale innovation. More than two-thirds of business users agree that they and IT should come together to jointly drive innovation. In addition, an overwhelming majority (80%) agree that if data and IT capabilities were discoverable and available in pre-packaged building blocks, employees could create solutions and deliver digital projects more quickly.

With an increasingly mobile and remote workforce, organizations need to decentralize and design for the broader workforce in mind, where different groups can freely and securely access the data they need with clicks, not code – while leveraging automation to eliminate repetitive or manual processes like importing spreadsheets to boost their productivity and drive operational efficiency.”

The widening data divide

Organizations will be more data driven in 2021, as delivering personalized customer experiences becomes more important, across industries from retail, to insurance. 

Lindsey Irvine, CMO, MuleSoft

“During periods of crisis and as companies look ahead toward growth, it’s essential to move with speed, precision, and efficiency. And actionable data is how we do that. Now more than ever, a business’s most critical asset is its data. Organizations can only achieve digital transformation when they are able to bring together data across multiple systems and technologies to draw insights and create truly connected, differentiated experiences.

Of the almost 900 different applications used by the average enterprise, only 28% of those applications are integrated, leading 89% of technology leaders to say data silos are a primary obstacle to digital transformation.

To meet customers where they are and deliver the experiences they expect, organizations are looking for faster ways to unlock data wherever it exists — on-premises, in the cloud or legacy infrastructure. And then, to analyze and act on that data to deliver the mission-critical projects of today, and accelerate their digital strategy for the future.

2021 will be the year that data separates organizations from their competitors and customers — the ability to unlock, analyze, and act on data will become foundational to growth.”

Jerome Bugnet, senior manager, solution engineering, MuleSoft

“While many insurers have already been taking steps to unlock the value of their data this year, we’ll see that taken to the next level in 2021 as they continue to identify the ways in which data-driven insights can improve the experience for their customers. According to our research, 59% of organizations say the inability to connect systems, applications, and data hinders customer experience. This is largely the product of storing valuable data in disparate silos across the business, making it difficult to draw insights from them to power more personalized customer experiences. As such, insurers will increasingly look to API-led connectivity to help them bridge this data divide.

The potential of this approach for insurers is huge. For instance, we’re already seeing motor insurance providers explore ways in which they can aggregate data from various external sources, such as the driver’s social media channels, or telematics devices. If used effectively, this can enable insurers to build a more informed perspective on the risks the driver faces, based on the route they take into the office, and whether they have a more cautious temperament, and offer them lower premiums as a result.”

Navigating what’s ahead

In the new year, organizations will start to rethink their IT operating models in order to adapt quickly to market demands and face a digital-first era. Businesses will need to adapt models that help them become more agile — using API-led connectivity, in which digital capabilities can be composed from existing assets using APIs, instead of being built from scratch. 

It will continue to be crucial to meet customer demands and innovation in today’s all-digital, work-from-anywhere world. Learn how MuleSoft can help your organization accelerate digital transformation to deliver time-sensitive projects, faster: