Companies like to believe they are the centre of the universe. The thing is that nowadays, many of them actually are. They’re continuously interacting with customers, partners, and suppliers, while co- designing, co-creating, co-sourcing, co-producing, and co-marketing with the outside world. They’re like popstars with a fanbase, that collaborate with other popstars and create fancy new records regularly. But fame comes with a price. The more we expose, the more risks we take. How do we make sense of all the incoming information and how do we protect ourselves against people with bad intentions? A popstar would hire a body guard. So, why wouldn’t you?
Enterprise IT used to be a gated community. You needed permission to enter and connect to the local network, which could only be done through a PC, tightly managed by your local IT department. Obviously, there was the corporate website too, which allowed you to browse some information – securely shielded by firewalls. Oh, and when you needed remote access, there was always the VPN. Collaboration with business partners, key suppliers, key customers, market regulators, or the community at large, was kind of a hassle, though. Some were connected through a VPN connection, as though they were part of the enterprise, whereas in other cases, a trusted third party was put in between.
Fig 1: Traditional IT
Those days are mainly over. Today, IT departments deal with the complete opposite of a lack of integration: integration overload. To shorten time to market and to improve customer intimacy, they can’t go around integrating the outside world to the inside world. This is due to the many changes that characterize this century, like the rise of the smartphone, the deployment of Big Data, and the customer-centricity that forces companies to be fast and 24/7 available. This is not a bad thing per se, as these trends (everlasting or not) open doors to new sources of revenue and technologies that optimize production processes. They do put our systems and sensitive data at risk, though, as they are now available to pretty much everyone that has the right password.
There’s another development that has changed the way companies handle their data infrastructure. The long-expected emergence of the data center as a utility has changed the game completely. As a result of this concept, that we now know as cloud computing, enterprises no longer own and manage all the IT assets they need to run their applications themselves. Instead, they rather opt to use services provided by specialized technology-as-a- service providers. In some cases, they even obtain their business application themselves as-a-service, a business model famously pioneered by Salesforce.com. Consequently, enterprise IT has now become a distributed, heterogeneous environment with mixed ownership.
The question that rises is whether your company is ready to deal with the complex infrastructure of data streams that comes with a full integration of systems. You’ll need to find ways to optimally use and re-use the information that comes in, while protecting your customers’ privacy and your own. Today’s enterprise architects should therefore design smarter enterprise architectures that have open borders, while carefully balancing easy access with proper security. Software architectures should exceed the walls of your company, as integration is no longer something just on the inside, but a basic feature of a collaboration and cooperation platform – the intelligent infrastructure the enterprise IT is built upon. Quite some requirements, you might say. But as you might have guessed, there exists a Jack-of-all-trades that’s fully qualified for the job.
API management power
If we could give you just one tip, it would be to integrate an API management tool in your enterprise architecture. It functions like the bodyguard we talked about in the introduction, as it protects your company and makes sure only the right people get access to your systems and data. When well deployed, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t invite the whole world to join your cooperation platform, as all data streams will be well managed, protected, and automated.
Fig 2: Today’s IT
Sounds good, but then a new problem arises: how do you select the right API management tool? In the white paper below, we guide through the entire process.