Building resilience in organizations is on top of the board agenda these days. The Covid-19 pandemic has once again proven that organizations with the most cohesion are the ones best prepared for change. Organizations harboring a shared conscience and even expressing a common intuition. Organizations that have cooperation and collaboration engrained in their DNA. Those kinds of organizations even take advantage of the crisis. They are moving faster to accommodate to the new market reality and the new ways of doing business. They embrace change and thrive on it.
But how to build such resilient organizations? How to build the muscle mass to survive the next crisis? How to breed the stamina and endurance in your teams?
The Digital Grid
Well, having a leadership that practices long-term thinking and values teambuilding certainly helps. But having the vision and willingness to invest in the digital technologies that fuel collaboration is certainly also a factor. And I’m not talking about mobile phones and video conferencing – at least not in isolation. I’m talking about a digital organization making the most of information processing.
To quote General Stanley McChrystal:
“Leaders have to understand that what they’re trying to do in an organization is to create the level of integration and collaboration that a war requires.”
I believe that any resilient organization gets built upon a well-designed, 3-dimensional digital grid. And every unit of business has to interface along those three dimensions. I also believe that APIs are the core technology to support 3-dimensional collaboration. Creating a composable business all across your value chains is the key to build the level of integration and collaboration that breeds success.
APIs on steroids
Traditionally, APIs have been defined as the interfaces for programmable components. And that’s definitely their origin. However, with the rise of digital organizations, and effectively the alignment of business and IT, APIs are also becoming business interfaces. Business interfaces that function as mutual agreements in a collaboration. Obviously, having a shared view on the rules of engagement is key to collaborate effectively.
Let’s explore this a bit more in-depth.
A typical business is built around goods and services. No matter if you buy and resell products, buy raw materials and manufacture or grow products, or if you buy goods to deliver a service, products are a cornerstone of doing business. Products can be identified and traced, products can be decomposed and assembled, products can be durable like a building or disposable like a newspaper. And yes, nowadays products can be digital as well as physical as well as hybrid.
If you take a closer look, every unit in an organization produces something, goods or services, to be consumed by either another unit within the organization or an outside party. The composable enterprise is smart in creating value-added products from those building blocks. The composable enterprise knows how to finetune a product to be successful on a specific market. The composable business also masters the art of offering product variants to suit the preferences of most consumers.
Being customer centric is in essence simple. At any point in time you should be able to provide your customer a full 360-degrees view of his business with you. Obviously, this view must be up-to-date. Notice that the way I have defined customer, every unit of your business, every team has a customer. On the enterprise level, this may stack up to a paying customer, but just as well to a supplier, a guest, a reader, a user, a patient, a student, an authority, or any subject that is somehow related to your business.
Few companies today are already capable to provide all relevant subjects with a full 360-degrees view and in doing so, create a common operational picture along all relevant axes. Yet I’m convinced that the companies who are, are also the companies that are able to move much quicker and, in effect, are more resilient. Because without such a common operational picture, your organization will struggle to build a shared conscience or find a common intuition.
Materials are used in processes, products are produced in processes, subjects act in processes. Processes can be almost trivial in nature, like downloading a white paper, or as complex as finding the criminal who committed a crime and bringing them to trial. Processes can be highly predictable, e.g. manufacturing a motorbike or serving a hamburger, or unpredictable in nature, e.g curing a patient, or legislation.
Business process management and dynamic case management are well known technologies In the digital universe. However, most of these solutions are dominated by a single implementation. A more contemporary, agile and collaborative solution is to design a process engine managing the state of your processes through APIs. This way, you can adapt your applications quickly, and even embed your processes in 3rd-party applications.
Streaming processes are the newest form of process engines. Where case management systems are optimized to implement logic to process a complex case, streaming processes are pre-eminently suited to implement complex logic across process instances, often processing massive amounts of digital events. Both are often used together, with stream processing doing statistical analysis and pattern recognition to generate business event while the business process engine handles the business events.
Until recently, building your IT-systems to optimally serve all three dimensions was hard, if possible at all. But today, however, APIs are actually enabling the composable enterprise. This is how to make that work.
APIs are composable by nature, and don’t break with version updates by design. So, if you break down your entire product portfolio into elementary products you manage, and make an arrangement with your suppliers to also provide product APIs, you can assemble products, aggregate processes and collect subject-level information quite easily. It’s a matter of defining business APIs on top of these low-level APIs. In fact, you can add as much layers as you need to create your common operational picture at every level and from every angle. And the best thing? You can register everything at the appropriate business API that’s relevant to your business. Financial details, legal details, commercial details, operational details, you name it. All the information your employees need to work together at their fingertips.
But this is not the whole story. In the digital universe, collaboration is typically built around APIs. Be it cooperative design and development, co-creation, documentation, policy management, subscription management or stakeholder engagement, API Management is used to support processes throughout the entire API lifecycle.
Now, adding business APIs to the mix, it is not farfetched to augment API management into a broader endeavor. One encompassing all integration and collaboration efforts that lubricate the extended organization. And that in turn is your key to building business resilience.
Got interested in making this vision come true? Here’s your invitation. Let’s work it together.