API Management: The Key to Modernizing Legacy IT Systems

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Modern API management and integration empowers businesses to optimize the value of the systems they already have, creating seamless experiences for employees and consumers alike, all while driving revenue growth.

Why is “digital transformation” top-of-mind for so many organizations? The answer is fairly simple. Currently, for many businesses, there is a sizable gap between existing, aging IT infrastructure and today’s method of building and releasing applications. With this gap, many businesses find themselves playing catch-up—urgently striving to modernize. APIs and API management can play a critical role.

Why? All too frequently, businesses run on mainframe systems from the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, supplemented with homegrown applications created to serve business-specific needs. This outdated technology, along with an ingrained mindset of “we’ve always done it this way,” is exactly why true digital transformation is necessary for businesses across almost every industry.

With today’s incredibly fast evolution of technology and design patterns, microservices in the cloud have become the gold standard for building and deploying apps. These are API-driven by nature and offer APIs for functionality. 

Simplifying Cloud Database Access and Why It Is Important

The modern mentality of developers

Without a doubt, today’s app developers have an API-first mindset. They often don’t care about the underlying infrastructure they’re working with because it simply gets in the way of productivity. They know that if they ask how many apps or services would need to be exposed to create a flawless user experience, the answer is most often “a lot.”

The advantage of APIs is that, when combined, they can create a network that shields legacy infrastructure. In other words, organizations can build their transformation strategy on APIs—hiding the immense, homegrown, and convoluted systems they’ve used in the past. With an entire network of APIs, developers can use clean interfaces rather than struggle with the business-specific logic of legacy systems. And, most importantly for businesses, developers can unlock the data housed within existing infrastructure so it can be delivered precisely when needed by their apps.

The best part of adopting this strategy of modernizing legacy apps with integrated APIs? An API management (APIM) platform that is well integrated with integration Platform as a Service [iPaaS] or offered by the iPaaS platform doesn’t require a massive amount of investment or dozens of developers.

The path to agility

Let’s say you’re a bank building a mobile app for your customers. The app should deliver on customer expectations for functionality—for example, allowing users to download bank statements and providing a full view of account information and transaction history.

The challenge is, all of this data comes from multiple sources. With an antiquated IT infrastructure, building this app will require you to go to each and every source individually, a time-consuming and tedious process that hinders your ability to maintain, scale, and move with agility.

We know today’s modern apps demand a better infrastructure built on an API interface connected to existing apps and data sources. Doing this in the right way effectively “papers over” the complexity of legacy infrastructure, allowing organizations to build new apps using clean APIs. As a result, businesses can build and scale apps with the necessary speed and agility, achieving digital transformation without the huge expense of removing and replacing legacy systems.

Integrating APIs doesn’t have to be complicated

If your organization doesn’t have access to first-class developers, don’t worry. Another great thing about modern API management is that integration can be done by almost anyone—regardless of experience. One method for driving enterprise-wide API integration is to separate stakeholders into personalities or personas:

  • Designers. These are the people who create integrations. Technically-minded, designers understand the endpoints of an organization’s integrations. With modern low- or no-code tools, they can integrate APIs by easily dragging and dropping into the desired workflow. More sophisticated designers can, of course, use more advanced coding tools as well. 
  • Developers. These are the team members responsible for building and publishing APIs. As expected, developers are more knowledgeable about the coding API management programs run on.
  • Configurators. These are the business analyst types. Less focused on the underlying technology, these users want to solve a specific business problem. For configurators, solution exchanges allow them to look at pre-built integrations that serve their business needs and can be implemented with ease. 
  • Administrators. These are the operators who manage integrations and infrastructure, including entitlements and access management. Be sure to give these users choices of tools that fit their needs and knowledge best. Cloud-based tools are ideal as they don’t have a physical footprint. 

Putting it all together: API integration in practice

The use case I most often point to is one from a manufacturer of electronics test and measurement equipment and software. With more than 12,000 employees serving customers in over 100 countries, the company wanted to solve one key problem: how to gain 360-degree visibility into the customer journey, from sales to master data management.

The company faced a number of challenges, including integrating on-premises apps with cloud apps, obstacles around deployment and support, and limited visibility into transactions. Each app and service the company used operated independently, with its own interface and technology. So naturally, it was a struggle to support them across teams and access levels. Besides, ultimately, the customer is who “owns” the data, which makes visibility more challenging as data moves across systems.

The collection of apps and services the company uses throughout the customer journey is somewhat extensive, though not uncommon. It uses Oracle for orders and finance, Adobe Experience Manager for sales, FedEx for shipping, Salesforce for service, Jira for support, and Eloqua for marketing automation—to name a handful.

As you can imagine, with this complex setup, multiple teams contribute to a single customer journey, and no one team has a full view of all transactions. This creates problems not only for the business but also for the customer—leading to a clunky, inefficient user experience. However, by integrating APIs across all of its disparate systems, the company now has easy and inexpensive real-time access to all of its data, shorter turnaround times for building and deploying apps, and, finally, a comprehensive picture of the full customer journey.

Ultimately, organizations today want to achieve digital transformation but may not believe they have the funds or resources to do so. Yet as this and many other use cases show, digital transformation doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul of legacy systems. In fact, modern API management and integration empowers businesses to optimize the value of the systems they already have, creating seamless experiences for employees and consumers alike, all while driving revenue growth.

Simplifying Cloud Database Access and Why It Is Important

Manoj Chaudhary

About Manoj Chaudhary

Manoj Chaudhary is Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President of Engineering at Jitterbit. He leads the technical side of product strategy as well as technology development and operations. Prior to this role, Manoj involved with Jitterbit as a technical adviser, helping to guide the company’s pioneering transition to a multi-tenant cloud architecture. Manoj has previously worked as CTO and VP of Engineering for Loggly and Tenfold and served as Director of Engineering at Cast Iron Systems leading up to and following its acquisition by IBM.

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