WSO2 & Digital Transformation
From the time WSO2 started, I’ve steadfastly refused to play along with any of the many fads that have come by (and gone by). However, this time is a (bit) different.
This past week we hosted the 2017 US edition of WSo2Con: http://us17.wso2con.com/. The theme for this conference was “Agile Digital Transformation.”
In my usual opening keynote of the conference, I announced that WSO2 will be making a significant positioning change, and along with that a significant product packaging change.
From now, we are going to stop calling ourselves a middleware platform provider and instead say we provide an open technology for agile digital business. That’s a bit more marketing buzzword type BS than I am usually willing to use so I wrote this blog to explain why we’re doing this :-).
To start with, what is Digital Transformation? In no BS words, it means how do you make your business survive the world of “Software is Eating the World” or the world of being “Uberized.” If you still have not read Marc Andreessen’s now 5+ year old Wall Street Journal article, you should stop reading this and read that now. That is an excellent piece written way before the digital transformation terminology became commonplace.
Digital transformation is about transforming the business to take advantage of digital technologies in making the business relevant in the digital world, to make its customer experiences better and to optimize it further.
I have never followed fads. We’re changing the positioning because this is not a fad but rather a great way to explain to business people what we do and why we do it. Technology fads will come and go. Digital Transformation is all about business — not about selling software. Digital has already killed businesses because they didn’t learn and adapt so its not just about future stuff either; its absolutely a clear and present danger to “legacy” businesses. We also see many businesses creating “Chief Digital Officer” positions, which further illustrates that business is getting it and that they’re taking it seriously. They’re doing it because the uberized experience is really much much better for people — once you’ve got used to the Uber/Lyft/PickMe style of getting transportation who wants to call a phone number and have an opaque relationship with your vehicle & driver?
Software really is taking over — and no matter what industry you’re in you need to figure out how to apply software to digitally transform your business if you really want to still be in business in 5–10 years. This is serious, extinction scale stuff.
So what exactly does digital transformation mean to a business? The way we (WSO2) tell the story it means hitting the high notes on 3 things:
- Evolving the business model around digital technologies: To put it simply, this is “how do you prevent yourself from being uberized?” How can you use software to evolve your business model to create new offerings and to make your current capabilities more digitally available? This may involve creating entirely new digital products or a digital product derived from the data you can accumulate from your non-digital products.
- Improving customer experience: How can you give your customers the same superb experience that Uber et al. provide in their world? People are now used to the pretty incredible, context-aware, multi-channel experiences that the technology first companies provide them. The millennial generation, and even many GenXers, are digital natives meaning they would rather live in the digital world and not participate in the physical world: digital world is the real world to them. Asking people to create yet another username / password to access your world is hardly the quality experience they want. Thus digital transformation in the context of customer experience is all about being able to give your customers a much better experience in whatever they do with you. If you don’t they will move to your competitors who provide them a better experience.
- Optimizing operations: This is the most boring part of digital transformation but still extremely critical. Productivity improvement and quality improvement is an on-going process of course and it will never finish. Now you have more technology power to bring to bear — everything from machine learning and AI to cloud services to mobile technology to IoT. Employees too now demand a better experience as they are used to much better experiences in their digital native personal lives. Second class collaboration & communication tools to second class apps to workflow systems are no longer good enough to keep your system running smoothly!
What does this mean for WSO2?
WSO2 is transforming its messaging from being a provider of open source middleware to a provider of open technology for agile digital business. Um, what exactly does that mean? It means we have re-packaged our products into 5 offerings:
- API Management: APIs are the foundation of all things digital. APIs allow you to open up and be part of the connected world we are now living in. They allow you to go and be where your customer are — whether its Facebook, or Snapchat or some future virtual world. APIs also allow you to future-proof yourself (to the extent its possible): having the right pieces means you can quickly adapt your business or your presence or your integrations as the world changes rapidly. See http://wso2.com/api-management for more.
- Integration: To offer APIs you always have to integrate things that you already have. Unless you’re starting a new business, there is no such thing as a greenfield technology footprint. That means you have to connect and integrate not just in-house systems and data but also various cloud services too. Without the ability to integrate rapidly and safely, its impossible for an existing business to move to new places and to adapt to changing conditions. We announced a “new” product called WSO2 Enterprise Integrator for this space. This is really not such a new product but rather an integrated package of 6 products we have had: Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), Data Services Server (DSS), Application Server (AS), Business Rules Server (BRS), Business Process Server (BPS) and Message Broker (MB). See http://wso2.com/integration for more.
- Identity & Access Management: In the digital world, security is everything. To achieve security, the first thing is to have proper digital identity and access management. Asking your customers to create yet another username and password for them to access your systems not only worsens their experience, but it also open a channel for others to use to hack into your systems. Approaches such as Bring Your Own Identity and federation, Single Sign-On and strong authentication are critical to being able to safely become part of the digitally transformed world. See http://wso2.com/identity-and-access-management for more.
- Smart Analytics: Data is often the hidden gem of digital transformation. Knowing where your customers come from, what they do, what their preferences are etc. can be used to significantly improve their experience with you. Data can also lead to new derived products that monetize the data. Smart analytics is about using that data intelligently and often in a real-time way to affect customer experience. WSO2’s focus in this area is on how to use real time monitoring and analysis followed by autonomous response to impact your business. See http://wso2.com/smart-analytics for more.
- Internet of Things: IoT is still somewhat of a fad, but of course connected devices are now part of our world forever. Connected devices will offer new and interesting possibilities for improving customer experience in a digitally transformed enterprise. What we don’t see is IoT as being different and separate from overall IT. Thus our focus is on bringing connected devices into the same integrated IT environment to make it possible to use them intelligently in all aspects of digitally transformed enterprises. See http://wso2.com/iot for more.
We also still have the WSO2 Governance Registry product but we are focusing that more on services governance and development-time governance. Long term I believe that governance will move more towards a surveillance model — I will be blogging more about that later.
These products cover all the same capabilities we had before — the technical capabilities are not going away; just because Digital Transformation is a good thing that doesn’t mean computer science changes!
Note that all of these 5 products are cloud services as well. API Cloud was there since 2016 but as of this past week Integration Cloud is commercially live and Identity Cloud & Device Cloud are in beta. We are committed to offering the same software both as a cloud service as well as downloadable open source software.
This is the first time we’ve changed the way we describe who we are as a software company. Its been quite an experience to line up all the things to get it announced at the conference! We had several superb keynote speakers get further into digital transformation and they help solidify the case for what we’ve done.
Happy Digital Transforming to you!