How MuleSoft Meets the Connectivity Needs of a Customer Transformation Program
By Rahul Pahuja, MuleSoft Practice Leader at Slalom
Digital transformation in 2021 is a must, and for many business executives, this means adapting strategies to create powerful customer experiences.
That’s why companies around the world are turning to platforms like Salesforce to deliver on these strategic customer experience initiatives.
However, as much of an industry leader as Salesforce is, it is by no means a self-contained application. Given the demands of modern integration, the platform requires an additional cloud-based platform that can deliver data in a secure, consumable format.
That’s where MuleSoft, a cloud-based integration platform, enters the picture. MuleSoft can help businesses elevate customer experiences through data transformation, micro-services, and multiple layers of abstraction with its API-led architecture.
Let’s take a look at how exactly MuleSoft meets the connectivity needs of customer transformation — and how Slalom’s approach to integration enhances business agility and contributes to company-wide enablement.
Digital transformation is about experience, customers, and data (integration)
Digital transformation (DX) is a business-driven initiative that concerns both data and customers. It aims to drive operational efficiency and increase revenue and brand stickiness by delivering enhanced experiences to a targeted customer audience. These experiences aren’t merely the result of UI design or process reengineering, however; they ultimately emerge by putting the right data in the correct format at the user’s fingertips. What does this mean? It means data should be consumable as it is served to a specific persona, and modern integration architecture powers data consumption.
Many business stakeholders overlook the critical role of an agile integration architecture that serves comprehensive digital transformation. While enterprise standards deliver reliability, consistency, and fit within existing governance models, they typically do not offer the elasticity and innovation DX programs. In order to truly transform, organizations need to set up a bi-modal operating model, where business and IT executives partner together to create a unified and modernized technology roadmap — one with the agile capabilities business teams require to realize true innovation.
Integration can be an intimidating topic because of its complexity, and the technical jargon of traditional integration approaches may not resonate with stakeholders. As such, we often see businesses doubling down on Salesforce as their single digital engagement platform with the ultimate goal of self-service. After all, the Salesforce platform has rich click-and-configure capabilities to implement industry business processes.
However, when companies pair legacy integration approaches with a Salesforce initiative, this frequently results in developing heavy custom Apex code within Salesforce. This is due to existing batch/ETL technologies or point-to-point approaches, which move backend data that is not readily consumable by the platform into Salesforce. Such legacy approaches are ultimately brittle — they cause delays, drive implementation costs, and lead to business disruptions due to heavy operational efforts. That’s why it’s so important for business stakeholders to consider the implications of digital transformation and integration whenever they’re launching a DX project.
And let’s not forget about the customer’s role in these initiatives. At the end of the day, digital transformation is about the customer 360, a holistic view of customer data, and an understanding of the full customer journey through cross-functional business processes. The C360 has two essential components: cross-selling and driving more engagement with B2B or B2C customers and enhancing the internal experience of your own users (in most cases, sales or customer representatives).
To enable both components and to overcome significant real-time connectivity needs, front-to-back integration is essential. Data movement alone is insufficient — businesses need an architecture with data transformation capabilities and multiple layers of abstraction to drive data consumption. Consumable, high-quality data also powers intelligent predictive capabilities (Einstein Analytics), a key piece in improving customer engagement and service.
Lastly, it’s important for IT departments to function as change agents and enable the business. Too often, IT is not ready to serve the needs of transformation initiatives because teams gravitate towards enterprise standards, which increasingly do not deliver the desired outcomes of a modern digital transformation journey. While IT typically functions on operational budgets, it is essential to define an innovation budget to deliver agility and roll out a modernized architecture that introduces mature enterprise-grade cloud platforms. The future is urging a bimodal approach towards technology, where business and IT teams are fully aligned to make ROI-based decisions together.
MuleSoft’s API-led solution for connectivity
The time is now for business stakeholders to consider these vast connectivity needs and embrace a solution to them: the MuleSoft platform.
MuleSoft is an elastic, cloud-based microservices platform that serves both vertically within a business group for transformation initiatives and horizontally as an enterprise platform. It helps deploy fine-grained APIs to drive businesses towards a consumption-based data model, propelling business agility, speed, and outcomes. As a full API lifecycle platform, MuleSoft fundamentally changes the conversation of integration, transforming complex system-to-system integration into full-stack feature slices delivered every sprint.
This allows businesses to embrace a data model design that serves user journeys and customer processes and enhances the developer experience. Such a model also guards against siloed IT design, ensuring that business and IT teams are on the same footing and making design decisions that meet the real-time needs of the customer experience.
What does this mean from a cost perspective? First of all, with MuleSoft supporting a digital engagement platform like Salesforce, businesses save on high custom build costs of apex development and point-to-point integrations. APIs are also highly reusable — many MuleSoft users experience 40–60% API reuse after their first project, which dramatically reduces development cost project-over-project. ROI also comes down to time saved, and an API-led integration architecture brings incremental progress over a shorter timeframe. Enabling IT to deliver at the speed of business is the ultimate ROI.
As a MuleSoft partner, we at Slalom embrace a domain-driven, full-stack development strategy when helping our clients integrate with MuleSoft. Every time new tech is introduced into a business’s ecosystem, there’s often a dip in productivity, as IT typically requires three to four months to deliver value on these new platforms and infrastructure.
At Slalom, we contribute our assets and expertise so that businesses can hit the ground running with integration from day one, packaging together accelerators to set up the platform and align client strategy in two weeks. This means that enterprises don’t have to wait to be development-ready.
This approach boils down to several fundamental principles. First, it’s important to note that API-led is also an operating model, not merely architecture. The API lifecycle should have its own methodology that facilitates API deployment for reusability and discoverability within the full enterprise or outside within the customer or partner community. This is why we help establish a full API lifecycle to align IT and business under appropriate governance and execute in a Scaled Agile Framework.
Our domain-driven, microservices approach also enables us to deliver test-ready feature slices every 1–2 sprints, giving the business an opportunity to provide early feedback while incrementally incorporating non-functional capabilities for an operationally ready solution. We work with our customers to establish the new API-led operating model. This model entails a Center for Enablement (C4E) team, delivery pods, consumable standards and governance. This helps the organization realize agility, self-sufficiency, engage cross-functionally, and leverage APIs across the enterprise.
Transformation is about data, technology, and customers. But it’s also all about speed. With its industry-leading API-led architecture, MuleSoft allows for holistic transformation that delivers at the speed of your business — so you can create the connected experiences your customers desire.
You can learn more about how API-led architecture can enable teams and engage customers in the MuleSoft CONNECT session Empower Your Teams, Engage Your Customers.
Rahul Pahuja, MuleSoft Practice Leader at Slalom, has 20+ years of experience in delivering global-scale MuleSoft deployments, enterprise architecture, business-focused domain-driven design, and establishing C4E/COE operating models in Scaled Agile environments.
Slalom is a modern consulting firm focused on strategy, technology, and business transformation.