Interview: How to get the API-Led approach to integration right

  • Written By Coforge-Salesforce BU
  • 24/12/2021

API Integration enables your company to automate tasks and integrate its programs and databases with updated industry apps. It also ensures smooth and continuous communication between different apps and allows everyone to benefit from multiple cloud-based apps while enhancing product innovation.

In the interview below Sandeep Gupta (AVP new business – Salesforce Business Unit (MuleSoft)) answers common questions about getting the API-led approach to integration right and why MuleSoft is a leading light for API Integration.

Definition of terms: APIs, Integration, and API Integration

There is a lot of talk about API Integration which is critical in the digital transformation domain. However, non-technical people find it challenging to understand all the different terms, standards, and changing trends. So, firstly let’s get some definitions out of the way.

What is an API?

Application Programming Interface or API is a software intermediary that allows applications to talk to each other. For example, when you use an app like Twitter, check the weather on your phone, or send an instant message, you use an API.

When using an application on your phone, it connects to the internet before sending data to a server. In turn, the server retrieves the data you want, interprets it, and performs the necessary actions before sending it back to your phone. The app then analyses and interprets the data and presents the information you want in a readable way. This happens through an API which acts as a messenger between the app and server.

What is Integration?

Integration brings together smaller, different components into a single system. In IT, integration results from processes that stitch together different, even disparate, subsystems, allowing the data contained therein to become part of a larger, comprehensive system. As a result, the system ideally shares data quickly and efficiently when needed or prompted.

Integration often requires organisations to build customised app architectures to combine new and existing software, hardware, and other communications.

What is API Integration?

API Integration is about connecting applications via APIs, allowing systems to exchange data sources. API Integration powers processes throughout numerous organisational layers and sectors to keep data in sync and updated, enhance productivity, and drive revenue.

API connectivity helps apps communicate and share data without human interruption. It allows organisations to automate their systems, integrate current applications, and enhance seamless data sharing.

Due to the explosion of cloud-based apps and products, organisations cannot afford to overlook the essence of API Integration. They must create connected systems that allow automatic data relay between various software tools, such as CRM and email. API Integration makes that possible because it will enable sharing processes and enterprise data among apps within the ecosystem.

Additionally, API Integration allows the flexibility of information, data, and service delivery. It also makes it easy to embed content from different sites and apps. Finally, it acts as an interface permitting the integration of two apps.

Lessons to be learned from MuleSoft customers?

MuleSoft sees a few mistakes from its customers, at least from a sales perspective. The most common is about what to produce quickly and ensuring market consumption. Unfortunately, many companies view market consumption through their lens, rather than having a horizontal view of the business.

MuleSoft wants companies to understand that they invest in a strategic, transformational platform designed to bring holistic change across the business instead of a single-use case. The answer lies in bringing in the right people who will create and adopt the correct processes that will enable the technology to drive business change.

This is why, when customers procure the MuleSoft Software, they typically hear three terms: people, process, and technology.

Often, many customers have the technology part covered well because every company has a significant appetite to start building integrations into their systems and prove value for various reasons. The challenge is that whilst they may have a use case in front of them that either affects them personally or affects their team, they also have to meet their business goals and keep building their APIs internally or through a vendor.

What is often lacking is the core processes behind the people or vendors. For example, what kind of people are needed to build integrations and encourage consumption as time goes on? What kind of processes are necessary to facilitate the building and consumption of API-led approaches to integration? Is the business pushing things to AnyPoint for consumption? And what’s the process towards ensuring that happens with supporting subsequent business units? A lot goes into the processes that ensure the success of API Integration processes, which is where MuleSoft’s C4E and platform architects can provide vital support.

How do you evaluate the level of support you get with MuleSoft?

Organisations need a way to understand that what they get from using MuleSoft properly, with or without a vendor, is value for money.

There are several ways of understanding what a company can and cannot deliver other than a gut feeling of what you can see in front of you. These include:

1.     Handover processes and support

MuleSoft vigorously checks and reviews its handover processes to ensure everything runs smoothly and customers get the level of support they require.

Support is essential, easy, and necessary when a company develops its initial integrations and hands them over to its in-house support or DevOps team.

However, the complication arises when a company like MuleSoft takes over a SaaS organisation’s internal integrations, whether they have been built in-house or by another vendor. In such cases, both parties need to hold detailed conversations at a granular level that will instil confidence amongst all parties moving forward.

MuleSoft cannot blindly integrate work or promise to support the business without knowing the finer details. Therefore, when a third-party vendor is involved, there needs to be an honest look into their handover and transition processes, especially from a pre-sales perspective.

It’s pertinent to know beforehand how a potential client’s integrations and business are made and what they want from MuleSoft. It’s often advisable to look at it from a tactical point of view.

For example, if several production APIs need support, you need to furnish MuleSoft with more details about why you want them supported? Is it possible to improve them? How will you facilitate the APIs down the road? Is MuleSoft going to do repeat work?

2.     Vendor experience

There are several ways of telling how good a vendor you are considering working with is. For example, have they done the work before, and what was their level of success? Do they have provable use cases? Do they have references?

3.     Qualifications and Certifications

Certification is a bit of a double-edged sword. Presently, the MuleSoft market is on fire, with high salaries of both onshore and offshore MuleSoft employees. Unfortunately, many junior java developers are currently marketing themselves as fully-fledged MuleSoft developers after taking some basic MuleSoft courses.

Therefore, from both a customer and vendor perspective, everyone has to be careful to check that the MuleSoft developers they hire and the qualifications and certifications they hold are sufficient and up to date. MuleSoft does not want to dilute the market and cautions companies from hiring developers without the correct credentials, training, and experience working as MuleSoft developers.

For example, Coforge Salesforce Business Unit (formerly WHISHWORKS) has a lot of developers and architects, but not all of them are versed with the intricate nature of MuleSoft software and API Integration. Thus, before hiring developers to work on your project, speak to the MuleSoft sales team to know which vendors are trustworthy to facilitate what the company needs to achieve.It’s not enough to give blanket premises. They should have the technical know-how to identify issues before they happen and know what to do in all situations. They should also suggest improvements to specific use cases and entire processes that will help the business in the future.

What problems could a lack of governance and best practice create for a business and the IT team?

People often create integrations and APIs at pace, but the creating aspect is not usually the problem. Instead, companies tend to take Java developers and train them as MuleSoft developers to begin creating integrations and pushing them into endpoints or MuleSoft. Of course, this is fine if it works.

However, issues start to arise regarding governance, management, and creating best practices around integrations. The problem compounds when multiple business units use the platform.

The most effective approach is to consider your business’ holistic needs, not just what a single business unit requires, when investing in any transformation tool, such as MuleSoft.

It’s best to define and execute a particular use case in the first instance but without proper governance structures for the integrations processes or understanding the differences between two or more business units, it could lead to issues like throwaway work and repetition.

It’s also important to understand where governance sits from a software development life cycle (SDLC) perspective and how it fits into MuleSoft. Thus, there will be an issue without the proper control in managing the process from a delivery point of view and how it fits into the MuleSoft operating model.

Your aim should be to find ways to serve the business after creating assets and APIs and encouraging consumption of your productive activities. Otherwise, you end up throwing time, effort, and resources into something that could be worth much less, unless you managed the appropriate governance structure from the start and mature it throughout the process.

Interested in Data & Analytics? Get in touch

Why is a Centre for Enablement (C4E) important?

The centre for enablement, or simply C4E, refers to an IT business model that enables businesses to create reusable resources, accumulate APIs, increase their knowledge, and improve best practices to allow independent service and delivery and faster deployment of new solutions.

One of the most significant issues that MuleSoft encounters when speaking to new customers is about explaining consumption through the lens of today’s production model.

For example, you are about to spend a certain amount of pounds developing a transformational product and want to prove its ROI quickly. It is tempting to employ several developers to quickly create and deliver APIs that allow you to prove your use case. However, what tends to happen is that you continue developing and producing APIs and assets without looking at the project holistically, creating problems.

You approach things from a bottom-up perspective, without considering:

  • What role do the integrations serve?
  • What the eventual business outcome is?
  • Where everything is documented?
  • Can you recreate the project or use its assets?

It is for this reason that C4E plays a vital role in any integration project. It provides a backbone and mission charter for the project (from an integration standpoint) to explain the overall aims and objectives for the integration to facilitate the business objectives.

Ultimately, C4E involves starting a project small and with a clear purpose. It will facilitate the top-down approach that is required to understand what overall goals the business has for the integration platform. Then you can create assets to support that purpose.

The bottom line

APIs allow organisations to create solutions that provide improved customer experiences without significantly increasing costs. They also help streamline business operations by enabling easier integration, automation of tasks, enhanced services, and innovation.

MuleSoft provides an integration platform to help organisations connect data, apps, and devices across cloud computing and on-premises environments. Its Anypoint Platform is a leading integration platform for APIs, SaaS, and SOA.

Coforge Salesforce Business Unit (Formerly WHISHWORKS) offers top-notch IT and consulting services, specialising in accelerating business outcomes through data transformation, seamless connectivity, and digital enablement. We work with a rich ecosystem of digital innovators to provide leading solutions and enable business growth and change. Our solutions include MuleSoft, Salesforce, and Microsoft Azure and we also provide data and analytics services and solutions. Contact us today.

If you would like to find out more about how API-led Integration can benefit your business, email us at Whishworks.marketing@coforge.com

Other useful links:

Capturing subscriber data from Marketing Cloud with MuleSoft

A new era for retail

Guide: MuleSoft Runtime Fabric beyond jargon

Latest Insights

payment APIs - eCommerce
Blogs

What are Payment APIs?

Payment APIs allow you to implement several payment solutions quickly while providing all the functionality and security you would need.

evented APIs
Blogs

What are Evented APIs?

We can think of an evented APIs as the fabric that binds and integrates all the applications in an event-driven architecture.

Salesforce FSC - Modelling Relationships -1
Blogs

Salesforce FSC – Modelling Relationships, part 1

The value and the complexity of a relationship are the main factors in using Modelling Relationships in Salesforce Financial Services Cloud.