Can APIs Convince SMEs to Be Less DX Averse?

MuleSoft thinks it can even help SME CDOs to interface with nationwide initiatives quickly.

You would think that digital transformation will favor the bold, lean, and nimble.

Yet, studies keep highlighting that it is the large enterprises that are taking the lead.

An Accenture survey that examined SMEs in China, Indonesia, and Japan, covering IT, retail, financial services, health, and education, found that 22% were not even employing any digital sales, marketing, service, or e-commerce platforms.

The Reluctance

So what is holding SMEs back? Part of the blame lies with the C-suite’s short-term thinking.

“Ensuring that the business is culturally ready to be more collaborative and that employees have the skills to use new technologies effectively requires alignment across the C-suite,” said Rob Thorne, vice president, MuleSoft APAC.

"Despite the potential long-term benefits of digital transformation, many SMEs remain focused on more short-term business targets. Overcoming these obstacles will be crucial in helping SMEs achieve an increase in operational efficiency, cost reduction, and improved agility from digital transformation," he added.

Convincing SME leaders to change tact will not be easy. But APIs may help, said Thorne.

“APIs are crucial to this as the glue that connects these cloud and SaaS systems together to create innovative customer experiences- at a fraction of the cost it would have been a few short years ago.”

The API Mess

Through APIs, SMEs can build or adopt new technologies without having to rip and replace their current infrastructure.

However, Thorne warned that jumping on the API bandwagon is no panacea.

“In many cases, a rush to build APIs without a thoughtful strategy has created a mess, with redundancies, poor maintenance practices, and limited transparency canceling out many of the potential benefits,” he said.

Thorne felt that there were three reasons for this mess. One is that IT often takes the lead in API strategies, ending up with one that is not linked to business goals or "an overarching modernization vision."

Also, many companies tend to build out their API strategies and portfolios in silos. “To achieve the full promise of APIs, companies ultimately have to make significant progress along multiple dimensions,” Thorne said. 

"Lastly, moving faster and staying secure are often at odds in the SME technology landscape. But they don't have to be. With the right API platform, it is possible to innovate faster and create new products and services more efficiently as well as enable enterprise security by design into every application, data access point, and integration," he added.

Creating an API portfolio is also only the first step. The real value lies in sharing them.

“Every organization can extend the value of their API strategy by sharing their API products externally through an application network to co-create experiences for customers,” said Thorne. He added that a tool like Anypoint Community Manager can “easily share their APIs externally with partner and developer ecosystems.”

API-driven Future

Soon, APIs will no longer be an option. Thorne sees them becoming crucial for SMEs as they look to join nationwide initiatives like Singapore's Smart Nation.

Those SMEs who do not embrace APIs, risk being left behind. 

“APIs help SMEs automate business functions, create seamless integrations between all cloud services, and create automated reports and dashboards. It has become an important part of data-driven enterprises. SMEs that do not embrace APIs will be left behind.”