FORBES: Ecosystems Will Drive Innovation in 2020

By Mark Geene in API Industry Trends, Application Ecosystem Posted Feb 11, 2020

In case you missed it, I recently became a member of the Forbes Technology Council. For my first article, I wrote about the effect that application ecosystems will have on innovation in the coming year. Here’s a quick summary.

application ecosystems innovation

As you’re likely aware, developers have been spending more and more of their time building and maintaining APIs. However, 2020 is the year where API integration reaches the next level. At Cloud Elements, we offer one-to-many integrations to make your developers’ lives easier, and I believe platforms like ours are the future of the industry, especially given recent trends, which I’ll highlight below.

The Way We Work Has Changed

There are many moving pieces within a company, to put it lightly. But with this complexity comes the need to integrate business processes and applications across multiple facets of an organization to achieve an application ecosystem. In my article, I provide the employee onboarding process as an example, during which you need to add the new hire to your payroll system, connect them with your benefits provider, get them enrolled in your LMS, and much more. With integration, the onboarding process can be made a lot simpler and the manual workload and arduous checklists that your employees have to deal with can be vastly reduced.

Ecosystem Innovation Is Happening

At this point, application integration isn’t as time-consuming as it once was, largely due to shifts in the industry landscape. Prebuilt integrations are readily available to developers along with other new tools that make building much easier and faster. Integrations are also increasingly becoming part of the core of new digital product offerings, with Nintex being a prime example. With these developments, I believe that this year we’ll see new, integrated products that adeptly provide greater user experiences. 

APIs Are Table Stakes

It’s been important over the last decade for companies to offer an API, but that’s not enough anymore. I believe in 2020 and beyond, application providers will have a larger burden to bear when it comes to their APIs. Data synchronization will be essential, and more and more companies will need to provide integration platforms to their customers to help facilitate reusable integration. In other words, they will need to create a connectivity layer in their applications to make integration easier, much like Twilio.

Products Need to Be Created Using An Application Ecosystem Context

Product owners can no longer develop their products within a vacuum. Now, it’s important to consider how a product will function within the application ecosystem. The burden used to be on customers to connect applications, but now the responsibility is on the developer of an application to provide much-requested integrations. However, integrations are made difficult due to the fact that no two implementations of an application are the same. There’s custom data, workflows, and fields to consider for each implementation, meaning architectural design skills are necessary to create a consistent experience for your customers. 

Integrations Will Give Customers Better Experiences

Integrations make using a product a better experience. For example, Slack integrates with many different applications to help streamline its platform, increase connectivity, and improve application stickiness. Cloud Elements customer Western Union offers the EDGE platform, which is an integrated digital B2B payment platform that connects sellers and buyers. EDGE is integrated with ERP systems to assist with the translation of payment data to different applications that exist within a customer’s ecosystem. This reduces manual processes, data duplication, and errors.

In 2020, I predict that productized integrations will take hold and become more prevalent, especially considering the amazing user experiences that are driven by the application ecosystem. At the end of the day, usability is key, and integration is a great way to improve experiences across the board.