At Capgemini, Design by Contract Enables Consistency and Scale

APIs, along with business and solution architecture help maintain integrity for digital operations.

Every business operating in the digital economy must learn to be a software organization. This simple fact highlights an important question: what does it take to become a software organization able to flourish in this new economy?

The beating heart of a software organization is the skillful creation and use of software. It is a requirement sought by many looking to transform their establishment to take advantage of the market opportunities enabled by digital technologies. It is a playbook that Steve Jones, Global Vice President Big Data at Capgemini, a leading global technology consultancy and outsourcing services provider, understands all too well.

Capgemini was an early mover in digital transformation and has generated great knowledge in the area, both from its internal transformation and from the clients it works with across multiple industries. The company exploits this know-how to continue its own ongoing digital transformation as well as applying it to help its customers transform—applying what it learns from one sector to drive value in another.

In his role travelling the world working with organizations driving through transformation, Jones is well placed to offer a perspective on what makes good foundations for digital delivery, especially in terms strategy, integrated services and software solutions.

In any digital transformation, technology evolution offers the ability to execute existing processes faster or better. However, a notable marker of digital evolution for any organisation is, in Jones’ opinion, “learning to collaborate with external information sets as well as its own, in order to deliver value.” As an example of that collaboration, Jones says that, “the mashing together of two disparate worlds, potentially making use of intelligent systems and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies such as machine learning can forgo the need for an analytical report. Instead we can begin to integrate insights directly into operations.”

He sees these as major opportunities which highlight a competing concern for digital operations. The collapse of the separation between data and transactions highlights the productivity that can be achieved from real-time influence, and it also raises the prospects for greater levels of automation. As Jones explains, an important change agent for its own digital transformation and those of its customers is “the need to collaborate using large data sets and volumes of information held in different locations, or even different organizations, and combine these with serving the resulting insights directly to where they deliver value.”

How you start progressing is different when you stop thinking that the world’s going to be the same in five or 10 years.

— Steve Jones, Global Vice President, Big Data, Capgemini

The challenge comes from the increasing complexity of handling information sets from a whole network of organizations. But what can be done to get ahead with transforming to operate in this digital economy?

Based on his own experiences in a very competitive arena undergoing rapid change, Jones maintains that the direction for transformation must “begin from a point of identifying where the market could be in five or 10 years.” It is crucial to explore how business operations might change as a result of technological advances, changing cultural practices and surrounding economic influences. Not least because, as Jones says, “how you start progressing is different when you stop thinking that the world’s going to be the same in five or 10 years.”

To this end, new application systems and infrastructure need to reflect what’s coming, and must be able to be modified rapidly as your assessment of the future evolves in near real-time.

Expert at evaluating Capgemini’s internal business needs as well as those of its customers, Jones understands what is necessary to keep on track. He identifies that delivering technology implementations able to withstand security attacks, and which comply both with legislative regulations and safety-critical operational concerns, requires consistency. As any project in a large enterprise nearly always involves multiple teams working together, Jones highlights the importance of working to fixed APIs.

APIs allow our teams to focus on the task at hand, identify what needs to be generated and address any issues without impacting on each other's workflows.

— Steve Jones, Global Vice President Big Data at Capgemini

In his words, “Being able to classify, manage and enforce contractual boundaries” sums up an important advantage that comes from implementing a ‘design by contract’ framework to ensure consistency, conceptual integrity and focus. Specifically, APIs provide the contractual boundaries that ensure different but dependent functional build teams know what is required, while also easing the complexity of integration. He adds, “APIs allow our teams to focus on the task at hand, identify what needs to be generated and address any issues without impacting on each other’s workflows”.

Clearly, digital technologies can build a solid foundation to enable strategic business change. But Jones identified a danger if organizations get caught up in the minutiae of technology selection, rather than focusing on the value to be delivered, identifying any risks to the business and pinpointing where to make investments.

An important advantage, Jones continues, “comes from an ability to compartmentalize risk in order to know where to focus investment.” He maintains that what helps organizations to achieve this is the clarity provided by a model-based business architecture and the presence of a solution architect who understands what it means to deploy and manage solutions of discrete components into operation. Both elevate the importance of architecture, but also emphasize a shift away from wordy architectural documents to a more visual representation.

Jones offers more plain-speaking advice that Capgemini learned early on when addressing risk: “Don’t do something stupid, and don’t innovate in an area that doesn’t require innovation. Don’t over-think technology, only care if it delivers additional strategic capabilities, such as supporting efforts for regulatory compliance, or real business advantage.”  

He says that Capgemini also learned early that working with clear, fixed interfaces for data exchange, what the company thinks of as the contractual boundaries of APIs, allows plenty of scope for technology experimentation. For example, investing in user experience technologies or analytical strategies that can identify the trigger points which drive people to engage more effectively is more likely to deliver value and competitive advantage in the digital economy. Equally, it could highlight a business risk if not done well.      

Jones points out that all the company’s experience in its internal transformation and its engagement with many clients illustrates the value that agility and an ability to industrialize output brings to operating successfully and sustainably in digital markets. But he explains a key requirement for agile practices is rigor or, as Jones attests, “it isn’t just about quickly getting out code, but about being very specific in how it is done because that is what allows you to be agile.” He stresses that disciplined execution has proven to deliver reliability and repeatability, thereby underscoring the flexibility of agile organizations.

He goes on to stress that DevOps, an integrated process around development and operations, is so often confined and misrepresented, when in fact it needs to be more broadly applied. This means going beyond the continuous integration and continuous deployment (CICD) of software code, to applying DevOps tooling and CICD support to all aspects of implementing technology solutions, business processes as well as information and communication infrastructure.

Crucially, the internal spotlight on digital transformation is allowing Capgemini to play to its strengths. The company knows that agile, DevOps, CICD and task-based delivery and management are fundamental approaches that have not changed over the years, although the tools have matured significantly. One significant insight recognizes that the rules that govern their own operations and customer base may not always be comparable to those for organizations in other industries. Adopting the same approach to execution by one high-profile digital operator may not be appropriate or even relevant to your own company.

Capgemini’s experience helps it understand the benefits of reusing software via APIs in ensuring consistency and integrity for their operations. For the company, industrializing solutions and products that work well, and only investing creativity to extend them where it makes sense, is the way forward in the digital economy.
 

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