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Microservices, APIs and versatile cloud architecture - 4 real life cases. Takeaways from the Beltug N-sight: 12 Feb 2020


Date:12/02/2020


In the ever-louder and more pervasive call for cloudification, a multi-cloud architecture is often the best strategy.  Microservices and APIs are vital to guarantee smooth operation and efficient communication between platforms.

 

But real challenges arise with APIs: how to organise governance, where to start, what to do about the on-premise part of the architecture, which technology to choose, and so on.

 

In this N-sight, we brought together four organisations to share their real-life yet very different cases, including how they rethought their architecture and successfully worked with microservices and APIs.

 

The presentations from the N-sight are available for our members (after login).

 

 

Case: The journey from customer expectations to an API-first platform 
 

"Designing the strategy was a 10-minute job, developing it will probably be a 10-year journey," began Yves Heylen, Head of Digital at Vink.  The company questioned customers extensively, mapped their expectations and potential frustrations, and built a strategy to respond. Digitisation was a key part, with the setup of a digital services platform (slide 10).

 

The customer lifecycle became part of the digitisation (slide 11), while the B2B procurement process evolved as well, with customer convenience becoming a true differentiator. An API-first strategy lead to an easy to govern e-commerce platform (slide 15)

 

In the present:

  • B2B online shops (instead of product catalogues)
  • Personalisation
  • High price transparency

→ Low customer loyalty

 

In the future:

  • IoT touchpoints (without user interface)
  • Intelligent buying procedures
  • Higher productivity

→ Stabilisation of customer loyalty through UX on IoT devices

 

With the platform up and running, and receiving positive customer feedback, next steps were defined:

  • Govern the platform and keep it operational.
  • Add new functionalities
  • Commercial roadmap for all touch points.

 

Vink uses Argo CD to monitor and govern the APIs, and Trello to manage the further roadmap and developing processes.

 

The largest challenge now is the personalisation of the customer journey.  Within 2 years, Vink hopes to set up highly personalised information and services.

 

To wrap up, Yves explained that the company culture and proper change management is obviously indispensable.
 

 

Case: Microservices in a governmental context 
 

FOD BoSa (Policy and Support) was born in March 2017, with 4 'parents':

  • FPS Personnel and Organisation
  • FOD Budget & Management Control
  • Empreva (the central cell of the common service for prevention and protection at work of some federal public services)
  • FEDICT (became the 'DG Digital Transformation').

 

The DG Digital Transformation 'parent' covers different angles:

  • Identification
  • Process-oriented applications.

 

Starting in 2016, multiple initiatives have been taken to gradually modernise the technology stack (slide 7), with several applications now built:

  • Citizen e-Box - Allows public institutions to safely send electronic, personally addressed messages to citizens.
  • IWF (Intelligent Web Forms) - engine for online intelligent web forms with automatic pre-filling
  • eLoket, Police on Web - online declaration system.

 

Davy zoomed in on the Citizen e-Box, now operational through different document senders, document providers, federal overview (sorting centre) and the user interface (slide 9).  Although not foreseen in the original concept, this Citizen e-Box also relies on both ‘read APIs’ and 'write APIs' (slides 11-12).
 

 

Case: Straightening the tower of Pisa 
 

"Why is everything from IT so late and so expensive?" This was a question Geert Goethals, CIO at Proximus, regularly received a few years ago when preparing for a new IT strategy and landscape.

 

You need to address issues from the bottom up, he said, but the requirements are numerous:

  • Digital customer journey - driven lightweight front-ends using fast & resilient back-ends
  • Simple - portfolio process and platform simplification
  • Fast - time to market as key differentiator
  • Efficient - do more with less
  • Agile - agile at scale with deep business integration.

 

Plus, the landscape at Proximus is complex (slide 6).

 

In a business project-driven context and an application-oriented landscape, CAPEX is spent to deliver as quickly and cheaply as possible.  This causes the architectural complexity (debt) to keep growing and the project implementation to become more complicated, expensive and time-consuming

 

Proximus wanted to provide a better customer experience: “how can we create a better customer journey, with optimally streamlined processes and based on better systems?” The answer was modular architecture (slide 10).

 

Achieving the goal required 'slicing the elephant':

  • Create a capability map based on industry standard
  • Address these one by one, prioritised by business
  • Set the target architecture per capability  
  • Bring data/applications together and build capability APIs
  • Adapt interfaced systems
  • Clean capability independently.

 

Geert’s recommendations for a successful project:

  • Business-driven target architecture
  • Integrated governance
  • Transformation bandwidth - don't treat your transformation as a 'side hobby’
  • Simplification product – process – system
  • Step-by-step & finisher mindset - choose your battles and finish them.

 

 

Case: API Management and microservices at FEDNOT 
 

The final case was shared by Jolien Jans, API platform manager, and Daniel Bram, Solution Architect, from Fednot. Fednot’s ICT department has the goal to ‘enforce, support, simplify, automate and innovate, where possible, the working of the notaries so they can deliver the best service possible to the citizens’.

 

Fednot is transforming:

  • from Digital Support Services to Data Driven Services
  • from separate (silo) services to an integrated offering with (IT) partners
  • from 'have-to' services to 'want-to' services.

 

APIs are the glue between the strategic drivers (slide 7). In Fednot’s API-first strategy:

  • APIs unlock distribution channels by allowing data, content and services to be accessible and usable on any device, anywhere.
  • APIs help opening up business assets to other parties. Potential partners are able to make use of the APIs to design new products and services more easily.

 

When building your API strategy, don't jump to your RFP track, pilot and implementation, Jolien stresses.  Before that, start with the development of your business strategy, a roadmap and IT workshops.

 

Fednot has chosen an API management solution, with a gateway, an API manager (to build APIs), an analytical server and (very important) the API developer portal (slide 19).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

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