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Creating Business Agility and New Customer Experiences With APIs and Microservices - A Q-and-A With Avoris

How can I get my organization to quickly adapt to changing customer expectations?
How can we deliver a better customer experience than the competition?
What can I do to disrupt, rather than be disrupted?

These are all top questions we hear Line of Business executives and CTOs asking when digital transformation initiatives are top of mind. IT capabilities are at the core of either enabling new business opportunities or being a barrier to getting things done. The state of legacy systems and application architectures, culture, and processes all determine an organization's ability to make their data useable, launch new apps for every channel customers want to use and adapt to new technology patterns such as IoT. Speed is of the essence with competitors on your heels and those businesses that have adopted agile application architectures are finding themselves ready to compete and win.

For example, the travel industry is a highly competitive and fragmented arena with many options for consumers to digitally explore and book travel options. Being able to identify trends in customer behavior and deliver easy-to-use, always available, and personalized digital experiences are critical to keep customers coming back.

With CA World 2017 just around the corner, I had the opportunity to interview one of our speakers Joan Barceló (@joan_barcelo), IT Architecture and Development Manager at Ávoris, about their mission to enable their business to deliver exceptional experiences and quickly adapt to change. Ávoris, Reinventing Travel, is a leader in the travel industry that's been around for over 85 years. They have over 700 travel agencies, 3,000 employees and even an airline that make vacation dreams come true for over 2.2 million travelers. Ávoris is the travel company of Barceló Group, with more than 50,000 rooms in 21 countries around the world. Let's see what Joan has to say.

Q: An enterprise's ability to craft exceptional digital customer experiences is critical to being competitive in any industry today. From your experience at a large and quickly growing travel company, can you tell us a bit about some of the recent digital initiatives your team has had to tackle?

Travellers today are asking us to be much more than a conventional travel agency. They are permanently reinventing the way they travel and they need new partners who relate to them in a more personalized and approachable way. We want to be there with the traveler for each and every step of the journey to guarantee a unique experience, so we are an innovative response to their new needs, open to all new ways of traveling, designed to create unique relationships.

In order to create the ideal experience we want to provide for our customers, our primary initiative over the last couple of years was to first create a unified view of the customer experience in our systems, leverage that consolidated data to provide personalized experiences in a new digital products, and finally to ensure our architecture was agile enough to easily take on new projects at the speed our business needs to operate.

Q: That absolutely makes sense. Travelers have a lot of options and a personalized experience that makes traveling easy would be a great differentiator. What were the main barriers holding the business back from being able to create that experience and where did you start?

The company had a sharp growth with a big impact on IT systems. 3 years ago we had Monolithic applications with a lot of internal dependencies, separated applications with duplicated logic. Our systems had dispersed, unrelated and duplicated data and different appearance of every front-end... Tracking and resolving issues was very difficult and the maintenance very complex and expensive.

The main barriers for our business were the difficulty in tracking customers with a partial and un-unified view of their behavior in each channel, the length of time it took to adopt new requirements, and how difficult it was to apply common rules and policies.

We decided to face the situation and create a flexible, sustainable and scalable model with a transformation proposal based on the following tenets:

  • Simplify the IT business model. The data flows are basic and every application has to do what it was made for, applying principles such as Domain Driven Design and Reactive Manifesto
  • Simplify the IT architecture, avoiding dependencies, and migrating to APIs and microservices
  • Simplify the IT infrastructure, migrating to cloud over Docker and Kubernetes
  • Encourage and empower agile product teams

Q: Refactoring monolithic applications and adopting a microservices and API-centric architecture is a huge project. From a technical perspective, what were the biggest challenges in building that out?

The biggest challenge has been to migrate all the architecture and infrastructure without stopping our business, being able to continue growing and adapting to the new needs of our customers, maintaining the legacy software and infrastructure, without economic impact on the IT department.

To explain this situation to business, we compared it to an F1 race in which we have to change wheels, chassis, engine .... without a pit stop.

Q: And what elements of your approach would you say were key to overcoming those challenges?

The key was to adopt an agile mindset, to engage our team members and empower product teams with the support of the management to lighten the day-to-day, and to focus efforts on the digital transformation.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about how CA API Management was able to help?

We use CA API Management to pave the way for our architecture transformation, focusing on effective use of APIs and microservices.

The CA API Gateway is an important tool that helps us integrate and secure access between applications & domains in the following scenarios:

  • New applications access new services
  • New applications access legacy services
  • Legacy applications access new services

Thank you very much, Joan Barceló from Ávoris!

Your team is literally re-inventing travel day-in and day-out. These are very valuable insights for CTOs, Architects, and Line of Business leaders who are tasked with their own digital transformation initiatives.

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ajones010 contributed to this article