The consumerization of IT in the enterprise has many sources, from the ever-growing number of mobile devices to social business platforms designed to leverage the personal digital preferences and experiences of employees.
Another way consumerization enters an enterprise is from within – when internal developers acquire the tools to build application programming interfaces (APIs) platforms for creating apps uniquely tailored for “consumerizationized” employees, customers, and partners.
This is especially critical for large enterprises in which resources are spread across disparate business units. Telecommunications and media giant Comcast, for example, found that its sheer size (more than 125,000 employees) and specific demands of its various business divisions (cable, Internet, telephone, cable network, and home security) made efforts to leverage development resources practically impossible.
"Groups within the company had a difficult time sharing data and resources," says Agustin Schapira, principal architect for Comcast. In a business – digital consumer technology – where change happens almost overnight, inefficiency can create deadly lag.
"Integrations would take months," Schapira says. Worse, he adds, integrations "were rarely designed to be reusable, [so] each follow-on project had to start from scratch."
Comcast decided it needed an API platform that could be used by all of its developers. Two years ago it turned to Mashery, a San Francisco-based provider of API technology and services.
Mashery’s API platform includes:
- A dashboard that controls security, response caching, and partner accounts
- A portal that allows enterprises to deploy a developer website for partners
- An API "packager" which enables different groups of developers to access the platform in a way that is tailored to their needs; and
- Reporting and analytics tools which allow enterprises to track API performance and business value.
Schapira used Mashery to create Comcast’s in-house API platform, which he dubbed CodeBig. As a result, the cumbersome process of trying to share resources has been all but eliminated. Instead of different units working with different code and protocols, CodeBig deploys RESTful APIs, which enable developers to access any piece of content or service via a URL.
Now pieces of code built by one Comcast unit for a specific purpose can be easily accessed by other Comcast divisions. This enables Comcast to offer individualized services to its customers across multiple platforms.
Perhaps most importantly, it allows the sharing of information and code almost instantly. Comcast groups now can offer data and services to their colleagues in less than 30 minutes, Schapira says.
CodeBig has enabled Comcast developer teams to build dozens of enterprise apps for internal use that can access data from various departments. It also has allowed Comcast to create special apps for its customers, including Xfinity Mobile – which lets users check their Comcast.net email, text message, check voicemail, view account information and pay your bill – and Xfinity TV Sports Remote, which tracks TV schedules for games, provides current scores and allows users to change channels and program their DVRs.
Obviously those apps can only work if Comcast developers can build them to access different services and data. CodeBig makes that happen, Schapira says.
"If our developers know how to access one Comcast API, they can access them all," he says. "That's very different from how it used to be."