Ecosystems & Platforms: An API Q&A with Emmanuel Méthivier

Ecosystems and Platforms
Ecosystems and Platforms

Emmanuel Méthivier is an Innovation & Digital Transformation Catalyst in France at Axway. With his long experience in the banking sector, he shares his analysis of the current challenges facing French companies in terms of opening up to their ecosystems. His analysis is clear: APIsation as such does not result in a business transformation for companies, unlike open APIsation, which does, however, imply going beyond the IT department alone.

Questions and Answers with Axway Catalyst Emmanuel Méthivier

How mature do you see French companies in terms of potential platformization and openness strategies? 

Emmanuel Méthivier: The maturity is very contrasted. On one side, the discussion on changing the global business model is very present in the “tech” microcosm. This is carried by a handful of specialists, “transformation gurus” who have a good knowledge of subjects such as platformization, AI or the blockchain and their impact on our economy. On the other hand, French CEOs clearly have less of this interest. Their background is generally much less digital and technological. However, we must not forget that it is not the gurus who hold the reins to get the company into the transformation.

Does this sound to you like a French specificity compared to other countries? 

Emmanuel Méthivier: Less than geographical, the dichotomy is societal, with types of leaders who don’t see the future of the world from the same perspective. For example, many decision-makers still have a very conservative view of business activity and see the customer as an asset that needs to be captured and protected against any outside influence, from end to end in a very closed loop. Talking about openness, data sharing and ecosystem services go against this vision.

On the other hand, we have seen more and more “hackers” of traditional business models emerging, driven by a vision of deep transformation… With business models that allow themselves to lose a lot of money at the beginning, for promises of profitability and domination, years later, as Amazon has shown.

Read about Open Banking and Open APIs: The future of finanicial services in Asia at the IDC.

What place does the APIsation of the information system take in these strategic orientations?

Emmanuel Méthivier: It is essential to no longer speak only of APIsation… but of Open-APIsation when we place the reflection at the strategic level. Open-APIsation is at the heart of the traditional business hacking I was describing. It is the basic building block that will allow us to enter the new “network economy,” which takes advantage of the strength of ecosystems by using the leverages of the exponential laws of digital, starting with those of Moore and Metcalfe.

This is a radical transformation… This is not a simple APIsation of an IT system. To sum it up more directly: APIsation is operational optimization, Open-APIsation is a strategic pivot. This nuance becomes primordial when many actors have a direct interest in keeping a degree of ambiguity around these concepts in order to stick to the objectives they are given. The issue of operational optimization tends to phagocytize the issue of real transformation.

Are CIOs, CTOs and their business counterparts really managing to engage in a real dialogue on the subject today? 

Emmanuel Méthivier: The situation is still complicated. All too often we see CIOs alone in the field… Their commitment to the subject is a necessary but not sufficient condition. Their vision brings the company to the middle of the ford, and it is often very complicated to hook up the wagons with the trades once the ISD has launched itself and moved forward alone, often on APIsation and not on Open-APIsation. Open-APIsation opportunities only appear for organizations that mobilize everyone: business lines, marketing, sales, IT department, etc.

 “The opportunities of open APIsation are only taken in hand by organizations that mobilize everyone: business lines, marketing, sales, CIOs…”.

What do you consider being the main obstacles to overcome?

Emmanuel Méthivier: When you look at the industrial success of the GAFA, you realize that the starting point is a global vision of the company “at odds” with traditional policies and indicators.  These companies have given the controls to real “hackers,” such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Sergey Brin or Larry Page. In France, we still too often have pure managers at the head of organizations. They cannot bring about change. In many strategic plans, words like “open” or “platforming” still don’t appear at all. However, we have some inspiring examples: Xavier Niel with Free, Fred Potter when he launched Netatmo… And in a completely different category, Carlos Tavarès, who really “hacked” Renault with his vision around concepts like the Alpine, even before he took over PSA.

What changes can we expect in 2020?

Emmanuel Méthivier: From a technological point of view, two subjects will be worth looking at closely: the blockchain is overcoming a period of disillusion with the emergence of well-thought-out projects that are multiplying. They finally formalize the shift in the role of the trusted third party in the digital world.

On the other hand, artificial intelligence is once again returning to this period of disenchantment, because too often companies have relied on simplistic projects, which do not bring much value. Over the last two years, “AI washing” has done a lot of damage… and results such as the current robot-advisors are far from what companies could initially expect.

All these factors make 2020 a year of transition rather than disruption. There are signs that are going in the right direction, such as the French government’s willingness to be on a government as a platform model that goes beyond open data to the open API. But this will take time. The best examples of success will undoubtedly come from the world of logistics, where opportunities are multiplying.

On the other hand, the banking sector will have to unblock itself after having missed out on true open banking with PSD2. However, we will see opportunities for the concentration of companies to emerge around large banking platforms, but will these be French? Once again, it will no doubt be the less traditional players who will move the lines!

The role of a software company in the transformation

Emmanuel Méthivier: The challenges of Open-APIsation go far beyond technical considerations alone. This strategic consideration naturally raises questions about the position of the “digital partners” who support companies in their transformations and in particular that of a French software company such as Axway, a specialist in APIs. “Open APIsation is really the heart of the current transformation process, but it requires opening up legacy systems and, above all, preparing governance solutions that will allow this evolution to be considered. A few years ago, these governance issues were much less present…

Today, we have had to take the subject in hand and position ourselves more clearly in this strategic support and multi-factorial consulting approach… We are now moving away from software publishing in the strict sense of the term. Of course, technical specificities, particularly in terms of security, still differentiate the offerings between the players, but for Axway’s Catalyst, this is no longer enough:

Beyond the quality of the products, we have to help companies forge a different vision of the world, through their openness to their ecosystems.

About the Axway Catalysts

The Catalysts work to make sound decisions on a collective level every day. Digital transformation is the name of the game and as a group of talented experts that have come together from all around the world, digital transformation in the API space is key. Read Emmanuel’s article on the future of open banking. Further, to help make businesses go forward on their digital transformation journey is how they accelerate forward in the digital economy. Read more about the Catalysts here.

Don’t miss Around the Corner, a virtual reality series.

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