Executive Series: Part Two of an Interview with Cartus’ New CIO and SVP, IT, Rizwan Akhtar
Posted by: Trevor Macomber, Brand Marketing & Campaign Manager & Rizwan Akhtar, CIO & SVP, IT
In part one of a two-part interview I conducted with Cartus’ CIO and SVP, IT, Rizwan Akhtar, Technology Transformation in the Relocation Industry―Agile Development, we explored why the adoption of Agile methodology is important to Cartus. Now, in part two of our series, we discuss Application Programming Interfaces (or APIs) and how their flexibility will help accelerate Cartus’ digital transformation.
Trevor Macomber: Based on previous conversations, it sounds like one component of Cartus’ Agile strategy will be to pursue a more flexible API-based framework to accelerate our digital transformation. Beyond the fact that API stands for “Application Programming Interface,” can you explain what an API really is and how Cartus will adapt and adopt this technology to facilitate our transformation?
Rizawn Akhtar: Absolutely. Let’s use Legos as an example.
TM: Legos? As in … um, Legos?
RA: Legos. Yes. Think about how each block plays a specific part. Each block in and of itself is a complete entity, but when you put those blocks together, you make something entirely new. The blocks themselves don’t change, but what you can build with them is open to your imagination.
APIs can be thought of the same way. Each API is a specific building block designed to complete a picture, complete a story, complete a capability, or complete a product. A company’s ability to define that rudimentary set of basic building blocks that can be used across many different products is really what an API strategy is.
APIs let you tap into your capabilities and make them available for any channel. If you have to provide a status update on a household goods move to an online presence and to a wearable and to a mobile device, you don’t have to construct that building block multiple times. You build it once. You just build it so you can offer it via an online or mobile or wearable channel. So the basic components of actually providing something remain the same, regardless of the channel that you’re tapping into. You’re orchestrating the blocks to suit your needs.
I hope that gives you a little bit of an insight into what APIs are with a very non-technical way of explaining it.
TM: Yes, that’s very helpful. Just to ratchet up the technicality a bit, what will APIs—which I know we’ve already incorporated to some extent at Cartus—ultimately replace in our existing framework?
RA: They will replace the very vertical and monolithic systems we have today. Instead, we have to focus on identifying and building business capabilities—for example, all the components in our MovePro ToolkitSM. Whether you’re talking about MovePro TimelineSM, MovePro DashboardSM, or MovePro VisionSM, under this new, more flexible technology strategy, these would all be powered with the same basic building blocks called APIs.
In other words, the technical implementation of providing a move status—whether shown on MovePro Timeline or MovePro Dashboard—would leverage the same API. Perhaps it’s called the “Move Status API,” which would contain a set of inputs that define what the status is and where it should populate. The input and response from the Move Status API is defined as the specification of the API.
Furthermore, this same API could also be provided to a client or a supplier to see into their systems, which may be different from ours. APIs provide a common interface for integration based on industry standards. As a result, they can be integrated into any platform, system, or device.
TM: That would be the so-called “Single Source of Truth”?
RA: It is Single Source of Truth in that it offers consistent information from a singular repository of data. I think when we talk about a digital ecosystem, we’re talking about the business capabilities that define our products and services within our business. These business capabilities are responsible for performing different functions or offering important information to our clients and customers using APIs. So if you think about having a core capability, like making a prediction about future move volumes or providing information about a specific policy, all of those capabilities can be connected into different areas from a single source to move the relocation forward at the client or individual customer level.
TM: Beyond the technology strategy itself—and you alluded to it when you referenced MovePro Vision—we have the possibilities introduced by predictive analytics. The mobility industry might be a little later to this game than other industries, but it seems to have the potential to revolutionize a number of different aspects of relocation, if not the entire process. What do you see as predictive analytics’ role in our overall strategy?
RA: I think predictive analytics is really just scratching the surface. It is going to give us very useful insights using past information to predict and define the future, but I think the real value in the data is to identify new services and envision new products than can be offered and built for the digital world.
Specifically, I think artificial intelligence (AI), although it’s a little bit of a buzzword, is where the real value is. Predictive analytics is really just a definition of the past that helps you define what the future might look like. But AI is when you actually start looking at that data to make decisions, and that’s where the real business value lies.
Being relatively new to our very complex business, I can’t speak to the true opportunity of AI for relocation yet, but I can tell you based on my experience that, once we understand our data, it’s going to show us a world that we have not seen before, and that will offer a great deal of opportunity—if we can capitalize on it.
Be sure to read part one of this interview, Technology Transformation in the Relocation Industry—Agile Development, where we discuss Agile Development and how Cartus is embracing it.