The world wants to integrate…or does it?

Hi everyone. My name’s Darin. I just joined WSO2 as the chief marketing officer. I wanted to share a few of my early thoughts about WSO2 and the idea of integration.

First, on a personal level, I am without a doubt, the most excited I’ve been in a long time. Over the past few months, I’ve spent time learning about the company, our customers, and the integration market. It’s clear to me that the magnitude of the opportunity for the overall community is literally awesome. I’m in awe of the potential before me. I can’t help but think of the many, many things that have happened and then come together to afford me the opportunity to be part of it. This is my wonderfully perfect storm happening at the perfect time.

Second, if you don’t already know this, WSO2 is the #1 open source integration vendor. The team of experts here understand the challenge of integration after having been a part of more than 2,000 enterprise integration projects. WSO2 has a vision for what integration will look like in the future, and the team would be happy to share steps you can take now to improve your current state and set yourself up for greater success moving forward. The open source approach means we aim to provide a ton of freely available value through our software, and we only earn the revenue we make through an amazing focus on customer support and service. Our cash flow positive and profitable growth of more than 50% is good evidence for the quality of the work this team delivers.

Third, my mantra of ‘One Story. One Plan. One Team’ seems to resonate with the team and the WSO2 culture. It’s a simple framework for helping distributed and cross-functional teams work better together and to deliver greater value to the ecosystem of partners and the community of users/customers. Tyler (CEO) shared an email about the idea of ‘One WSO2’ right before I joined. It was music to my ears. And just yesterday, Sanjiva (founder and father of WSO2) shared an email with the global team that demonstrated the honesty and transparency for which he is known so well. These are characteristics that are necessary to truly live a culture of being One Team, with a shared purpose, that is bigger than any individual and bigger than the company.

It’s interesting to me (as a new team member) that we’ve had a dialogue going on about values and culture recently. Great discussion! The point was well made that writing down values and attributes of a culture can be an unnecessary action or a forced ‘corporate activity’. Rather than feeling compelled to write them down, values and culture are simply things you live, exhibit through actions, and communicate by example. I believe it’s both. Think about when you were new to your team, your department, your company. If that was too long ago :), think about the last person that joined your group. How easy was it for you/them to integrate into the culture? In order for a new person to integrate into a business culture, at a pace that business today demands, I believe we should give she/he a head start by telling the examples to look for in others, from the senior leadership to the interns. Don’t make people figure out how to integrate into the culture entirely by trial and error. While many cultures (especially in technology companies like WSO2) embrace a “fail fast!”, “break something!”, and “ask forgiveness over permission” mentality, this wonderfully freeing approach is a strange new world for many people. I believe we should all help people adjust quickly and integrate faster, regardless of the environment and circumstances.

When I think about the idea of integration — beyond just the technology of middleware, the ESB, APIs, security, microservices, etc. — I believe it to be a fundamental and foundational idea for all of us. And I think the world wants to integrate more. Sometimes, this desire comes from a feeling of wanting to be part of something bigger. Other times, maybe it stems from the acknowledgment that we often cannot do ‘it’ alone, whatever ‘it’ is.

Whatever the motivations, I do believe the integration of ideas, skills, and systems is a natural part of what the world wants (and needs), even at the evolutionary level. In fact, page one of the book I’m reading currently, Big Potential, by Shawn Achor, provides a great example of this by way of the behaviors of fireflies in the mangrove forest of Southeast Asia. Basically, a male firefly will light up in order to attract the attention of the female. In what is the oldest kind of integration there is, it’s a little like there way of putting on a new shirt and maybe some cologne. Research shows that when huge populations of males light up in unison, the success rate for attracting females goes up approximately 25X. The more the males integrated their effort, the more success they experienced, and the more that entire ‘world’ of little luminaries benefited.

I see other trends that seem to support this idea that the world wants to integrate. And, like any concept that isn’t just accepted as fact, there are counterpoints as well.

  • The International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects the number of air travelers will increase by approximately 95% by 2036, while experts agree the global population will only increase by about 17%. Face-to-face and in-person experiences help create a faster integration.
  • According to the World Trade Organization, merchandise trade between developing economies has increased from 41% to 52% of their global trade in the last ten years. Commercial integration is no longer just between the biggest nations that have the most to offer.
  • A compilation of research results from WeAreSocial shows 42% of the global population is active on social media — an increase of 13% YoY. That means more than 300M people are integrating their ideas with people they didn’t use to.
  • The same report states ‘Digital Confidence’ is largely high, which means the majority of nations believe new technologies present more opportunity than risk. India ranks near the top with 79% of people welcoming new technologies — that inherently will drive more integration [projects].
  • Deloitte reports that 20% of the acquisition of technology assets as the principal reason behind deals, up from 6 percent in the spring of 2016. 35% of $1B+ corporations intend to pick up the pace on acquisitions, and in parallel, 70% of both corporate and private equity respondents say they plan to sell units or assets in 2018, up from 48% in the spring of 2016.
  • Since 1990, more than 90% of US metro areas have seen a decline in racial stratification, signaling a trend toward a more integrated America. But, then why do we have ongoing tension and debates about segregation in schools and housing?
  • And at the same time, we have active crises in many corners of the globe that have produced a record high number of 68.5M displaced people in 2017 — that’s one every 2 seconds. The majority of these displaced people, looking for a new place in which to integrate, result from conflict and war (people certainly NOT integrating ideas and skills).
  • Finally, according to Gartner, over the next ten years, we will gravitate toward work and organizations that accelerate “We Working” — a work philosophy that depends on ensembles of autonomous and high-performing teams fulfilling crucial outcomes. Work will revolve around portfolios of diversified roles and skills performed in teams that dynamically resize and reform.

It boils down to…it’s complicated. But, integration and disintegration is happening at an amazing scale. Global integration — technically, commercially, and politically — is very complicated. It makes even the most complicated integration architecture and cloud-native development projects in the support of massive digital transformation seem relatively easy. For me, complications in the face of an undeniable trend spells opportunity. Opportunity abounds because of the idea of integration.

So, back to my first point. I’m excited to be involved in this idea of integration and its many angles. I’m excited to be part of the open source software approach to integration because it is an amazing form of integration at work. And, I’m excited to be at WSO2 because of the way we work on solving the problems associated with integration — as ONE WSO2.

It’s great to be here.

Ask an Expert: Catching up with Dakshika Jayathilaka

Dakshika Jayathilaka is the team lead for WSO2’s UX efforts. With more than 10 years of industry experience in the areas of UX planning, interaction design trends, wireframing, prototyping, and more, Dakshika is a speaker, visiting lecturer, and a family man.

In this interview, Dakshika talks about some of the things he’s passionate about – WSO2 (of course), UX and its role in an integration company, and an exciting new project that he has been working on!

1. For how long have you been at WSO2 and what has your journey been like?

I have been working at WSO2 for more than 4 years and it had been a tremendous journey with an awesome bunch of people. As the first UX member at WSO2, I was able to inspire software engineers to enhance the usability of our offerings by actively driving the UX process, which is crucial in delivering successful projects to clients. Currently I am actively working on an interesting project that will enhance our tooling experience.

2. There’s a misconception that UI and UX are the same. Can you enlighten us about this?

Let’s take a step back and first look at the definitions for UI and UX are.

UI designing is closely related to graphic designing, where as UX designing involves the more technical aspects of application development including learning the user needs, gathering and analyzing market data, and performing alternative testing.”

In the IT industry, UI which stands for User Interface is an umbrella term that covers everything designed into information devices which enable people to interact with them. Examples of UIs are laptop screens, desktop screens, etc. These interfaces facilitate users to interact with software applications. UI designing is the discipline that refers to the crafting of such interfaces. User experience designing, which is commonly known as UX, covers everything done to enhance user satisfaction by focusing on usability and accessibility aspects. UX can be considered as a discipline that stemmed from traditional HCI practices.

To answer the original question, UX isn’t just a buzzword invented to replace UI. However, UI can be thought of as subset of UX. UI designing is closely related to graphic designing, where as UX designing involves the more technical aspects of application development including learning the user needs, gathering and analyzing market data, and performing alternative testing.

3. What are the key aspects and considerations for a good user experience?

Good (or improved) user experience depends on the market, the personas that we cater to, the level of user stories, and epics we have derived. In case you’re not familiar with these words, here’s a quick introduction to them:

  • A persona encompasses the characteristics of a person. For example, a debit card user can be considered as a persona that ties with the need to transact with the debit card.
  • A user story identifies each individual requirement of a particular persona, e.g., as a debit card user I want to pay for my grocery items using my debit card, so that I do not have to carry cash in my wallet.
  • An epic intervenes all the inter-related user stories to provide the bird’s eye view.

It’s critical to understand the personas you are catering to with your product offering. You need to be familiar with users’ jargon to effectively communicate with clients, gather the user requirements, and map them to personas. This is the foundation of a good UX design.

After gathering the requirements, you need to craft the user stories and epics to provide the overall picture to the internal stakeholders. Such meetings will help you to brainstorm good ideas and forecast the design. Most B2B organizations are following agile practices and thus, you may have multiple meetings with both internal and external stakeholders to refine user stories. Such market findings will help you to come up with a good story flow.

Once user stories are finalized, do alternative designs using your previous UX project experience. Subsequently, conduct A/B testing to come up with the most usable design. This too can have iterations. Finally, always keep yourself updated about new tools and research around the UX domain to be on top of the game.

4. Working in a middleware company that involves more technical work when compared with an end user application, how do you view the benefits of UX and the role of an UX engineer?

UX is not an afterthought and you need to thoroughly think about your design and system development. Middleware companies also have different personas and priorities, and the needs differ depending on the areas of focus. For example, at WSO2, Enterprise Integration and Identity and Access Management mainly target integration specialists and identity administrators, while API Management focuses on API admins, publishers, and developers. To achieve the right experience, we perform lab testing, A/B testing, and heuristic evaluations on each product area.

When you really think about it, UX is a crucial aspect for the middleware domain that gives it a competitive edge.”

According Jared M. Spool, “Without also having proactive UX design efforts, the design team is only fixing problems caused by decisions the product team has already made. These already-made decisions are about what the product will do, how it will work, and what its underlying architecture will be.”

When you really think about it, UX is a crucial aspect for the middleware domain that gives it a competitive edge.

5. What’s the latest project you are working on and how do you think that will benefit our customers?

Currently I am working with the WSO2 Enterprise Integrator team to introduce usability improvements to the tooling. Enterprise integration is often considered a complex process that requires technical skills to work with. WSO2 Enterprise Integrator is an open source, hybrid integration platform that allows developers to do quick, iterative integrations with any application, data, or system.

Integration tooling is a must and needs to be designed with great UX in mind. Integration is also a vast area and includes multiple personas. Thus, with this project, we are trying to improve the experience of integration specialists and ad-hoc integrators. This will mainly cover the developer experience of each persona. In essence, we are trying to provide the right experience to each user category while providing proper user onboarding.

6. Where do you see the future of UX is heading and what are some trends to watch?

Soul-searching is happening in many professions at the moment, as high-tech, reliable, and inexpensive artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technologies are becoming a reality in every industrial sector. There are already commercial attempts at using AI to improve the UX.”

UX has evolved not only because of the ubiquity of smart technology (smart devices, Smart TVs, etc. ), but also because developed economies are increasingly focused on the service industry, where customer experience is crucial. Soul-searching is happening in many professions at the moment, as high-tech, reliable, and inexpensive artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technologies are becoming a reality in every industrial sector. There are already commercial attempts at using AI to improve the UX. VUI (Voice User interfaces) are increasingly used to improve end user experiences.

The enterprise world is also growing fast and moving towards the agile environment, where UX needs to be agile to support the rapid movements. UX is evolving towards CX (Customer Experience), which covers more breath and depth to fulfill the needs of enterprises.

7. Finally, what advice would you like to give the budding developers/UX engineers?

  • Patience: becoming a great UX engineer does not happen overnight. It is a long, steep journey. But it is worth it. There is a plethora of online material that you can refer to get things started.
  • Stay inspired: follow UX specialists in the industry and keep yourself updated about new trends and strategies related to UX.
  • Sharpen your skills: constantly improve your design skills, domain knowledge, business acumen, interpersonal skills, and presentation skills.
  • Be open to feedback: always be open to feedback from your colleagues, your clients, and others.. An open mind helps you to see things from others’ perspective, and assess the viability and applicability.
  • Empathy: be willing to provide help and guidance to your colleagues by getting in to their shoes.
  • Maintain a portfolio: it’s important to maintain a good portfolio with case studies to showcase your track record as well as your potential.
  • Passion: be passionate about the subject, and this is also important as you need to identify with the psychology and cognitive behavior of people.

Dakshika dressed up as the Joker at a costume party!

WSO2 Stream Processor Named a Representative Vendor in Gartner’s 2018 Market Guide for Event Stream Processing

Owing to the rapid increase in innovation in today’s highly competitive business environments, agile digital organizations require capabilities to quickly respond to new market trends, customer behaviors, and environmental patterns. WSO2 Stream Processor, with its use of big data, streaming, and historical and predictive analysis, allows organizations to gain a competitive edge. It allows businesses to analyze large data streams, react to changes in real-time, predict trends, and even open up new, domain-specific avenues for entirely new services and products.

As validation of WSO2’s strategy to deliver an open source, cloud native, and lightweight stream processing product that can easily scale up to handle large event rates, WSO2 Stream Processor was recently listed as a Representative Vendor in Gartner’s Market Guide for Event Stream Processing1. The guide looks at vendors with cloud and on-premises offerings, as well as proprietary and open-source products.

Gartner defines event stream processing platforms as, “software systems that perform real-time or near-real-time calculations on event data ‘in motion.’ The input is one or more event streams containing data about customer orders, insurance claims, bank deposits/withdrawals, tweets, Facebook postings, emails, financial or other markets, or sensor data from physical assets such as vehicles, mobile devices or machines.” The report identifies two sub-segments in the market: stream analytics event stream processing (ESP) offerings and stream data integration ESP offerings.

According to the report, “Increasingly demanding consumers and intensifying digital competition are pushing analytics from transactional to continuous. To achieve the necessary continuous intelligence, data and analytics leaders must understand and master the event stream processing market.”

WSO2 Stream Processor helps agile digital organizations accelerate time to insight from data by providing users more autonomy in managing tools. It is an open source, cloud native, and lightweight stream processing platform that understands streaming SQL queries in order to capture, analyze, process and act on events in real time. This facilitates real-time streaming analytics and streaming data integration. With the product’s simple deployment and its ability to rapidly adapt to changes, enterprises can go to market faster and achieve greater ROI. It comprises many features that enable enterprises to build streaming analytics capabilities and derive meaningful insights out of an organization’s data.

Unlike other offerings, it is the only stream processor that provides high availability and 100K+ throughput with just two nodes and scales to 30+ billion events per day with its Kafka-based distributed deployment. The Siddhi Streaming SQL language also enables users to adapt to the market faster with quicker development times. The product can be utilized as a lightweight deployment, with the ability to handle large event rates, sophisticated and complex streaming operators, or out-of-order message processing. It can also process real-time queries that span from seconds to years. With its rich and agile development experience, it also provides business users more autonomy in managing tools.

1Gartner, Inc. “Market Guide for Event Stream Processing” by Nick Heudecker and W. Roy Schulte, June 15, 2018.