Companies House readies itself for digital transformation
Companies House, the UK’s registrar of companies, has announced its intention to move towards digital transformation in its strategic plan.
The government office said that the challenges it faces “have changed significantly” since its previous strategic plan three years ago, and that its current goals are a response to a “new environment”.
The strategy document says: “Our data is used to support millions of business decisions and gives us the potential to play a leading role in the fight against economic crime. The transparency of our data contributes to the UK being regarded as a world-leading place to do business.”
Companies House established digital services over 20 years ago, with interim improvements. But the agency admits the legacy systems are not futureproof.
“Our internal systems and digital infrastructure are still those we put in place many years ago,” it says. “We will therefore be investing substantially in updating not just the services that are visible to our customers, but also the internal systems and infrastructure that support them.”
It goes on: “In recent years concern has grown that the UK’s corporate framework is open to misuse, and that this can lead to a lack of confidence in some of the data we hold. At the same time, continual advances in technology change expectations of what we can and should deliver.”
As with many organisations, the catalyst for change has been Covid-19, which introduced “unanticipated and unprecedented” challenges.
“Our ability to respond swiftly has provided proof of the value of work already underway, from our ability to change services and provide data on companies across government to our ability to ensure the majority of our people could work from home and their embracing that way of working. We will not lose the successes and accelerated progress we have made and will incorporate these into our ways of working as we move forward to the next normal.”
Companies House hopes that its new direction will “inspire trust and confidence” as well as delivering efficiency.
”We will seek to maximise digital filing as a vital route to delivering across a range of goals, such as improving the usefulness of data and facilitating reductions in the carbon footprint of reporting and compliance.”
Companies House aims to become a fully digital organisation, which is likely to benefit business directors, as well as the agency’s own ends.
“Digital services also give us the ability to build in help so that the user is more likely to succeed first time. Where there is a need for additional support we are exploring options such as webchat and chatbots which can help to lead users to the right actions and then help them to complete what they need to do. All our potential uses of new technology will be underpinned by social research, behavioural change and nudge techniques to ensure our approach is effective. We also recognise that there are instances where human interaction is needed. Where this is the case, we have teams of people trained to deal with a wide range of customer issues and handle them sensitively.”
Harnessing APIs to unlock and operationalise your data
Data is the fuel that powers modern businesses. It’s widely accepted that unlocking insight from data is key to driving successful digital transformation and competitive advantage. Yet the gap between understanding the importance of data-driven insight and being able to achieve it remains stubbornly wide, as critical information remains locked away in silos. To overcome these challenges, businesses must try a new approach. API-led connectivity offers a reusable, standardised way to integrate data across multiple platforms, systems, and applications. When done right, it can be the fast-track to IT and business teams productivity, innovation, and growth.
A data explosion
The past decade has seen a data explosion. Analyst firm IDC predicted that over 59 zettabytes (ZBs) of data would be “created, captured, copied, and consumed” in the world last year alone. In the next three years it’s predicted to continue growing at a CAGR of 26%, during which time more data will have been created than during the past 30 years. At the top of any CIO or business leader’s wish-list is the ability to extract insight from these vast troves of information in order to make more effective decisions. According to McKinsey, data-driven companies are 1.5 times more likely to report revenue growth of greater than 10%.
Unfortunately, just like much of the population for much of the last 12 months, data is locked down and isolated. MuleSoft’s 2021 Connectivity Benchmark report reveals that data silos and existing IT infrastructure are making it difficult for most firms to integrate new technologies and make changes to IT systems and applications. In fact, currently less than third of enterprise applications on average are integrated, so there is still significant room for improvement. Those organisations that are able to connect the dots between their data stand to realise increased customer engagement, business transformation and innovation benefits.
Journey towards API-led integration
Legacy custom code point-to-point integration may have been fine a decade ago when enterprises ran relatively few applications. But today’s businesses need something altogether more agile. Point-to-point can be expensive and complex, which means IT ends up spending too much of its time on maintenance and not enough on innovation.
This is where APIs come in, offering a more seamless and cost-effective way to drive integration through discoverability, self-service, and reuse. Rather than building the same point-to-point integration for use in 10 different projects, which requires each to be maintained individually as unique sets of code, a single API can be developed to be reused across them all. An API-led approach therefore means companies only have to unlock each data set just once to empower business teams across the organisation to use that data in their own projects.
The value of this approach can be extended even further with today’s low-code tools, which support drag-and-drop integrations. This can help to ease the burden on IT teams and empower business users to deliver their own integration projects.
The LendingTree experience
One company that has driven major improvements through reusable APIs is online loans marketplace LendingTree. Originally its 16 different business units were operating with siloed, incomplete data, meaning 360-degree customer insight was impossible—affecting sales and the end-user experience. The firm was not able to capture or analyse call centre data, limiting its ability to improve experiences for its customers.
Using APIs to draw in data from multiple systems and databases in real-time, LendingTree was able to consolidate its customer data on Salesforce to create a single source of truth for cross-departmental teams. This approach empowers service agents by giving them access to individuals’ loan application history from a single console, drastically reducing the time it takes them to consolidate various sources of customer data. As such, its API-led integration approach has allowed LendingTree to free up time and resources to launch new capabilities faster.
The future’s digital
Organisations have been affected in many different ways by the COVID-19 pandemic. But across the board, the desire among business leaders over the coming months will be to emerge from the crisis stronger than ever. Data-driven insight will be vital to this achievement, as businesses push ahead with digital innovation. API-led integration can help them to ensure that data strategies are long-lasting and sustainable, paving the way for long-term success and a brighter digital future.