Where APIs and empathy meet

Where APIs and empathy meet

Where APIs and empathy meet
Last month, I kicked off a new series where I sit down with forward-looking business and IT leaders to talk about digital transformation inside their companies. It’s been an insightful, and in many ways inspiring, few weeks on the road.

In my conversations with executives about their digital transformations, I keep hearing one word come up time and time again. Much to my surprise, it’s not “disruption.” It’s not even “APIs.”

Across different cities and contexts (including during Adapt or Die San Francisco, an event held by my employer, Apigee), change agents have repeatedly emphasized that the best way for organizations to adapt to digital is to start by enabling the people within the organization to adapt to digital.

Jody Mulkey, Chief Technology Officer at Ticketmaster, connected the dots on how and why this model works in way that really hit home.

For context, the scope of digital transformation at Ticketmaster is about as big as they come. While some of us may associate the company with “Ticketmaster.com” and the World Wide Web, the company was actually founded back in 1976.

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Fast forward nearly half a century and today you have a company whose digital ambitions are on par with GE’s aim to “build the platform for the industrial Internet.” For Ticketmaster, the goal is to “build the operating system for live entertainment.” (As a musician as well as a geek, I happen to think this gives Ticketmaster some extra cachet.)

Mulkey’s personal credentials aren’t exactly beanbag either. Inspired by technology since programming on a TRS-80 in the 1980s (it takes something special to have been “inspired” by that particular experience), he joined Ticketmaster after 10-plus years as an executive at Internet startup Shopzilla. There, as he explained in words that will sound familiar to anyone who has ever worked at a startup, “We needed to know how our market’s dynamics were changing at any given moment. Staying alive meant being able to pivot to a new business model on the fly.”

So, how did Ticketmaster’s APIs contribute to more than 530 million ticket transactions in 2015?

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Rather than coming in and asserting a strong point of view on mobile, digital, cloud and how they can all come together to create new customer experiences (which he had), Mulkey took a different approach: He started out by interviewing people; dozens of people from all across the company, with different roles and points of view.

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