This week we get technical with Olivia Leonard, who leads a team of engineers and architects at MasterCard, and ask her about the future of APIs and enterprise systems.

By Jessica Schimm (Digital Audience Engagement Lead, Women 2.0)

APIs are everywhere . One of the driving forces behind the proliferation of APIs is their use as a marketing tool; on the high street of the Internet, APIs are the store window. They’re being used in industries across the board from business to biotechnology, human capital, media and social networks, banks, government agencies and charities. Most large technology organizations have their own APIs that are used to interest developers in their brand. But how can APIs be leveraged to accelerate technology solutions?

That’s what we’re asking Olivia Leonard, the Leader in the Enterprise Architecture group at MasterCard. Leonard has more than 15 years of experience in the IT sector. She’s held various tech roles from systems and network analysis to Internet security and web infrastructure. Currently she works for MasterCard’s Enterprise Architecture Group and leads a team of integration engineers and architects who are responsible for the integration of Enterprise Services in MasterCard.

In 15 years, so much has changed… but so much has not changed! There are still plenty of practical business problems to be solved. Here’s what she had to say when we asked her how enterprise services are connected to the Internet of Things,  why APIs matter and how they can accelerate technology solutions.

Women 2.0: What about the IT sector has changed in the past 15 years since you first entered the field? 

Olivia Leonard: The single biggest change in the IT sector in the past ten years has been the adoption of smart phones, tablets and smart devices by an overwhelming majority of people from all geographies, cultures, age groups and demographics. This shift has revolutionized the way  organizations communicate with their consumers.

IT is evolving as a direct result of consumer driven behavior and demands. This means that applications have to be built so that they can change rapidly in response to consumer demand. Also, it means platforms and solutions need to be built to enable the “always on” service.

Women 2.0: What do you enjoy about your work at MasterCard in particular that you think you couldn’t find elsewhere?

Olivia Leonard: Working for MasterCard offers me the possibility to make a difference to a number of consumers. The sheer scale and scope of the technology solutions with which I work brings unique challenges and opportunities for learning and growth, which I enjoy.

The culture of MasterCard encourages people to challenge the status quo and to drive better solutions. This culture of constructive disruption at all levels in the organization is unique in my experience – and one that really encourages stronger, more impactful results.

Women 2.0: Tell us more about enterprise services. How do they relate to the world of mobile applications and the Internet of Things?

Olivia Leonard: Enterprise services are the foundational capabilities of an organization. By definition, they must be re-usable, atomic and modular. Mobile applications are only as good as the backend service they are exposing.

Women 2.0: Why do APIs matter? Do you think it’s important that all users — even those who don’t work in or have a strong understanding of tech — have a better understanding of how APIs work?

Olivia Leonard: APIs matter because they allow individuality and creativity to flourish. They facilitate a global development community with constantly evolving development tools and languages to interact with systems through a standard interface. I think a lot of people who are the consumers of APIs every day don’t realize it – and that’s when you know you have a really great API!

Women 2.0: Why should organizations consider adopting Enterprise Services and how should they go about it?

Olivia Leonard: Most large organizations have adopted Enterprise Services and have some implementation of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). It is the best way I know of to leverage the organization’s technology assets.

However, to get the best from Enterprise Services, they must be knitted in to the fabric of technology providers. Everyone in the organization must become a consumer and provider of services, and they must align to same set of guiding principles with respect to security, performance, provisioning and measuring of metrics, as well as applying integration standardization.

Women 2.0: How have cloud platforms changed the way organizations manage their IT assets and the move towards “As a Service” delivery methods?

Olivia Leonard: The cloud has been a driving force behind Enterprise Services. The provisioning of commodity hardware with virtual stacks that can be provisioned in minutes, rather than weeks, has changed the way IT infrastructure is viewed and managed. From there, the platform becomes more like a code base and can be more strongly aligned to software development principles and lifecycles. The platform and applications that run on it become one entity, allowing for more automated and rapid deployment of the entire stack. Demand for a rapid pace of change, driven by consumer preferences, drives the need for adoption of this model.

Women 2.0: Where is the world of Enterprise Services going? How are these services shaping the way we work, communicate, shop, and live?

Olivia Leonard: You can liken the world of Enterprise Services to the world of industrialization. It is transformative, widespread and changes the lives of nearly everyone. These services are giving the consumers power to change the way they consume everything.

Ten years ago, you had to use a web or file transfer client to access the information super-highway, today you just turn on your Smart TV, Tweet about series you’re watching and check your bracelet for an update on availability of that handbag on your wish list!

Women 2.0: How can APIs be leveraged to accelerate technology solutions?

Olivia Leonard: APIs are very versatile – they can help you expose capabilities outside of your organization, however, they can help you inside your Enterprise by speeding up service delivery. All aspects of technology can be exposed through APIs, allowing the organization to standardize and automate repeatable activities.

They can help with complex user provisioning to platform modifications, metrics generation, collection and reporting, auditing, etc. APIs remove barriers to communication for systems, as well as for people. In this manner, they help drive solutions that are easier to build, maintain and scale and allow for a greater pace of change.

Thanks for your insight on Enterprise Services and APIs Olivia! And don’t forget to RSVP for our free MasterCard + Women 2.0 Present a Pop-Up Event on April 29 in San Jose after day one of the Finovate.