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How Rentokil innovates using APIs

Margi Murphy | May 27, 2015
Rentokil discusses IoT rat traps, cash-for-apps incentives and APIs.

For a pest control firm, Rentokil is pretty innovative. Internet of Things-style mice traps; field workers' mobile apps and a £50 'build an internal app' incentive amongst non IT employees are all markers of a truly tech-savvy firm. Enterprise delivery manager Anthony Meadows explains how it is creating new services and apps while maintaining its legacy infrastructure.

It is using APIs to deconstruct its legacy IT infrastructure while simultaneously allowing employees to build useful apps, products and services.

"We have two worlds going on. Enterprise IT is creating a new digital core, and the business is innovating. We've gone bi-modal without meaning too", says Meadows. Reliant on an on-premise, in-house ERP based on Progress software in the majority of the 60 countries Rentokil operates in, Meadows needed to react to the businesses' need to "be more agile."

It has deployed API management vendor Mulesoft's Anypoint platform to help "wrap a layer" around its backend systems to allow sales and marketing and operational teams create the apps they needed without touching the complex backend.

Creating an 'API culture'

APIs are hot at the moment, even though they have been around for some time. What is innovative about Rentokil's use of the interfacing tool is the culture it has created, Meadows says.

"By creating an API culture, we can actually extract and present our data internally and externally so the business can go away and innovate. While before they would come and ask for a Google Maps API [for field workers' mobile app] now they might need a customer service or sales API, for example."

Using an API to integrate the backend to field workers (which make up 70 percent of Rentokil's 22,000 workforce) has been "a real game changer for efficiency" now that the usual paper trail has been eliminated.

"Thinking about the IoT culture and how you can scale it and integrate all your assets and endpoints that you have, pulling them together in an agile fashion is what is really innovative.

"We're a simple business, but complex use of technology could transform that. The mind set of marketing is about driving products for us, and I have to be in a place where I can support that."

Opening APIs internally, let alone to external developers can be tricky in terms of availability for operational services (like the mobile app for field workers, for example). "We're trying to create service levels around APIS to make sure that a certian amount is free and then there needs to be a payment level. We are considering having two open APIs, one without a service level that allows developers or marketing to take what they need but one for the operational side of the firm that we can control", Meadows said.


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