Bechtel: Improving Workforce Efficiency and Productivity via APIs
Bechtel Corp. is the largest construction and engineering firm in the United States. Founded in 1898 and headquartered in San Francisco, the company employs approximately 53,000 workers on projects in nearly 50 countries.
Challenges and opportunities
Like many enterprises, Bechtel relies on a wide range of legacy applications to automate and support business processes. Traditionally, these applications have assumed a one-to-one relationship between front-end and back-end components, offering limited options for sharing and reusing information across siloed business units. With the rise of mobile, however, employees began demanding on-the-go, enterprise-wide access to timely information in a variety of form factors—and Bechtel’s monolithic systems lacked the agility to make that happen.
Due to the size and complexity of the company’s environment, it would be prohibitively expensive to re-platform or re-architect the entire Bechtel portfolio for fast, easy, secure mobile access. A far more practical option would be to create a clear, committed API strategy for unlocking vast amounts of data for the right person at the right time.
“The growing demand for information has changed how we think about applications,” says Christian Reilly, manager of demand management at Bechtel. “That’s why APIs are playing a critical role in our go-forward strategy for meeting and exceeding the needs of our global business.”
For Bechtel, an effective API strategy is dynamic and responsive, and able to change as new best practices emerge. For example, the company has deliberately moved away from SOAP-based implementations to a REST-based API architecture. That transition has enabled team members to expose siloed sources of “big data” via smaller, more specific, and more performant APIs, all easily consumable by current and emerging clients.
As a result, they can take advantage of publicly available APIs like Google Maps, embedding those services into homegrown line-of-business applications for more powerful visualizations of data, at minimal cost.
The Bechtel team has also gained a deeper, more nuanced understanding of how users interact with the company’s applications. Rather than making the traditional assumptions—that is, giving every user the same level of access to every key application, regardless of role—Bechtel identified two types of users: those creating data and those consuming it. By using API-driven interfaces to deliver subsets of functionality appropriate to each user’s role, the company is now able to “deconstruct” and modularize incumbent applications to accommodate both user types.
“We’re using Apigee to provide simple, flexible access to our back-end systems,” Reilly says. “And with the introduction of the Bechtel API Marketplace—powered by the Apigee platform—we’re developing intuitive user interfaces that can be delivered, monitored, managed, and analyzed with Apigee’s core gateway services.”
Apigee solutions accelerate productivity. For example, Bechtel’s knowledge workers—that is, employees who often require immediate access to small amounts of information, and who may never need the full features of a traditional application—can focus on role-specific functionalities without resorting to in-depth training on features they’ll never use.
Apigee solutions have also played a critical role in equipping field-based personnel with smartphones, tablets, and personal devices, enabling them to access data outside a traditional LAN or WAN environment. Untethered from their desks, they can stay productive on the road with minimal reliance on paper-based methods of project management.
“Our primary goal is to make information valuable,” says Reilly. “With our growing library of business-specific APIs, we can provide secure, lightweight access to relevant data, giving our global teams the agility and access required to make better-informed decisions every day.”