What is the Composable Enterprise? Gartner defines it as “the innovation strategy of leading digital business organizations.” Which is true. But composability is not just an innovation strategy. It is also a new and improved standard for operational design and solutions development. If embraced, it could solve many of the enterprise’s most stubborn operational challenges, and increase by an order of magnitude the enterprise’s capacity for:
- Adapting to change
- Increasing operational efficiency
- Enabling business users to innovate independently
- And optimizing processes end-to-end.
But what are the tenets of composability, exactly?
The Composable Enterprise rejects monolithic application experiences.
In the years since the cloud revolution, the enterprise has become dependent almost entirely upon apps. We’ve turned to apps to fill nearly every need. When processes challenges arise, we have IT either build or buy a new technological tool that can address that very specific problem. Both options are costly and inadequate. Here’s why:
- Custom solutions can take 6–9 months (or more) to build, and require long-term maintenance after deployment—which, all told, is a massive expenditure of IT time and energy.
- Purchased apps, meanwhile, don’t always solve process challenges or increase efficiency, either. They’re too functionally specific. (This is why enterprises use so many apps today — they need at least one app for every problem.) They create silos. They’re also inaccessible, necessitating users learn how to navigate a new UI to get any value out of them. And they’re incapable of powering processes end-to-end—creating damaging Last Mile Delivery problems that require manual work to fix. And the only entity equipped to either build these tools or manage their ongoing maintenance is, unfortunately, IT.
That last point is important. IT and the business both have crucial jobs that our reliance on apps precludes them from performing well. IT, for example, needs to both enable the business to operate efficiently across functions and processes, and it needs to preserve the integrity (and compliance) of the tech stack and of company data. The business, meanwhile, needs to be able to move fast, innovate to drive business outcomes, and optimize business decisions to increase operational efficiency. But the business also needs to do its part to help IT maintain technological governance. Companies are most effective when the two sides are working symbiotically.
Wherein lies the issue.
- In the app-dependent enterprise, IT really doesn’t have what it needs to enable the business, and the business lacks the resources it needs to innovate or problem solve on its own—at least not in a manner that doesn’t compromise IT’s governance over the tech stack.
- Business teams are in turn forced to cobble together processes across an ever expanding ecosystem of functionally imperfect apps and manual tasks. And because they don’t want to create shadow IT, they end up having to sacrifice agility and innovation precisely when agility and technological innovation are every day becoming more vital to competition.
The Composable Enterprise solves for this precise problem.
It does so by redefining the role applications play inside organizations, transcending their limitations. In the Composable Enterprise, every technological operational component—be it a SaaS tool or a data system—is made integrated, conducive to orchestration by IT, and accessible to the business, who themselves are empowered to create their own workflow solutions and technological experiences. What before were siloed technological environments that existed independently of each other become pieces of a larger operational puzzle that can be utilized strategically and for specific purposes.
How, exactly, does the Composable Enterprise facilitate that?
The Composable Enterprise empowers IT.
Specifically to deliver technological capabilities for the business to utilize when composing their own workflow solutions.
These standardized technological capabilities are central to the Composable Enterprise. They operate in the manner of “building blocks.” IT is able to design, manage, and make these building blocks available via a standard composability platform. The business in turn utilizes these building blocks when assembling their own workflow solutions and in building their own strategically designed processes. A few notes about these building blocks:
- These building blocks can be thought of as supercharged, reusable APIs. They facilitate the large-scale integration of your technology stack, as well as do things such as process unstructured data, like emails, chat, documents, etc., and facilitate people coordination.
- Unlike traditional APIs, they’re accessible across teams, processes, and functions. The modular, more easily adjustable architecture of these blocks are the chief means for IT of enabling the business and increasing operational agility.
- IT creates them, and the business is able to select them as-needed when composing their own process solutions. As hinted at above, integral to the composable enterprise is genuine business enablement. This is facilitated by way of the IT-provided building blocks (along with whatever other third-party tools are already at their disposal), via a no-code interface, provided by the composability platform. The business essentially is given access to every existing application or system they might reasonably need access to, and is able to utilize and tap into each as needed when composing and re-composing their own workflow solutions and application experiences. This enables the business to make exponentially better use of their existing tools—in a manner that typically requires custom coding with a dedicated development team—all while maintaining security and compliance.
This amounts, among other things, as an exponentially more powerful means of business enablement, as well as a far more strategic means of process and solutions design. The business possesses unique awareness of the true nature of the problems they need to solve, as well as how their automation and process solutions ideally should behave in order to solve them. Today, enterprises don’t tap into that awareness or knowledge. In an enterprise that’s composable, you can.
Composability enables IT to achieve end-to-end process improvements.
Beyond business enablement, another chief trait of the Composable Enterprise is the manner in which it elevates IT from their current roles as quasi-custodians of the tech stack to veritable architects of your company’s operational design.
Their primary tool to this end is the composability platform, which in the Composable Enterprise becomes the one true core tool in your tech stack—a kind of operating system that facilitates the optimization and maintenance of the operational ecosystem.
This is what IT should be spending more of its time on today, but isn’t able to, because it’s so busy building and maintaining apps.
Composability encourages a new cultural standard.
Finally, the Composable Enterprise serves to change the way organizations think about themselves. This new cultural standard—call it “composable thinking”—supports a more symbiotic IT-business partnership model, in which IT actively supports faster business innovation, and the business more reliably and mindfully protects against risk—and in which every user with the ambition to leverage software to be creative is able to leverage software to be creative.
This new standard and partnership model becomes integrated into the fabric of the enterprise.
Altogether, the Composable Enterprise is an enterprise whose disparate components are allowed to run with far greater cohesion and efficiency, and whose processes can be built and improved upon with more dynamic configurability. It allows an exponentially more powerful means of business enablement, and increases the innovative and productive capacity of your enterprise by an order of magnitude. It’s a smarter approach to operational design.
It’s for this reason that composability will in time become the standard for enterprise operational design. Gartner predicts that, among other things, by 2023, “60% of mainstream organizations” will list composability “as a strategic objective and will use an increasing number of packaged business capabilities.” That same year, Gartner predicts that organizations that “have adopted an intelligent composable approach” will “outpace competition by 80% in the speed of new feature implementation.” And by 2024, they say that organizations that have adopted a “composable approach” to operational design “will implement new features at least 80% faster than the competition.”
That’s the kind of edge every enterprise should be interested in. The question, of course, is how to obtain it? How, in other words, can you go about making your enterprise composable?
More on that in our next eBook.