The composable enterprise is a razor-sharp business differentiator

The last few years have been highly disruptive to business, and uncertainty has not gone away with emerging challenges, such as rising energy prices and supply-chain disruptions. By adopting a composable business strategy, enterprises can prepare for the unexpected and create value from the unforeseeable.

According to Gartner, the concept of business composability is still emerging and, as such, is not on the radar of most enterprises. These organizations need to rapidly explore composability to make them more flexible, agile and resilient. However, they need to be selective and have a strategy, as they will face staffing and budget constraints.

Business composability enables enterprises to reduce unwieldy monolithic applications into manageable pieces. Gartner sees it made up of three domains: a composable way of thinking in which enterprises need to master the risk of accelerating change to achieve business value; a composable business architecture optimized for adaptability; and composable technology that enables the rapid integration of new systems, partners and workplace technologies.

The mindset, technologies, and operating capabilities that make up these building blocks allow enterprises to adapt and innovate quickly. They can be altered and changed, providing a flexible and resilient way to quickly respond to disruptive change. A composable business is agile enough to respond swiftly to a demand upsurge or bring new products and services to market to meet changing customer requirements. Enhanced modularity also allows partners and customers to connect via chosen channels or touchpoints.

“Composable business is a natural acceleration of the digital business that you live every day…and can be considered a modular way of approaching business strategy,” said Daryl Plummer, Distinguished VP Analyst at Gartner. According to Gartner, 63% of CIOs at organizations with high composability reported superior business performance compared with peers or competitors in the past twelve months. By 2023, organizations that have adopted an intelligent composable approach to business will outpace the competition by 80% in the speed of new future implementation.

Digital commerce is continually moving

It isn’t just to deal with the unforeseen. According to Deloitte, technology is now moving so fast that what is cutting edge one day is mainstream the next. This, together with an ever-increasing demand for deeper personalization, requires a better way of utilizing resources to support different changing workloads.

A composable approach to technology allows enterprises to build business capabilities block by block so that they can change direction and quickly scale up or down. Creating a composable architecture is about choosing the best-in-breed solutions available that fit your specific business requirements.

“The very nature of a composable approach means that wherever you are today, you can adapt – component by component – to where you need to be tomorrow,” explains Deloitte.

In this new composable enterprise landscape, the stack is built on microservices, APIs, cloud-native, distributed cloud, and a headless architecture that allows enterprises to pick and choose building blocks that best suit business requirements. A headless architecture decouples front- and back-end services allowing the production of customizable API-driven systems. In addition, the system is divided into components, making the developer’s onboarding process quicker and speeding up the time to market for new applications.

Blurring the boundary between IT and business

But none of the necessary changes in mindset, technologies and operating capabilities come without their challenges. Success requires a well-thought-out strategy. You need to understand your enterprise’s assets, benefits and limitations and how they can work with other modules to benefit your business. Fundamental to this is a composable infrastructure that is flexible, scalable, resilient and agile.

Gartner recommends that the first step to becoming a composable business is to define a long-term vision of composability for the enterprise. As well as implications on the overarching business strategy, the composable business also has ramifications on vendor sourcing and technology decisions. This alters the relationship between business and IT, which need to work more closely together.

Be sure to examine the assets of your business, from applications to data. By doing this, your enterprise can create modularity that will be adaptable to whatever the future throws up and, at the same time, access untapped business value.

“Business runs on technology, but technology itself must be composable to run a composable business,” explains Sinha. “Composability needs to extend throughout the technology, from infrastructure that supports rapid integration of new systems and new partners to workspace technology that supports the exchange of ideas.”

However, it is not simply a case of ripping out legacy technology and starting again. It is about building modularity into the roadmap, and this takes time. Enterprises will need to run proof of concepts, for example, to test out the feasibility of business cases.

Composability means transformation

The rebuild doesn’t stop there. Enterprises must also change culturally and structurally to adopt a composable model. Many will need to define the scope and structure of their applications, for example, to future-proof them as far as possible. Governance is a big hurdle here, balancing risk with opportunity.

Once you have built your composable enterprise, you must maintain it and keep it running. This is sophisticated and complex and requires the necessary skills base to enable it to evolve.

Delivering building blocks that are secure, flexible, scalable and workload-optimized is not an easy task.

Be prepared for the long haul

Becoming a composable enterprise can help you increase revenue, reduce costs, enhance agility and better utilize collaboration. But no one enterprise is the same. Composability moves up the maturity curve based on the progressiveness of an enterprise’s business strategy. Start with the enterprise’s business and technology architecture, where change is most urgent, to achieve business outcomes.

However, what is critical to its success is working with a trusted and experienced partner to turn the vision into a reality.

Adopting a cloud-native approach is an important building block in creating a composable enterprise. Learn more about cloud-native and how it can enhance business outcomes, control costs and drive efficiencies.

Jan Howells

Jan has been writing about technology for over 22 years for magazines and web sites, including ComputerActive, IQ magazine and Signum. She has been a business correspondent on ComputerWorld in Sydney and covered the channel for Ziff-Davis in New York.