Technology leaders have long felt the pain of the accelerating pace of business change. Navigating unpredictable circumstances — along with customer and employee expectations of contextualized and personalized application experiences — demands innovation and adaptability.
And IT professionals know better than anyone that their monolithic legacy systems can’t deliver on that front.
The fact is most current application portfolios were designed to address the challenges of the past. In today’s context, they’re an obstacle to success. Digital transformation mandates come with a cost, and for most companies, the costs and risks associated with major change make wholesale replacement of the entire enterprise architecture impractical.
Composable applications drive digital transformation
To solve the problem, companies started moving to the cloud, exploring microservices and containerization, and, finally, identifying the concept of composable enterprise as an agile solution to making legacy architecture more flexible over time. This approach allows organizations to innovate and scale as circumstances and business needs change — without taking out outsized risk along the way.
Making an enterprise composable involves repackaging software into components that can be used across the business. These packaged business capabilities (PBCs) can then be assembled and reassembled using APIs and extended as the need arises. Because PBCs are modular, they also help businesses minimize risk. In today’s rapidly changing world, the ability to limit risk exposure at a modular level makes a big difference.
Packaging capabilities into composable applications requires significant shifts in mindset and ways of working, but yields iterative gains in efficiency, scalability, security, and consistency over time.
The roadmap to composable enterprise
The shift to composable enterprise offers leaders the opportunity to reframe change as a tool instead of an obstacle to business growth. A modern composable architecture gives companies the freedom to develop resilience in times of uncertainty through incremental steps and modular improvements.
Although the process of becoming a composable enterprise happens piece by piece instead of all at once, you still need a roadmap to guide your progress. Unlike some IT projects, composability requires a longer timeframe and more flexibility to re-evaluate but starting with a solid plan can help keep your composability efforts on track and in alignment with your business goals.
Here’s how to get started:
- Evaluate your current architecture: It nearly goes without saying, but to make effective changes, you need to understand your current state. Especially if you have a legacy system that has grown over time, with multiple business units contributing technologies or multiple vendors integrating across your stack, confirming your enterprise architecture at the outset makes sense.
- Align goals and requirements across the business: Because composable architecture is democratized by definition, several business units outside of IT — and even beyond marketing and sales — may need to have a seat at the table when you outline your technology requirements and map them to business goals.
- Audit your vendors: Many tech vendors are moving toward composability themselves so you might find that your tech stack is doing some of the composability work for you. Take stock of where your key vendors are on their own roadmaps so you can build in ways to leverage their modular offerings along with your custom or in-house tools.
- Develop a target architecture: It can be difficult to predict where your organization is likely to wind up in five years, especially if you’re in the digital or tech space. But, as the old proverb says, “if you aim at nothing, you will always hit it.” It’s better to start with a view of where you’re headed, even if you decide to shift that endpoint over time.
- Create a plan for mapping the gap step by step: Now you’re ready for a game plan! Work with your stakeholders to prioritize the steps you’ll take toward your goal. And don’t forget to match your roadmap to your API strategy.
- Implement metrics: Even your first steps toward composability will start to yield measurable results, so be sure to measure those outcomes and report your successes.
Not sure how to start building your roadmap? You might need a jumpstart. Our team of cloud experts can help you assemble the right stakeholders, identify key decisions, and get you to a composability roadmap faster.
Composable enterprise is an ongoing evolution
By its very nature, becoming a composable enterprise is a process, not a one-time project. Organizations may achieve buy-in at first, but to see measurable gains — from the start and then on an ongoing basis — requires a culture shift.
To become a truly composable enterprise, organizations need a foundational shift in business thinking, architecture, and approach to technology.
- Because composable enterprise is an API-first approach, versus the traditional infrastructure-first orientation of the past, companies need a solid API strategy and governance policy upfront, and then a team that knows how to create and manage the API marketplace going forward.
Learn more about API strategy >>
- As the composable enterprise becomes more modular, organizations often have to adapt the way they evaluate, select, and integrate applications, breaking them down into capabilities instead of layering solutions into an existing monolithic structure.
Learn more about creating a modular cloud infrastructure >>
- Workforce culture may need to adapt to accommodate the changes, including adoption of faster collaboration, new management methodologies, and defined proof-of-concept pathways to facilitate innovation.
Learn more about agile management >>
To keep your applications composable, invest in composable culture
What type of culture fosters composable applications? And how do you manage a business culture evolution on top of everything else? As with any organizational change, a shift to supporting composable enterprise starts by bringing the business with you. Keep leadership and business units on board, work within your existing frameworks, and demonstrate the value of every change you introduce.
Your starting point is unique, so your path to sustainable composability won’t look like anyone else’s, but as you build your roadmap, be sure to factor in moving your culture by degrees toward these three key characteristics:
- Collaborative mindset: Building a composable enterprise requires a commitment to sharing and integrating work, documentation, and updates with the whole ecosystem and in the central component marketplace, not getting territorial about technological fiefdoms.
- Creative problem-solving: Rather than taking a project- or application-driven approach, creating composable applications requires a simple means to find and evaluate components, and discern the right context, dependencies, and API requirements to integrate them into any project.
- Good governance: A composable enterprise is no place for Wild West development and seat-of-the-pants workarounds. Relying on too many APIs introduces risk, and without solid governance and testing procedures, businesses may fail to realize the benefits of composability. On the other hand, well-governed composable enterprises allow modular containment of security issues and easier disaster recovery as a result.
Businesses that commit to a composable enterprise evolution — building a solid strategic foundation, supporting cultural shifts, and implementing best practices for iterative improvements — can expect to see both early and sustainable results. As you evaluate your program, look for advantages such as:
- Aggregated data: As your software and solutions become more open and democratic, you should also see gains in your data sharing processes. Data formerly restricted to application silos should become more readily available across the organization, leading to deeper and more actionable insights.
- Democratized workflows: Composability gives teams the freedom to take direct action without IT middlemen, thus reducing wider application downtime, and eliminating the need to take turns on a monolithic central codebase.
- Higher level team performance: By the same token, a composable enterprise also frees teams up to work at a higher level in their areas of expertise. For example, not having to be involved in every change gives IT more time to code advanced solutions that only they can develop.
- Speed to delivery: The componentized structure and open API/capability marketplace framework give teams the tools to work faster and smarter, making iterative changes that speed time to delivery for any application or product possible.
- Compounding returns: Over time, these benefits continue to accrue, and organizations can expect to see the increasing levels of efficiency, scalability, and responsiveness that modern business success demands.
There’s no way to get around the fact that change is hard and the journey to composable enterprise is more of a lifestyle than a sprint. While maintaining composability can feel daunting at first, the results you’ll achieve — in terms of employee satisfaction, customer connection, product development, and overall business health — make going all-in on a composable enterprise more than worth it.
Making the shift to a composable enterprise is a big decision. We get it! Our team can help you think through the pros and cons and how to consider the idea for your unique situation. Set up a time and we’ll talk — no strings and no sell.
You’re invited: On June 16th, we’re gathering at Little Miami Brewing Company in Cincinnati for APIs over IPAs: the future of business is composable. Learn more >>