No-code, low-code, SaaS, iPaaS, IoT, citizen developer… It feels like not a week passes without us coming across a new term in the software industry. From the CEOs to publications like Gartner, opinion leaders in the tech industry definitely have a knack for coming up with colorful new phrases and acronyms to describe new phenomena taking place in the industry, and the tech community, being steeped in the characteristic dynamism of the industry, has been quite receptive to all that. The new term of the week is “composable enterprise,” and we’ll take a look into what it stands for.
Gartner defines the composable enterprise as such:
An organization that delivers business outcomes and adapts to the pace of business change. It does this through the assembly and combination of packaged business capabilities (PCBs). PCBs are application building blocks that have been purchased or developed.
Basically, the term refers to a particular approach aimed at rendering a company more flexible and agile in a cloud-driven world. A composable enterprise is a highly connected organization that leverages on-demand services from the cloud and APIs. Most of the time, this organization tends to be one with a legacy on-premise system that has served it well for a long time, but is no longer capable of keeping up with the times.
We had previously touched upon how digital transformation could prove to be a tough nut to crack for some companies—not every company is ready for or capable of managing such a drastic change. The composable enterprise is a good, middle-of-the-road-solution for such companies.
Organizations used to have monolithic systems in place before the cloud-based systems gained wide reception. Monolithic systems are no longer deemed suitable for the modern companies because they are quite difficult to modify—changing or updating part of the system can render the whole monolithic system unusable. The dynamism of the market requires a more nimble system that is easy to modify and composed of services that are independently scalable and deployable. This problem is solved by a microservices architecture—a collection of loosely coupled, independently deployable services that are organized around certain business capabilities. The previous capabilities of a monolithic structure are distributed among services within a microservice architecture that communicate with each other through APIs. The idea is that you can put these services together to “compose” your enterprise from scratch. The end result is a composable enterprise, which turns a monolithic structure into flexible, scalable, extensible, and customizable bundle of workflows and processes. In the meantime, by equipping legacy systems with the new capabilities of brand-new cloud-based systems, this approach saves the legacy systems from falling into complete disuse.
The fact that the composable enterprise is organized around certain business capabilities put frontline employees under the spotlight. Business users are to be the real “composers” here. Information delivery in a composable enterprise works on an on-demand and self-service basis provided via the APIs. The business users, in other words “domain experts,” will be the ones leveraging services to find solutions to the problems they face in their fields of expertise. “Citizen developers,” anyone?
With the business users no longer having to run everything through the IT department, the role of the IT looks slated to change, too. In a composable enterprise, the IT should see itself as a strategic partner to business operations. It should assume responsibility to provide business users with the capabilities they need rather than delivering complete projects.
In this new role, the IT will be more of a coordinator and worry about the technology-level steps it needs to take instead of racing to supply business users with finished products. It will strive to ensure governance and established guardrails for non-technical users to follow. The IT department should act with the understanding that non-technical users, under pressure to do more work in less time, will look for solutions that can help them become more productive and efficient, whether the IT likes it or not. It is best that this happens under the guidance of the IT with a view to limit shadow IT and technical debt as opposed to a situation where business users would take matters into their own hands and start using software without any supervision at all.
A more flexible, agile organization; frontline workers being empowered as business users; IT shifting to a supervisor role; part of a legacy system being renovated… Our long-time readers must be noticing a pattern here. All of these outcomes are perfectly in tune with the results of the no-code revolution we have been advocating for some time. The details of the fit between the composable enterprise and no-code technology deserves another post.