I’m sure you heard this before, expressed in many different ways. “Today’s successful organisation needs to be able to turn on a dime, changing its product or service strategy as fast as its customers’ needs require. The successful business of the 21st century crosses all boundaries; can quickly meet and adapt to competition, whether it comes from another part of the world, another industry or a startup; or it can use its core competencies to extend itself in new ways.”
It’s what organisations need to do in the face of digital disruption and the process of doing this is often referred to as ‘digital transformation’, but now there’s a new word for organisations the achieve these goals: the ‘composable enterprise’.
This kind of company “powered by cloud, open APIs, data analytics, mobile and social, and connected to the Internet of Things is redefining expectations.” The composable enterprise “casts away the hierarchical and hardwired systems and processes that defined its predecessors, and represents a radical rethinking of how technology can serve innovation and how innovation can serve customers.”
All the above quotes come from a book How Composable Services are Changing the Role of the CIO, published by Mulesoft, a developer of APIs. Not surprising then that APIs are at the heart of the composable enterprise. It is defined as “a highly connected organisation with business processes supported by on-demand services that are acquired and leveraged from the cloud and APIs, furnished by outside providers,” and as “a lightweight entity, capable of quickly mapping technology solutions to ever-changing business requirements.”
The composable enterprise “moves quickly to adapt to changing customer realities and requirements, and is not dependent on any single type of technology.”
The whole idea is that, instead of being monolithic, IT is very granular. But these ‘granules’ need to interact and be integrated in every changing ways to meet ever-changing business needs. “Many services and features can be pre-built, pre-tested and readily available to be pieced together, building-block style,” the book says.
While it might seem that a composable enterprise is something that can only be built from scratch and is therefore best suited to startups the book says many large organisations have made the shift. “Organisations with legacy heritages as diverse as Amtrak, News Corporation and New Zealand Post are reinventing themselves as composable enterprises, with CIOs and technology leaders paving the way.”
The book lists the key attributes of emerging composable enterprises, and the new roles that CIOs — as chief innovation officers — will play in helping to lead them.These are: IT needs to be a strategic partner to the business; understand and empower your IT consumers; the ‘I’ in IT means ‘innovation’ and ‘integration’.
This is pretty much the same advice that emerges from any discussion around digital disruption and transformation. There are many models for digital transformation, but the actions needed are pretty well common to all of them.
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