What Government CIOs Need to Know About Composability

May 06, 2022

Contributor: Robert Snow

Mastering composability enables you to be more agile and to maximize value during periods of volatility, modernization and reform.

In short: 

  • Organizations that implement composable practices can outpace their peers in overall performance, while reducing risks and lowering operating costs.
  • Government CIOs leading the transition to digital must ensure leadership’s commitment to investing in composable capabilities by tying value to government reform and modernizing government efforts.
  • Pursue composable capabilities that will accelerate the adoption of digital government by assessing challenges in the key areas of adaptive strategy and business architecture and technology.

Gartner introduced composability as one of the top technology trends for governments in 2021 as part of a wider shift toward more agile and responsive organizations. 

As the pandemic has impacted the world, government organizations that demonstrated characteristics of composability have risen to the immediate challenges, improving overall business performance, reducing risk and lowering operating costs. More broadly, composability can enable government CIOs to accelerate the implementation of digital solutions and continue to progress by revamping governance, technology and services.

“Being composable means being able to extend the reuse of capabilities and continuously adapt to change. In government, that means being able to meet regulatory, legislative, and public expectations more readily and easily,” says Apeksha Kaushik, Principal Analyst at Gartner. 

However, this isn’t exactly widespread in government. The 2022 Gartner CIO and Technology Executive Survey, which looked at current levels of composability within government organizations, identified only 2% as highly composable.

Download now: CIO Agenda: A Government Perspective

The three key principles of composability

There is more to business composability than being digital. To identify best practices for becoming a highly composable enterprise, you need to understand these three key principles of composability and what they mean for governments.

The Three Key Principles of Business Composability

No. 1: Composable thinking

Composable thinking emphasizes the continuous exploration and creation of game-changing business capabilities through the assembly and reassembly of components to meet the evolving needs of constituents.

An organization that practices composable thinking takes an adaptive approach — embracing and exploring uncertainty while involving everyone in strategic planning — to better respond to rapid changes in real time.

At the core of composable thinking is the autonomy of managers and line staff, who are given the freedom to make informed, independent decisions within established guidelines. One of the challenges of maintaining a high-trust culture is the hierarchical nature of decision making. This not only creates challenges for empowering individual decision makers, it also makes it difficult to empower teams. 

Gartner research shows that half of the highly composable organizations are empowering internal functions, product teams and business partners to excel, whereas only 21% of state and provincial governments and just 17% of national and international governments do the same. 

Action steps for government CIOs:

  • Educate leaders in the importance of modular design.
  • Garner leader support to reinforce the use of reusable common capabilities.
  • Require applications slated for modification to be reviewed first for opportunities to decompose them into business capabilities.

No. 2: Composable business architecture 

Composable business architecture includes dynamically evolving capabilities, products, teams, processes and services to create new value. Practicing composable business architecture enables governments to adapt to fluctuating service needs and respond effectively to regulatory change. Organizations adept at this form of composability often shape multidisciplinary, accountable and collaborative teams.

Those organizations that demonstrate high composability are more likely to use current and future-state business and technology capability models to design or redesign processes. They are also more apt to assign accountability for mission outcomes to all involved — executives, program leaders and IT leaders — using clear goals and metrics.

Action steps for government CIOs:

  • Direct the development of business and technology capabilities models across your organization.
  • Identify common business capabilities used across multiple programs to establish a roadmap for decomposing existing systems.

No. 3: Composable technologies

In using composable technology practices, government organizations can enable even greater flexibility in how they respond to their constituents’ needs. For example, the practice of iterative software development, wherein the end result is not completely defined, engages end users while driving continuous improvement through their evaluations of each release of the software. Plus, facilitating greater access to platforms, tools and expertise through the use of a developer’s portal helps scale use, and integrating data and applications helps ensure greater composability.  

 Action steps for government CIOs:

  • Work with solution architects to implement digital government technology platform architecture that supports modular development.
  • Enable a hybrid approach to integrating on-premises and cloud solutions using an enterprise integration platform as a service.

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