Gartner Keynote: The Future of Business Is Composable

Organizations must follow the four principles of composable business modularity, autonomy, orchestration and discovery.

When COVID-19 hit and Australia went into lockdown, many people lost their jobs. The result was a surge in welfare applications to Services Australia, which provides health, child support and welfare services to 25 million citizens.

There were so many applications, the site crashed.

But Services Australia rapidly pivoted to accommodate this surge in demand and made changes to how it traditionally operated. They shifted in-person appointments to phones or online, deployed voiceprint technology to 1.2 million users and saw a 600% increase in the use of digital assistants to orchestrate fast responses.

Composable business means creating an organization made from interchangeable building blocks

The organization created resilience via the principles of composable business — a key feature of a successful business in 2020 and beyond — that enabled the agency to provide a safety net for citizens in need.

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“Composable business is a natural acceleration of the digital business that you live every day. It allows us to deliver the resilience and agility that these interesting times demand,” said Daryl Plummer, Distinguished VP Analyst, during the opening keynote at virtual Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo™ 2020. “We’re talking about the intentional use of ‘composability’ in a business context — architecting your business for real-time adaptability and resilience in the face of uncertainty.”

Composable means modularity

The pandemic highlighted vulnerabilities in businesses models that for years focused on efficiency. Organizations that were once efficient suddenly became fragile at a time when they needed to be flexible. Businesses that were smart pivoted to a more modular setup, creating a composable business. Organizations were prepared for one type of future, but now must plan for multiple futures.

Read more: 8 Macro Factors That Will Shape the 2020s

Composable business means creating an organization made from interchangeable building blocks. The modular setup enables a business to rearrange and reorient as needed depending on external (or internal) factors like a shift in customer values or sudden change in supply chain or materials.

The 4 principles of composable business

The idea of composable business operates on four basic principles:

  • More speed through discovery

  • Greater agility through modularity

  • Better leadership through orchestration

  • Resilience through autonomy

This type of thinking enables a business to survive, and even flourish, in times of great disruption. From a technical perspective, this type of composability is not new to CIOs. It exists in familiar technology, from APIs to containers. But, it is a new, or perhaps ignored, idea for a CIO’s business counterparts and board of directors. Composable business requires a foundational change in business thinking, architecture and technology.

The building blocks of composable business

The three building blocks of composable business are:

  1. Composable thinking, which keeps you from losing your creativity. Anything is composable. When you combine the principles of modularity, autonomy, orchestration and discovery with composable thinking, it should guide your approach to conceptualizing what to compose, and when.
  2. Composable business architecture ensures that your organization is built to be flexible and resilient. It’s about structure and purpose. These are structural capabilities — giving you mechanisms to use in architecting your business.
  3. Composable technologies are the tools for today and tomorrow. They are the pieces and parts, and what connects them all together. The four principles are product design goals driving the features of technology that support the notions of composability.

When combined with the principles, the building blocks of composable business enable organizations to pivot quickly. For example, a Chinese appliance manufacturer pivoted from making dishwashers and wine coolers to distributing critical medical equipment during the pandemic. The company flexed beyond its core competencies, listened to what customers needed at the time and used its platform to move from an idea to a product launch.

The building blocks of composable business enable organizations to pivot quickly

The more these composable business ideas are integrated within your business model, the more flexibility and agility your organization will have. That means faster response time and more consistency in execution for this new type of business setup.

Leverage existing technologies

Organizations that embraced — and continue to embrace — the building blocks and principles of composable business were able to successfully leverage existing digital investments and, the best-case scenario, accelerate investment..

“Sixty-nine percent of corporate directors want to accelerate enterprise digital strategies and implementations to help deal with the ongoing disruption,” said Tina Nunno, Distinguished VP Analyst, Gartner. “For some enterprises that means that their digital strategies become real for the first time, and for others that means rapidly scaling digital investments.”

These strategies will help organizations handle the global industrywide volatility that will continue well into next year.

“You, the CIOs, can contribute to the evolution of a more powerful and adaptable form of business, architected to deal with continuing business disruptions — composable business,” said Nunno.

Key opportunities for CIOs

Look for the “moments of composability” and seize the opportunity they present. These moments could be geopolitical, like the pandemic and global recession, but they could also be societal, such as a change in consumer attitude. These are moments in which the CIO must recognize the need for an immediate change in the organization or risk having the business falter or fail.

“Throughout history, great leaders have faced turmoil and turned it into inspiration,” said Don Scheibenreif, Distinguished VP Analyst, Gartner. “Composing: being flexible, fluid, continuous, even improvisational — is how we will move forward.”

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