Composable architecture provides business agility

14 February 2023

Composable architectures are gaining traction and credibility as the most efficient way to respond to future user expectations. Unlike a suite approach, where a single vendor supplies all the software components you need, composable architectures focus on composing small, loosely coupled components and using existing best-of-breed technology that can be integrated to form innovative solutions and work together to supply the optimal customer experience across different channels.

iO Rotterdam

Composable architectures are about selecting the best current technology for the requirements right now, that can easily be replaced as new needs or technologies arise. At iO we are technology agnostic, with a broad experience in programming languages, frameworks, and platforms. This makes composable architectures a great cultural fit.

“By 2024, the design mantra for new SaaS and custom applications will be ‘composable API-first or API-only,’ rendering traditional SaaS and custom applications as legacy.”

Gartner Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2022

We regard the API first principle as a crucial step for the adoption of composable architecture. This allows you to easily integrate when building a digital ecosystem. Using domain driven design API based (micro)services are bundled into Packaged Business Capabilities (PBC’s) and represent a clearly defined business capability. MACH (Microservices, API-First, Cloud-Native & Headless) principles are followed. 

Adopting a composable mindset enables organisations to be more agile in the face of change in turbulent times.

How does composable architecture bring you agility?

With a monolithic system, any change, no matter how small, demands a regression test, build, deploy of the software and/or acceptance process for a much larger scope. Developers face a far more complex system to work in. This can be time-consuming and can lead to long cycles and release times.

With a composable architecture, however, changes can be made to individual components. This makes it much easier and faster to adapt to changes in user expectations and the digital environment, and to add new features and capabilities as needed without the need of a large overhaul. It will lower cognitive load and allow you to locate and evaluate components, replace, understand their context, and quickly integrate them into any project.

“There are plenty of organisations who see the same opportunities. What matters is how fast you can validate and bring them to market. You can only do this if your underlying architecture is flexible.”

Raymond van Muilwijk

Raymond Muilwijk, CoE Lead Technology iO

Core drivers of business agility with composable architecture

• Flexibility

Composable architectures give you the freedom to select every part of your digital ecosystem. With no vendor-lock, it allows a best of breed approach. Using the best technology or product for each individual part of the system.

• Discoverability

Because of the modular and standardized nature of the architecture it is easier for different teams to understand and use each other's components. This can lead to increased collaboration and efficiency within the organisation.

• Adaptability

Modify individual components without affecting the rest of the system. Simply replace components when they are outdated or no longer meet your needs and add new components to your system as needed. 

• Autonomy

Aligning components to the business design allows rapid decisions and limiting waste. Teams work on components independently and develop solutions that are tailored to their specific needs, area of expertise and requirements.

Migrate to composable architecture immediately?

At iO we are convinced that composable architectures are the future for a lot of digital experiences, but they are not the answer to every digital question. The decision to migrate to composable architectures, like most organisational concerns, is not one to be taken lightly. 

Technological migration at scale is naturally influenced by the stakeholder’s mindset and earlier experience. Embracing experimentation is one thing, but it must deliver a tangible business advantage. Concerns such as lifecycle management, integration risk, expected changes in market demands, vendor roadmaps, the need for innovation, and the strategic focus of your organisation are all essential parts of the decision-making matrix.

“Don’t fix what ain’t broke” is out. Everything that’s not changeable is a business or technical debt, a barrier to vitality of the organization that’s facing turbulence and uncertainty.”

Becoming Composable: A Gartner Trend Insight Report

Time for a composable mindset

One of the biggest challenges for organisations that are looking for sustainable digital solutions is the mindset shift that is needed. With composable architectures it is important to be willing to embrace the possibilities offered by existing solutions and have the vision to integrate them to form a larger system. 

A composable architecture is only as good as the parts that are available. Technology trends driving composable like API first, headless, Cloud Native and SaaS demand a different approach and technology vision.

When implemented correctly, composable is a powerful architecture for organisations that want to be more agile in their response to the ever-changing demands of the market. Most disruption has its origins in uncontrollable external factors like conflict, global economic factors and the emergence of contemporary trends. 

Today success depends on the speed and agility of your organisation's response.

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”

Peter Drucker

Respond rapidly to market demands

If your market demands you to actively experiment and deliver new end-user experiences within short timeframes, e.g., a new online customer experience in 2-months, then adoption of a composable mindset is essential. What’s rarely discussed, is what makes any migration to composable architecture possible and successful. 

A composable mindset is built around the ability to think and communicate beyond the boundaries of departments, specialisms, and competence silos. To see common concepts and shared services, and to properly encapsulate them in a 'component'. But also, to structure the organisation in an effective way to support instead of hindering this shift. This explicitly includes the business governance around a component in your new composable architecture. 

Successful implementations of composability depend on creating the right conditions and (realistic) expectations within your organisation, and to mix those with discussions about the potentials and best starting points for a composable architecture.

How agile can one go?

iO has been advising clients on how to adopt different composable and MACH architectures because the drive to more composable systems plays a vital part in our technology vision. We see it as a cornerstone of helping more complex digital landscapes to evolve.

This journey starts by having the right expectations about the outcome of 'composable' in the various layers of your enterprise, and then defining a clear starting point. Where to dive in first? Where to learn? Recognising the different 'pace of change'-principles that underpin various systems, and the parallels they have with how 'core' they are for your business, is essential. iO Technology Director Friso Geerlings discussed these aspects recently in an article that both embraces the need for Composable, but also emphasises realism around its implementation and expectations.

Raymond van Muilwijk
About the speaker
Raymond van Muilwijk
Center of Excellence (CoE) Lead - Technology - iO

With a distinct vision on - and experience in - strategy, enterprise & solution architecture, product management and software delivery, Raymond is the right man in the right place at the Center of Excellence. Responsible for iO's technology vision and acting as an accelerator of knowledge and innovation. Knowledge worth sharing, as the beating heart of any organisation.

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