The myth behind the dream of ‘composable’ business

Popularised by technology analysts, business futurists and cloud computing evangelists, the concept of composable business is meant to convey a notion of operational interchangeability in the face of extreme change - so is there substance in this theory, or it simply some form of neo-macroeconomic expression of what it means to be an old fashioned self-employed market trader?

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Just in case you happen to be lucky enough to have been living in a cave or on some disconnected island atoll, 2020 was a year of massive disruption for businesses and individuals everywhere. Obviously due in no small part to the pandemic, firms in every vertical had to reengineer, reinvent and even retro-fit themselves to a new way of working, trading and operating.

In the technology business, many stepped up to the mark; but now, the rise of remote working and the increased use of online collaboration and connectivity tools is no longer news.

The pervading legacy effects of all this change have driven some technology commentators to talk about the notion of the composable business. Heavily embracing the on/off flexibility promises (with an emphasis on promises, as opposed to 100% guaranteed realities) of cloud computing, the composable business is one that can use IT services to switch trading streams more quickly as it power ups or closes down entire lines of business when needed.

“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.”

Behind the corporate megastructures

But is this just an attempt to remove or deconstruct some of the corporate mechanics that have allowed big business to grow in previous times? Is this a way of suggesting that enterprise organisations can now behave more like market traders, who base their wheeler-dealer operations on attempting to sell whatever shipment they’ve managed to snag at the right price on any given day? Is this kind of modular interchangeability ever really possible in the real world, or is this just good fodder for selling IT analyst reports in the wake of global pandemic?

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