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What common item can be used to construct a house, a tree, and a car? 

The answer, which may not be obvious, is LEGO bricks. LEGOs are a fantastic example of composability, which is the ability to combine smaller, modular components to create a greater, more complex product. This concept of composability also applies to business, where companies are leveraging composable architectures to remain competitive and agile in the age of .

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We'll explore how businesses can take inspiration from LEGO's composability. Simply put, this can come in the form of an adaptable framework that can quickly respond to changing market conditions, customer demands, and emerging technologies. 

Whatever your ideal framework may be, it's important to understand how your LEGO pieces (your composable APIs) work. 

Composable APIs help organizations stay ahead of the curve by enabling teams to build, modify, and integrate applications and services easily. Whether a small startup or a large enterprise, the power of composability can transform your business and drive innovation.

What is composability?

Composability refers to how individual building blocks can be used to build more intricate systems and applications. These blocks can then be combined and recombined in different ways to achieve various functionalities, making them highly adaptable and flexible. 

For a composable enterprise, composability is a design approach that involves breaking down software or hardware systems into smaller building blocks that can be easily modified, updated, or replaced to meet specific business needs. This approach creates a fluid work environment that champions individual components without having to overhaul an entire system.

What is a composable enterprise?

A composable enterprise is a highly connected organization that contains business processes that are leveraged from the cloud and APIs. The services themselves are complete systems, and are connected to the composable enterprise through APIs, in the manner of building blocks. 

By avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach to operations, an enterprise that values composability also embraces the API economy, which allows businesses to constantly evolve its digital capabilities to deliver vibrant customer experiences and increase efficiency. A composable enterprise can also attune to the needs of different regions, industries, and business models. They can also adapt to meet the needs of their evolving strategy over time and deliver on various business outcomes. 

What does it take to build a composable enterprise?

The composable enterprise has the following key components

  • Modularity: The organization's IT systems are modular and built as independent components that can be easily combined and reused
  • Agility: The organization can quickly adapt to changing market conditions and customer needs by rapidly configuring and reconfiguring the IT systems
  • Flexibility: The organization can easily integrate new systems, data sources, and applications into its existing IT environment
  • Scalability: The organization can easily scale its IT systems to handle increasing demands, without disrupting existing operations
  • Security: The organization embeds security throughout the entire infrastructure
  • Standardization: The organization uses standard APIs and protocols to ensure that its IT systems are interoperable and can easily communicate with other systems
  • Innovation: The organization fosters a culture of innovation, where new ideas can be quickly prototyped and tested, and successful innovations can be easily integrated into the IT systems

Let's use the retail industry as an example of a composable enterprise. Here's a breakdown of how a composability could function in a retail company:

  • Modular architecture: The retail company's IT infrastructure is designed to be modular, with independent components that can be easily combined and reused
  • Customer data integration: The company uses standard APIs and protocols to ensure that its customer data can be easily integrated with other systems, such as CRM, inventory management, and loyalty programs
  • Agile operations: The company can quickly adapt to changing market conditions and customer needs by rapidly configuring and reconfiguring its IT systems
    • E.g. The company can quickly deploy new services, such as buy online, pick up in-store, curbside pickup, or delivery options, based on the customer's preference
  • Scalability: The company can easily scale its IT systems to handle increasing demands, such as peak holiday shopping seasons, without disrupting existing operations
  • Real-time analytics: The company can use real-time analytics to gain insights into customer behavior, preferences, and , and quickly respond with new offerings or promotions
  • Emerging tech integration: The company can integrate emerging technologies, such as augmented reality, virtual reality, or voice assistants, into its existing IT environment, to enhance the and drive sales

The composable enterprise not only emphasizes an agile approach to innovation, but shares the importance of flexibility in customer and partner engagement, as well as changing market conditions. Growth opportunities are always well on the horizon in this framework, as the power of agility opens up new revenue streams in existing markets or completely new relationships across customer segments.

Where do APIs fit in?

Earlier we discussed how the concept of composability is mirrored in LEGOs. In the context of the composable enterprise, what are these “building blocks” exactly? As organizations increasingly move toward flexible infrastructures and away from monolithic applications, it's important to know how APIs fit into the bigger picture. 

How APIs power the composable enterprise.

Simply put, APIs are software intermediaries that allow two applications to talk to each other so that information can be sent back and forth between them.

Like LEGOs, APIs carry several similarities: 

  • Usability: Set documentation and instructions for their use case 
  • Customizability: Choices to use different APIs (bricks) for various functionalities 
  • Innovation: Capability to combine and interchange different APIs (bricks) for different purposes 
  • Standardization: Universal components that serve as building blocks

But it's important to note that traditional APIs and composable APIs have two different approaches to building and consuming functionality. 

Traditional APIs are designed to expose a specific set of functions or services, and they often have a fixed and rigid structure. These APIs provide a pre-defined set of features and functionality, and developers have to use them as bolt-on solutions. Additionally, these APIs are typically used in monolithic applications, where all the functionality is packaged into a single application. Since reuse isn't the primary function of an integration API, this results in one-off APIs dispersed throughout the organization. 

On the other hand, composable APIs are designed to be modular-first and flexible. In a composable enterprise, these APIs provide a set of building blocks that developers can combine to create custom solutions and new functionality. These APIs are typically used in microservices architecture, where the application is broken down into smaller, independent services that can be developed and deployed separately. Composable APIs provide greater flexibility and scalability, but they also require more effort and planning to implement.

What does the future look like for the composable enterprise?

The composable enterprise reflects the proactive role of technology in business. Specifically, the emergence of APIs marks a significant transformation in how businesses function to maintain their competitive edge in the digital economy. To meet the evolving needs of customers, companies must consistently deliver disruptive innovations. 

This necessitates quick and efficient access to their application portfolio and business networks to enable rapid integration of existing resources and form new partnerships. Therefore, leveraging scalability and agility through composable APIs prove to be the new solution on the rise. 

Want to learn more? Explore how you can reorganize your business into an agile and modular well-oiled machine.