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Written by Harriette Halepis on 6 April 2021

Composable Business: It’s a Matter of Moving Parts

A composition is, by definition, an amalgamation of various parts. Musicians and writers often use the term itself to refer to music or work of poetry. Lately, the business world has picked up that term to refer to organizations with both flexible and interchangeable parts.


The research firm Gartner is credited with bringing the concept of composition to business by coining the term ‘Intelligent Composable Business.’ When the current Covid-19 pandemic hit, many companies could not adapt and lacked the flexibility required to pivot in real-time.


This rigidity caused many organizations to close and lose clients, while those flexible enough to adapt are experiencing growth and will continue to expand. Organizations with quick-thinking leaders have demonstrated resilience by narrowing in on a few key factors.


Gartner defines composable business by three main building blocks:


  • Composable Thinking: the flexibility to think creatively without limits. It can be challenging to create a culture of creativity if an organization has been working within boundaries for a long time -- but it’s not an impossible task. Composable Thinking begins with leadership and sets the tone for cultural flexibility.


  • Composable Business Architecture: ensuring that your organization is resilient from the inside out. Business should be built with resilience in mind and not as an afterthought.


  • Composable Technologies: technical tools that allow organizations to pivot and adapt quickly. It’s impossible to create a masterpiece without the right tools.


There are many excellent examples of companies that successfully pivoted during the pandemic.


Resilience in the Face of Adversity


Breweries turned into sanitization manufacturers, transportation companies found ways to cross borders safely while staying on schedule, and countless companies designed masks, scrubs, ventilators, and other essential products.


Restaurants -- some of the hardest-hit businesses throughout the pandemic -- got creative and set up online marketplaces, developed take-home options, and sold cocktail kits.


We’ve seen throughout the pandemic that business can adapt, but it takes a creative leader at the helm. For an excellent example of ‘leadership on its feet,’ we can look to emergency room physicians.


Few people during the pandemic had to adapt more than ER physicians. During the first wave, these people were saddled with a situation that most had only heard of in textbooks. Suddenly, routine emergency room procedures weren’t cutting it and leadership was challenged. In a recent Harvard Business article, ER doctor Charlotte McKinsey recalls an initial feeling of helplessness followed by realizing that adaptability was not impossible. Further, McKinsey realized that the way she responded to the situation would directly impact her staff. Flexible leadership has led the world’s emergency response teams through this pandemic.


Business leaders can learn a lot from ER physicians constantly challenged to adapt and lead.


But we don’t exist in a vacuum, although it can feel like it. Throughout history, leadership has been challenged with the ever-demanding challenge of adaptation and flexibility. Many of us just forgot what challenges feel like because, let’s face it until the current pandemic hit, most leaders did not have to apply those emergency measures learned in business school.


Challenge Is a Good Thing


This pandemic has kept leadership on its toes. The phrase ‘adapt or die’ has never been so resounding, but it has to begin with leadership. What do your customers want? What do they need? What parts of your organization are not flexible, and what can change this?


The most significant change business has seen throughout the pandemic is to adopt a digital business strategy. Companies without a digital blueprint quickly created one, and those that did not make a move to digital were unable to keep up.


According to Gartner, by 2024, 25% of traditional large enterprise CIOs will be held accountable for digital business operational results, and 69% of boards of directors will push to accelerate digital strategies. Security will become the responsibility of the CIO and will be at the forefront of any digital roadmap.


Leadership now faces monumental challenges that can be cultivated and baked into an organization’s culture handbook. The question is: Is your business composable?


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