Perfecting Platforms; Composable architecture platforms
Bas de Wit
Read more by Bas de Wit
This article is part of our Binoculars-series. Download the entire paper here.
Platforms as we know them – complex business applications – are the core of your business and should be as robust as they are future proof. This is the way it’s always been and will not change in the foreseeable future.
Gartner has mentioned that by 2023, companies that have adopted an intelligent, composable approach will outperform the competition by 80% in the speed of implementing new features.
So, what is happening in the world of platform builders? Is there a change, or are there trends, that we need to take seriously when thinking about platforms for your business?
We have noticed a trend in the market where companies are looking at focusing their knowledge and expertise on their core businesses. This means that, in the platform-building space, there are parties that put their whole focus on a single, narrow market segment.
The focus that these companies bring improves the quality of the products brought to market in many different ways. Users are keen to take advantage of the quality and are looking at integrating it into their arsenal of tools used to perform their jobs.
In a broader sense, we see that people are starting to take these products and use them in addition to their standard business platforms. Consider, for instance, recording hours worked in a simple spreadsheet when it could be managed in an integrated timekeeping tool. From a business-efficiency point of view, this is not ideal, as it introduces new tools that do not integrate directly or smoothly with current business processes.
There are opportunities for those who are willing to focus on their core business and stick to it. If you can create a tool component that people turn to, you will be able to stay focused on and increase value in the area that you know and love. These opportunities do require a steely focus and a thorough understanding of what is and is not the core that you want to focus on, though. And it means leaving things that don’t fit in with your core business to others.
Another opportunity lies in the creation of tailored platforms that are composed using the best-of-breed components available in the marketplace today. The components that work well for you help you focus on improving your product. The added benefit of composability is that these platforms are flexible and give you the opportunity to try out novel and innovative ideas. These ideas can then be validated and verified with the help of target groups and iterated on with ease, giving you a better chance to conquer the market. This is also identified by Mulesoft: “Composability will be a core pillar of business strategy to drive innovation and agility”.
What we have seen
When we consider, for example, the Digital Experience Platform (DXP), we notice a change over the past few years. You might remember the advent of the content management system (CMS) and the rise of different media platforms. In this space, the trend is to capture content, (multi)media, and customer experience in a single DXP platform. The platform is used as the hub; the content is kept there, exposed through a website and a mobile app, distributed to customers through different media, and tailored to their individual needs through a feedback loop.
The most prevalent trend in the DXP platforms is to make use of individual, composable components that each cover a part of the overall platform requirements. This means that it will be composed of the headless CMS that fits best with the specific platform requirements, a personalization engine to tailor the content for individual users, a search engine to create the best search experience possible, and other components that are needed for each specific case.
The beauty of this approach is that each component is tailored to the exact requirements of the platform. And components can be individually and independently changed and improved as the situation develops and requires different features. We have been building platforms this way for quite some time now and have seen the benefits of adding a specific tool when the need arises, but not before. This has given our customers a ramp-up when they need it, and it means they are not paying for something they won’t use.
Advice on how to get started
Today – Examine your current platform
Taking a leaf from the composable platforms we’ve seen, we’d advise anyone to examine their current platform and determine where it works and, more importantly, where it does not. The area where it doesn’t work for you is the first to investigate, as that can be a possible candidate for upgrading outside of your current platform. The investigation itself should examine the current platform and identify how it might integrate with an external tool. If you find that it has trouble integrating directly, you may have to get help finding a way to integrate indirectly, but often there are ways around these obstacles.
Tomorrow – Find best-of-breed building blocks
The next step is to investigate your entire platform space. It is ultimately comprised of several processes that work together as a whole, and many of these can be replaced by an existing tool that is focused on a single process and does that better than anything else. Find those best-of-breed building blocks! Using these tools, you can start replacing more and more of your platform and take advantage of the flexibility and scalability of the tools.
Day after tomorrow – Loosely bound set of tools
We have not discussed yet how these tools are set up, and I will not divulge too much here, but an important note to make for the future is that these tools will become more loosely bound. What I mean by that is that they will not have to be digitally close together, and they will only require minimal configuration to work together. Your platform will then become a loosely bound set of tools that will only require start-up configuration and minimal maintenance after installation.
We can see this happening with the different highly focused cloud services. One interesting example is automation service IFTT4, but there are still too many that are trying to do ‘everything for everybody’. For businesses, that might look interesting, but we find that this almost never aligns with their business cases. So, as you can imagine, INFO will be using these singular, focused services as tools to solve parts of larger composed platforms.
Looking through Gartner’s crystal ball, by 2027, more than 50% of enterprises will use industry cloud platforms to accelerate their business initiatives. These are significant numbers, and together with what we’ve experienced and seen, there’s a real reason to take these trends seriously.