Want a composable business? You need Agile and DevOps

'Gone are the days when you poured concrete over all your processes,' says IBM's Robert LeBlanc.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

The concepts of "composable business," Agile and DevOps aren't necessarily related, but they increasingly are the most important pieces of emerging digitized, mobilized and cloudified enterprises.

That's the theme running through the latest IBM Impact event, taking place in Las Vegas. The tone -- that Agile and DevOps really matter more than ever before-- was set early in the keynotes of two of IBM's leading proponents of service orientation -- Robert LeBlanc and Marie Wieck. (Disclosure: I attended Impact as a guest of IBM.)

Opening up the conference, LeBlanc, senior vice president of IBM Software & Cloud Solutions, said that these are interesting times we live in. "There is no industry that is not up for disruption," he pointed out. The digital enterprise is here, and its prime characteristic is that is essentially disassembles existing businesses and reassembles them according to market demands. 

Who is at the forefront of this disruption?  Developers, LeBlanc points out. But developers are under intense pressure to deliver new innovations within hours -- not months. "You have to accelerate time to market. Gone are the days, when you get a requirement from the business, and go off in the back room for the next 18 months. We have to be working in a matter if hours and days -- not months and years."

The solution is to work iteratively with business users, and move to a "composable business," which leverages cloud services, APIs and internal applications to refine or develop new processes. "The world is really starting to open up," says LeBlanc. "What you’re building the next generation composable business. Gone are the days when you have to pour your concrete over all your processes. You want the flexibility to bring all these services together."

To achieve a composable business, LeBlanc points to cloud as enabling these building blocks. "Look at it as a growth engine of your business." Mobile and big data are also forces of change. "Big data will transform your industry, and it will transform your enterprise, because there is so much data now," he said. "The expectation level that we have as individuals is: 'you will you will personalize the experience to me.'"

Developers are one of three key roles that are building out composable businesses, LeBlanc continued. Business leaders are concerned about engaging new customers, and won't wait for IT to provide the technologies they need. "They’ll go out in the cloud and acquire a service -- and you’ll have shadow IT," he points out. The value is in partnering with business leaders, he said.

Another key role in the composable business, IT leader, needs to focus on "connecting systems of engagement to systems of record," said LeBlanc. It's likely they will be turning to hybrid cloud to accomplish this, he added, since "a lot of the transactional systems and a lot of data resides today in on-premises systems."

This is "a great time to be a developer," he said. "You now have a set of services and access to APIs to rapidly assemble your applications. You’re not constrained by what you have in your organization anymore. The world has really opened up."

Recognizing this trend, IBM also launched a new "Cloud Marketplace," intended to open up the company's own resources to  developers, IT managers and business leaders.

Marie Wieck, IBM's general manager for WebSphere Software, drove home the point that software solutions need to be turned around quickly, in close partnership with business users -- especially when it comes to mobile apps. "You really need an iterative and Agile approach to development and operations," she urges. "Average mobile development takes from two to six weeks.  You have to continuously iterate over and over again to get the right experience to delight customers and stay ahead of competition."

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