Legos are amongst the most beloved childhood toys because they inspire the imagination and are all about composing exactly what you want by selecting and connecting pieces until you transform them into something new and different. They are easy to use and understand and have seemingly endless options, and most agree that children who play with Legos increase their problem-solving skills and creativity and boost their ability to collaborate and communicate.
In much the same way, composable digital architecture builds more agility and speed for today's businesses to compete in the marketplace.
In his CMSWire debut article, Drive Culture Changes Through Composable Digital Architecture, CMSWire Contributor Eric Feige explained why composable digital architecture is important and why some businesses are hesitant to move away from their monolithic systems even as businesses are under pressure to find faster, better ways to operate today. Feige has sat at the helm of several of the world's biggest digital companies and is currently the managing director of strategy at VShift.
We caught up with him to discuss the topic and why businesses need to learn to recompose their "Lego blocks" and how they can assemble them to meet their needs.
Dom Nicastro: Hey, everybody, Dom Nicastro, managing editor of CMSWire here again with new CMSWire contributor Eric Feige. He's a managing director of strategy at VShift. Eric, welcome to the contributor community.
Eric Feige: Great. Thank you, Dom, for the terrific welcome.
Nicastro: Yes, thank you. I mean, the contributors are the lifeblood of our website, no doubt. We get dozens upon dozens of them — people in the field listening to customers, putting out their own digital strategies, and to have, you know, your voice out of the community is great. So why don't you tell listeners just a little bit about yourself? Since you're new to the CMSWire world?
Feige: Yeah, you know, I've been in digital strategy and transformation for many decades, have been in the seat of a head of digital for companies like Deloitte, KPMG, Prudential and JPMorgan, as well as working with executive leadership teams, generally non-IT business executives, who are driving change within their enterprise, their business, and looking for a faster, better, more effective way of really competing in the marketplace.
Why Composability Is All the Rage
Nicastro: Yeah, and that really ties in nicely to your debut column here, you know, talking about composability. With digital experience, technology, it is all the rage. You know, people want to have experiences and be able to produce customer experiences that are flexible, and they don't have the stranglehold of technology like technological infrastructure with IT. You can't be stopped today, you have to put out something 10 minutes ago, like you can't wait. You can't wait three hours for IT to respond. So give our listeners a sense of, you know, why composability might be all the rage today. I mean, there's a lot of organizations that are still using monolith technology and probably having success. So I think you still can have success on each side.
Feige: Yeah, absolutely. I think there's a — it's not a zero sum game. In some industries, yes. But for the vast majority of businesses, you've made investments in some monolithic or transactional systems that do critical functions. So we try and look at what is the the most valued transaction that can be exposed by an API, in those monoliths to those transactional systems, so that you can work more effectively at that composability level, get away from the vendor lock-in that you have at the monoliths level, and work more at the speed of business, which is really the promise of composability. So we don't see them as mutually exclusive. But rather over time, more and more of the technology base being API-based, being much more business oriented, faster speed of market, probably at the expense of monolithic technologies.
Related Article: Composable: The Marketer’s Perspective and Roadmap
Getting Away From Vendor Lock-In
Nicastro: Yeah, you talked about vendor lock-in that, I think, is the thing that scares people away from moving away from those vendors, because they have such a stranglehold on the organization in the business of the organization. I mean, for instance, I remember one conversation about our marketing automation platform. And our team said, no, you can't do that. You can't put a comma in there, it's gonna destroy the whole company. Right? Like you change one little thing. So do you — are you finding that a lot of organizations are scared of that change? Because of the massive business impact it would have moving from monoliths to composable?
Feige: Yes and no, in our piece, and I think this is true. This is where, you know, we're kind of looking at this as well beyond platforms, there's a focus on your people, your culture, your processes, where we see composable businesses is really in, you know, VC-backed technology companies, or HealthTech or FinTech companies that are designed to move very, very quickly. Those businesses are fearless. They've got mature, cross functional ways of working, and they embrace, you know, kind of this faster swappable way of working.
It's the large enterprises that we work with in regulated industries, that are risk managed businesses that run into exactly what you said, "Oh, that's going to be password protected. Well, that's going to take a year to develop a new digital product." Those tech-native businesses can do it in a few days or less than a week. But you have a similar business that says, well, we're critical dependent. And this gets to the people in the culture on an identity architect, or a specialized resource or somewhere halfway around the world. You know, in an offshore contract, it's got the kind of the source code.
That's the lock-in that's the interdependency that many businesses are really fearful of because today there's been so much more mobility around talent, that your technology is swappable. It can move very quickly. But the people in their domain knowledge really is where the risk is.
A Decentralized, Multiple Owner Future
Nicastro: Yeah, yeah. And then what if they do make that move, you talk about supporting a, you know, decentralized way of working in sort of moving away from someone in the organization owning a piece of technology, because we know we have our owners for every platform. You know, don't do this, ask her. Don't do that, ask him. And it causes delays and all that. So you're really pushing in the composability world for a decentralized way of working where you basically have multiple owners.
Feige: That's correct. And shared power and authority, which, you know, a couple of things there. If you operate technology, and technologists only within the IT silo, you're really not embracing the notion or the strategy of composable business, meaning you're taking a more monolithic, we've got to have developers and technologists run the technology.
So the example we see well, you know, if we're going to decouple the front end experience from some of the middle, and back end, and have marketing or digital marketing, run a public website, they probably need some front end developers that can work with components in the system, both. So that's sharing what is not only the technology, but really the skill sets.
So marketing IT sales, HR, compliance, legal, your risk functions all need to come together with governance, really, governance can be a scary word. But we look at it as when you're working with the composability. With these different modular pieces, you have to be able to come together and make decisions quickly and share power and have co-sponsors of certain initiatives.
And we probably saw this more in the last two years, with needing to stand up a crisis center, a COVID response site that required the old ways of doing things, which might have been very resource dependent. Hey, look, we got to go through a procurement cycle. As that's not going to work. We need something up in a matter of days and weeks to respond to the new rules. Does that help?
Empowering Business Users to Own Technology
Nicastro: It does. Yeah, it kind of helps think through how that decentralized way of working can work. Because when I first read that, and your piece, I'm like, geesh, I kind of do like someone being the owner. And I don't have to worry about that kind of thing. And again, you said, you're gonna have those people that can fix things. I mean, you still have to have that technical expertise, but empowering business users to actually, you know, own technology and manage it and be able to produce experiences without waiting. That's pretty powerful, I think.
Feige: And I think, again, it's the assumption, some of the red flags we hear in organizations, if there's a an executive that says, "Well, you know, my business function leads my executive team members run a shadow IT in sales, or they run shadow IT and marketing for the public website, or for sales enablement, that's a red flag, that's a red flag that the organization's not coming together in a very transparent, open way. And that there's still a command control versus a decentralized way of working.
The other, Dom, just getting back to you with a red flag would be within the organization if you hear the software vendor's name in an organizational function, right? And that happens a lot of oh, well, we're gonna have to talk to the big vendor X team or the big vendor. That means, boy, talk about lock-in your interdependent if you're naming an internal function when it's your business, and you're giving it a software vendor's name, right? Yeah. So a couple red flags to say, look, you're probably not as advanced and ready for composability if you talk about shadow, it functions within businesses. I mean, you guys aren't really talking. Or if you're naming internal functions after big software vendors that are, you know, where you're obviously spending a lot of money and expense with those big tech giants.
Nicastro: Eric, thank you. Let's wrap this up with one piece. And I know, you know, inspiration for columns in today's world just kind of come randomly, right? I mean, you're walking our dog and like, oh, that's yeah, we should write a whole piece on that. So not to put you on the spot with specifics. But generally, where do you think you're going to take our readers going forward?
Feige: Yeah, a couple of levels on what is, let's call it the promise of composable business, faster, more competitive, more innovation significantly reduced cost? One on the technology is really focused on breaking apart or decoupling the layers, particularly around orchestration, right?
I think we're breaking modules up. But having them orchestrated and working well, I think is going to be a big, big focus from a technology point of view. Second with orchestration, is to focus on rescaling the organization, when we look at failure rates and digital transformation, composability really represents a new, more effective way of dealing with transformation. And I think what we've learned from historical issues is that you've got to bring the rest of the organization, you've got to give them a new toolkit, they've got to get enrolled.
Part of it is, you know, working with the Lego blocks and knowing how to recompose them and assemble them to meet business needs. So I think we're gonna see a lot in more the advisory consulting and helping develop and prepare an organization for what is the promise and composability. Kind of two key thoughts.
Nicastro: Yeah, good. Yeah. We're looking forward to those future columns from you, Eric, and appreciate your time today, with this video interview and also the story of course, debut and CMSWire.com. It's a good one. So thanks again for joining us, Eric. We're looking forward to more content down the road.
Feige: Awesome. Take care, Dom.