Third & GroveThird & Grove
Apr 15, 2021 - Justin Emond

Why the Composable Enterprise Matters


The special century was, well, a special time. In this one-hundred-year period, roughly from 1870 to 1970, a series of technological revolutions permanently changed the fundamental nature of the human experience. Prior to that era, human experience had not undergone any substantive improvements since the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, a period of about 1,400 years of stagnation.

The inventions in the special century all shared one important characteristic: They could only be invented once. Standing tallest among these innovations was one that started at that epochal moment in world history in September 1882 when Thomas Edison turned on the first commercial power plant in the United States, located in lower Manhattan. Electricity was born and the world would never be the same.

We think of electricity as the thing that keeps our lights on at home, but the greatest value of electricity was the massive gains to labor productivity offered by electrifying your existing industrial processes. Such were the benefits offered by this new technology that innovative organizations hired Chief Electricity Officers to transform their existing processes with electricity, increasing the amount of output one worker could produce.

Fast forward more than a century, and something similar started a decade ago when Amazon Web Services turned CPUs, servers, and RAM into utilities, so that just like electricity they could be turned on and off at will, at low cost, and scaled as needed without any work. This transition from on-premises to cloud, like the transition from human-powered to electron-powered, offers a decade or two period of transition where cutting-edge organizations can gain competitive advantage by adopting new technologies quickly.

The outcome of these transition periods is all too similar, whether we are talking about electrons for power tools or electrons for information: what was strategic becomes tactical, and what becomes tactical becomes less valuable.

And so now we turn to managing content, and the modern content management system, which, depending on how you measure it, is at least 20 years old, and arguably more than 30. Early open source players, mainly WordPress and Drupal, gained rapid market share and provided a competitive advantage to larger organizations that understood the value they offered. 

And Drupal, with Acquia’s help, has flourished as the enterprise content platform of choice while the market for simpler use cases is devoured by players like Wix, Squarespace, and Contentful. But that relentless churn of innovation to standard, of strategic to tactical, marches ever forward, and content is not immune. The next phase of transformation of digital content is coming, and it’s called the composable enterprise.

As you might expect, Gartner is out in front defining what the composable enterprise is:
“A composable enterprise is an organization that can innovate and adapt to changing business needs through the assembly and combination of packaged business capabilities.” The report goes on to say that, “Packaged business capabilities will be sourced from third parties or composed internally. They will deliver more unique and customized application experiences to application users.”

Like the revolution of Amazon Web Services, which turned common IT infrastructure into easily digestible, scalable, and embeddable cartridges that could be inserted into your custom IT needs, a variety of players are starting to break digital content technology into similar cartridges. This makes certain aspects of managing content less strategic, but also opens up enormous opportunities for the organizations that offer these cartridges to other businesses and to those other businesses that know how to leverage them.

And it is this exact future business need that Acquia, the only player with an open digital experience platform, is ready, able, and willing to execute on. With a legacy of being built on the open source content platform Drupal, and a culture that embraces third-party systems, Acquia is already able to offer what an organization needs to execute a composable enterprise strategy.

And Gartner knows this, as it recently ranked Acquia as the #2 leader in the entire digital experience platform space, nipping at the heels of Adobe, and now well ahead of former #2 Sitecore.

Like moving to cloud, and even electrifying, when we look back a decade or two it will be obvious that every organization has to use a similar approach. But also, just like those revolutionary organizations, those that are able to see in the moment of early transition that taking a modular approach to content is a winning strategy will be rewarded. And of course, none more so than the digital experience platforms that understand this shift is inevitable and are serving their customers to execute this winning strategy today.