Last updated: Dismantling The Monolith: The Future of Business Is Agile

Dismantling The Monolith: The Future of Business Is Agile


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Digital visionary, author and speaker, Pearl Zhu, describes agility within and of itself as a strategy. If you look around, you can see great examples of forward-looking organisations at work. Empowering agility requires both a strategic mindset, as well as operational systems and the underlying framework that supports them.

“Learning agility means to learn, de-learn, and relearn all the times.”– Pearl Zhu

And yet agility is so much more than simply a single process or methodology. Forbes describes true agility as the ability to adjust strategies on a continuous basis; empower employees to make key decisions on challenging projects; respond to ambiguity and uncertainty with flexibility and speed; and view unanticipated change as an opportunity for transformation.

Delivering excellent customer experiences, enabling agility for intelligent enterprise applications, and powering flexible e-commerce operations have become the new modern minimum requirements for successful outcomes – and in many cases, for survival.

But for many organisations, a rather large elephant remains both in the room and in the way: legacy monolithic architectures.

A recent PMI and Forbes Insight report revealed that ninety-two percent of C-level executives believe organisational agility is critical to business success. Yet only twenty percent consider themselves highly agile. Much of this can be traced back to underlying IT legacy.

Most traditional monolithic systems were appropriate for their time as they enabled all front and back-end processes to be controlled in one centralised location. But in the age, speed and expectations of e-commerce, monoliths alone are no longer the best approach. If, for example, there was a spike in processing, you couldn’t simply address just one spike, but instead had to scale everything at once. But all that’s changing, thanks to microservices.

If you’re not already familiar with them, microservices are small, independent processes that can be written in multiple languages. Microservices give enterprise applications the freedom to remain agile and flexible by making small changes to different areas of the IT architecture at a time. And they’re fundamental to agility.

Perfect partners: Monoliths and microservices

For complex systems, such as e-commerce, with numerous interconnected systems, you may, of course, only want to integrate and customise a small subset of functionality. That’s where monoliths and microservices become perfect partners.

The monolith does the heavy lifting with business tooling, larger amounts of capabilities, fewer integration points and less complexity, while microservices provide agility to quickly and easily customise and integrate small subsets of functionality as required.

Imagine a supermarket that suddenly needs to serve large numbers of customers all at once. They don’t try and quickly build a new supermarket next door. They open-up a few more registers to deal with demand.

In this sense, microservices are like registers in the supermarket as they’re modular, universal, and can be ready for use quickly – except with microservices, not only can they increase the number of registers, but also add different options that suit different ways customers wish to interact. It’s not just speed of response, it’s also flexibility at speed.

In simple terms, this means that formerly inflexible applications are now customisable and extendable. Greater flexibility, scalability and resilience in tandem with future-proof event driven architectures are just too great to ignore. That’s why the future of your business – and mine – lies in agility.

The many benefits of agility

Technology is too much of a game-changer for organisations to ever think they can just settle into one way of approaching their business. The benefits of agility are almost endless: the ability to pivot with demand and changing preferences, and faster time to bring new products to market; increases in visibility, greater employee involvement and satisfaction; better business alignment and value, reduced risk with greater transparency, improved product and service quality; the ability to innovate quickly, drive higher customer satisfaction, reduce costs and increase competitive advantage. The list goes on.

Of course, digital transformation is a long-term state of mind, rather than a destination.

It involves architecture, culture and mindset. True transformation isn’t accomplished with a big, one-shot move or a mass rip-and-replace implementation. Instead, it is an incremental, consistent movement focused on specific outcomes, user experiences, and agile innovation.

In a world where only the agile will survive, the business case for agile transformation has never been stronger.

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