Composite Applications: Do You Use Them?

You probably do.

Simply put, composite applications assemble data from disparate sources and present the data in a single interface. An application that displays the system time is technically a composite application (although not a particularly interesting one).

You’ll find composite applications in consumer and business settings. They include:

  • Business process / supply chain management
  • Medical diagnostics
  • Financial systems
  • Location-based services

Their most valuable use case for a composite application is presenting multiple sources of data to a user in an appropriate context.

  • A BPM / SC dashboard shows real-time inventory levels against real-time production demands, culled from disparate systems. This dashboard can alert the user to the risk of production delays due to stock levels.
  • Medical diagnostic software shows bodily statistics (heart, lung, oxygen levels, etc.) in response to outside stimuli (exertion or adding oxygen).
  • Financial software shows the response of a stock price due to news, and then reflects price changes in portfolio valuation.
  • LBS-enabled solutions create massive business opportunities simply by knowing where you are .. and what you might be able to buy / do while you are there.

In all cases, the ultimate recipient of the data is the user; we are the ultimate aggregators and consumers of the data that matters to us. A well-designed composite application will address our needs and use cases in context when gathering data to present to us.

I liken a composite application to a smart phone; in fact, I would argue that a smart phone is a composite application. If the smart phone has a robust enough operating system to permit user customizations (loading the content and the applications we deem most relevant), AND includes pillars like location and search, our aggregation and consumption of the data is second nature to us.

For example, a GPS-enabled phone can provide:

  • The weather in your current location, and as a result, what to wear.
  • The store to buy something you need that ‘s close by (possibly even the clothes you need because you didn’t check the weather first).
  • Directions to the store.
  • Your bank account balance to ensure you can buy what you need.
  • The method of payment for a treat along the way (I use the Starbucks Card Widget for my Android Aria to pay for my coffee these daze).
  • .. and so on.

If you build a composite application (correctly), it will get used. Further, if you watch how they are used, you’ll learn how to improve your design to deliver what your customers need.

About Michael Coates
I am a pragmatic evangelist. The products, services and solutions I write about fulfill real-world expectations and use cases. I stay up-to-date on real products I use and review, and share my thoughts here. I apply the same lens when designing an architecture, product or when writing papers. I am always looking for ways that technology can create or enhance a business opportunity .. not just technology for technology's sake. My CV says: Seasoned technology executive, leveraging years of experience with enterprise and integration architectural patterns, executed with healthy doses of business acumen and pragmatism. That's me. My web site says: Technology innovations provide a myriad of opportunities for businesses. That said, having the "latest and greatest" for its own sake isn't always a recipe for success. Business successes gained through exploiting innovation relies on analysis of how the new features will enhance your business followed by effective implementation. Goals vary far and wide: streamlining operations, improving customer experience, extending brand, and many more. In all cases, you must identify and collect the metrics you can apply to measure your success. Analysis must be holistic and balanced: business and operational needs must be considered when capitalizing on a new technology asset or opportunity.

3 Responses to Composite Applications: Do You Use Them?

  1. Pingback: “Anything” as a Service (XaaS) .. you knew this was coming .. « OpsanBlog

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