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Drive Culture Changes Through Composable Digital Architecture

5 minute read
Eric Feige avatar
Organizations stuck in monolithic architectures and stubborn governance procedures need to consider composability.

Seeking to solve for long lead times and inefficiencies, corporations are moving away from monolithic technology and toward composability — decentralizing innovation and delivering business results more quickly than before.

The support is there, with venture capital flowing into decoupled, headless and Jamstack technologies, but corporations will need to overcome internal inertia and bring people and process along for the transition to a decoupled future.

Digging Into MACH Architectures

Composable, decoupled and MACH (microservices, API-based, cloud and headless) marketing technologies are all part of the same modern, modular technology approach where the front-end (what the user sees and interacts with) and back-end (the business and data processes behind it) are separated from one another. Non-IT functions like marketing and human resources are then able to manage these separated digital interfaces.

Components can be selected and quickly assembled in various manners to independently optimize the front and back ends with no fear of how changing one may affect the other.

The separated front- and back-ends work together efficiently through simple communications protocols — more effectively, in fact, than if they were truly intermingled.

In technical terms, composable technologies disrupt traditional architectures using decoupled models for applications, integrations and cloud services. Headless content management, headless search and Jamstack services are examples of well-funded marketing technologies that support the notion of operational independence and fast-moving composable businesses.

These modular technologies dramatically reduce time-to-market, enabling nimble business maneuvers like standing up new websites in days and new features in hours.

Related Article: Goodbye DXPs, Hello Composable Stacks

Decoupling Promises Solutions

Investors and digital technology evaluators clearly recognize the need to address long-standing digital transformation issues like go-to-market delays, runaway project costs, vendor lock-in and specialty skills dependence. Let’s look more closely at some of the critical expected business outcomes of composable investments:

  • Speed-to-market: Executive sponsors can immediately demonstrate measurable results with tech that allows them to compete with digital-first firms, capitalize on timely opportunities"and respond to fast-moving market demands.
  • Operational independence: Business leaders are seeking to manage digital products with far less reliance on scarce IT resources or costly systems integrators.
  • Cost containment: MACH composability inherently allows you to reduce technical debt and sunset older systems that consume budget and talent.
  • Intellectual property optimization: By decoupling front-end from other systems, you can compete with your business rules, market know-how and differentiated customer experience.
  • Professional development: Your staff is exposed to a broader set of product management and go-to-market skills — helping to retain talent during this “great resignation” period.

Related Article: What Digital Leaders Want in MACH-Based Architectures

Learning Opportunities

Traditional Firms Stuck on Obsolete Platforms

Are these promised business outcomes being realized? Yes and no. Businesses grounded in speed and market-ready technology (such as FinTech and HealthTech) are benefitting. Traditional companies, however, who remain stuck on obsolete platforms and neglect integrating their processes and teams, are not yet fully realizing these significant business benefits.

Many enterprise-scale organizations have trouble letting go of monolithic technologies. Time and money have been invested in integrating things like digital marketing software suites — libraries have been built out, development teams and management processes put in place, entire departments structured around platform maintenance.

Systems integrators who benefit from longer timeframes and more complex, expensive technologies don’t help. This limits opportunities for innovation and can lead to turf battles over resources and prioritization, which is why culture is so critical to achieving composable business outcomes.

Keys to Success: Platforms, Process, People

What does it take to recognize success here? It's a three-pronged approach:

  • Platforms: Sunset the portal software suites and monolithic technologies that have passed their expiration dates. Executive leadership teams should work cross-functionally on composability and agree that embracing MACH and decoupling will require active efforts to terminate agreements and disentangle from older technologies like portal software and legacy content repositories.
  • Process: Established governance processes are focused on decision-making. To support the vision of composability, business units will need to break out of entrenched, hierarchical structures, decide together to support common user experiences across digital products, and allow for creative innovation to localize processes. Business outcomes can be realized when cross-functional business teams (e.g. marketing, sales, finance, strategy, HR and IT) build new processes together that were previously within the IT department.
  • People: Empowering cross-functional teams is, perhaps, the most important factor in digital transformations and in realizing business outcomes through decoupled technologies. Achieving operational independence while reducing vendor and IT lock-in requires a culture that allows for a decentralized way of working. Hierarchical cultures will struggle with composability due their siloed approach to organizational power that is fueled by “owning” technologies that should either be retired or decoupled so that business owners can operate layers of the experience without key-person dependence.

Conclusion: What Side of Composable Tipping Point Are You On?

Despite the fact that many organizations of all sizes will still grapple with cultural barriers, increasingly more organizations will be proactively implementing decoupled technologies with an evolved set of processes and updated operational models as a critical factor in their revenue growth and transformations.

We are at a tipping point — investors and buyers get it. Now it is up to the rest of the organization to help deliver significant wins by recognizing that internal inertia exists and that organizational change and cross-functional trust are requirements for realizing composable enterprise wins.

About the author

Eric Feige

Eric Feige is a digital transformation leader serving innovation-focused financial services, healthcare and technology organizations. As managing director of strategy at VShift he galvanizes marketing, sales, product, technology, human resources and operations functions around implementable strategies that scale revenue growth.

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