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MACH architecture, what is it, should you use it?

Understand your position on the Digital Growth Curve to help you navigate these questions.

I get a lot of questions from customers on the newest buzz words: MACH architecture.

What is it, should you use it?

What it is can best be fully explained by the MACH-alliance itself. But in short it evolves around API-driven microservices that are build on headless SaaS components.

Whether you should use it depends on several aspects, one of them being your position on the digital growth curve.

In this blog I’ll take you through the two main aspects that influence your position on the digital growth curve, which I use to help you decide on whether to consider MACH architectures and their underlying technology in your situation. The two aspects are the Digital Maturity of your company and the ability and desire to own the customer experience. Both follow a natural growth path that is somewhat tied to the natural development of your organization through time. ‘Somewhat’ because the starting point can be different, depending on the background of your company. A tech startup can be expected to be higher up that Digital Maturity aspect than a retailer with a focus on bricks & mortar for example.

Digital Maturity Curve

When both the Digital Maturity and the ability and desire to own the customer experience are low you are at the start of the curve. This is where you work with easy to adopt (sometimes free to use) tools to engage with your customers and to store (some of) their details. In this phase of the lifecycle of the company it is very important to start engaging and collecting (some) data. That is much more important than assuring a complete overview of the customers profile or full integration between the tools.

JUST GET STARTED!

With the maturing of the company comes the desire to own the Customer Experience. This requires a better grip on what they experience to keep them from walking away to your competition. Usually, we see that the digital maturity of your company has increased a little over that time, just enough to understand that some touchpoints need to be integrated to improve that cx.

That is the moment where many companies start to move to a cx platform (such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, SAP cx, ect.). I have written an earlier blog on the advantages of a platform vs point solutions. These are still valid and I could add privacy to that list (GDPR). A platform helps to speed up your company’s Digital Maturity. It does so by coming with many factures that on first implementation are not needed but can be ‘unlocked’ very easily. Features that help you protect your customers privacy and support you in deleting them if necessary are often delivered and/or supported by the platforms.

The ability to quickly unlock new features (and please do so!), helps to spark the digital shift by getting your employees to understand that the platform is meant to evolve and is not supposed to remain in a solid state. Once the employees start to share their demands and new requirements, the fire is lit. You can then start to ‘developing’ the platform to their wishes and discuss priorities to help them grow in their digital maturity. After a certain amount of development cycles the new requirements might become too sophisticated for the platform.

That is the moment where you start to look for additional capabilities. This might be in the shape of a Best-of-Breed solution or you might need to take the jump towards micro services. What is important is that you keep using the power of the platform with its deduplication rules, case creation, workflows, centralized reporting and dashboarding, ect. Build the missing capabilities on top of it, do not phase it out. It would be a shame to invest in all those capabilities again.

‘KEEP YOUR PLATFORM!’

There are a few items to reflect on when thinking about B-o-B vs microservices.

In what area do you need the capabilities? When focused on your digital interactions (website/app), microservices and a composable architecture might make sense. This is the area where those technologies excel. If the area is not digital, you might want to see whether there is a B-o-B application available that fulfills your needs.

Road mapping. Does your team have the capability to design and plan desired features? In most cases your team won’t have those capabilities. Reverting to B-o-B solutions is the best option then. You’ll be able to make use of the innovation power on their roadmaps. If you deem your organization capable of managing these elements of innovation, planning and delivering, microservices and/or composable solutions might be a good fit. Don’t forget about GDPR and security when starting to develop your own micro services. Be aware of any customer data that you store and of the security measures you enforce from design onwards.

Do you need the capabilities in an area where you (expect to) make a competitive difference? In that case you probably want to stay away from any off the shelf B-o-B product, simply because your competitors can buy it as well. Thus eliminating any technological advance to make the desired difference. By building the capability in house, you can tailor it to fit your processes, thus enhancing any competitive difference.

It is always wise to plan the next steps in technology in such a way that your organization is capable of adopting it as fast and as well as possible. Not every company has to end on top of the digital maturity curve. MACH architecture is not the holy grail or the pinnacle to strive for. You need technology that fits your purpose.

Especially when your website or app has a commerce functionality the MACH architecture can be useful. It allows you to customize each step in the buying process.

I hope this blog has helped to shed some light on whether MACH architecture is something to consider for you at this point in time.

If you are struggling with architectural problems like these, I would be happy to discuss how Capgemini and I can help. Feel free to reach out via Linkedin or directly via email: remco.stolp@capgemini.com.

Senior Digital Architect - Guiding organizations through their digital transformation & avid windsurfer