A year to the day of the MACH Alliance’s Premiere webinar, Alliance Co-Founders gathered back together for a first-year review to discuss insights learned as they reach this milestone, and what businesses can expect to see in the year ahead.
You can watch the full conversation here, or read the summary below for the story.
A year of rapid digital maturity
When the Alliance launched last summer, companies around the world were in the middle of figuring out how to move their business completely online.
“I think the MACH Alliance arrives at a time that is actually full of potential and a very critical time,” said Phil Wainewright, Co-Founder of diginomica and leading voice on cloud computing, when he moderated the Alliance’s premiere webinar back in June 2020.
Returning as the moderator for the first-year review, Phil agrees with his original assumption that the launch of the Alliance came at an impactful time. “Everyone had seen the advantage of going digital, and everyone had seen that the businesses that cope best were the ones with the agility and responsiveness that comes from a modern architecture.”
After a year of constant adaptation, more companies are turning to microservices, APIs, the Cloud, and headless technologies - the core MACH principles - to enable more flexibility in all aspects of business. Simultaneously, more investment is going into these types of technology - approximately $1.3 billion in funding from venture capitalists has been received between the 35 currently certified MACH Alliance members alone.
“I think the pandemic was only an accelerator for what would have happened anyway on the fulfilment side, on the logistics side, on the customer identity side, on the customer service side.” says Dirk Hoerig, Founder and CEO of commercetools. “A lot of different departments and teams now need to have access to information in real time, need to build internal applications and so on.”
“Acros all of these stacks we’ll see a change over the next coming year and I think the MACH Alliance definitely will benefit from that,” says Dirk, “but most importantly the overall market and the customers will benefit from it.”
MACH goes mainstream
“A year ago we were talking about composable architectures, then it felt a bit leading edge and we would need to explain that.” says Phil during the first-year review. “Today, that’s gone truly mainstream.”
As companies became more familiar with new technologies and more fluent in the terms around them, the Alliance members started to see MACH awareness pick up steam.
“I’ve gotten people coming to me and saying ‘Hey, have you heard about the MACH Alliance?’” shares Neha Sampat, Founder and CEO of Contentstack. ““It’s ranging from other CEOs to people that are in the product space, product managers, CIOs, analysts, other investors, and I just think it’s the best outcome possible that it’s taken on a life of its own and has an independent name and organization in the industry.”
While multiple co-founders mentioned seeing MACH called out specifically in requests for proposal (RFPs) this year, what the group found even more interesting was how quickly awareness was rising about the needs driving MACH principles.
“The way companies articulate their needs for a MACH architecture, or a composable architecture, or a decoupled head, or whatever they want to call it, has really matured over the last year,” says Pascal Lagarde, SVP Commerce at Valtech.
“It’s also changing the nature of the conversation.” sas Elaina Shekhter, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer at EPAM Systems. “People presume that when you come to talk to them about innovating the experience you’re not constrained by whatever choices were made about the incumbent frameworks. That even if there are platforms in place, that you’re able to talk to them about extending those platforms, and those extensions overwhelmingly carry a MACH characteristic.”
High standards help cut through the noise
As a more composable approach to architecture gains popularity, and a wealth of exciting tools come to market, it can be difficult to navigate the solution landscape - and the buzzwords.
From the beginning, the MACH Alliance has aimed to help enterprise buyers make confident decisions. “We want to use the Alliance to speak as one voice out there and make it the standard,” said Kelly Goetsch, Chief Product Officer at commercetools and inaugural President of the MACH Alliance, during the premiere webinar last June.
“Instead of looking to suites for comfort, we want folks to look to MACH for comfort,” said Kelly, “and know that if you’re working within the Alliance there’s an established set of principles, architectures, design patterns, that you know there’s a roadmap and a clear guide on how to do that.”
Establishing a clear standard of what it means to be MACH can help companies better identify which tools are going to truly enable modern business and which tools are really just old platforms with a new coat of paint.
For instance, legacy suites that move to cloud housing but don’t fully leverage benefits such as events, functions, and versionless upgrades. “Building truly in the Cloud, and not just being a visitor on the Cloud, is a core differentiator when it comes to real scalability,” says Dirk.
Also frequently seen is older solutions with APIs tacked on now being labeled as “headless”, when in reality only a part of the functionality is exposed. “It’s a bit of an imposter to say that you’re a headless CMS when you've thought about APIs not first, but later,” explains Neha. “I think that’s really important for us to distinguish when we’re thinking about who are the real headless players and what are we enabling the bueisnes to do when they choose a healdes solution.”
Ensuring that all MACH Alliance members meet strict criteria is critical to creating a standard in the industry. This year, over 100 vendors and agencies applied to be part of the Alliance, and only a third met the full certification criteria.
“I’ve been really happy with the collaboration defining membership criteria,” says Kelly. “We’ve been able to really work well together, we’ve been able to have difficult conversations. I think that's really been a strength of the Alliance.”
“You know there are folks in the Alliance who are complete bitter enemies in the marketplace but they are the best of friends in the Alliance and come together to advance MACH as a term, as an industry, as a concept,” says Kelly. “I just love that everybody is thinking big about this and looking at the market not as a fixed sum game, but more of how do we as an Alliance advance the cause of MACH and expand the market, rather than fight over a small share.”
A flourishing MACH community
Key to the Alliance’s success is the MACH advocates who are putting these practices into place and driving real world change in their business.
The MACH Ambassador program, for instance, is a carefully curated group of enterprise leaders who have led their own teams through a MACH transition and have volunteered to help other companies do the same through sharing knowledge at events like the MACH Information Festival and having one-on-one conversations with peers.
“The ambassadors, in their free time, take the time to guide other CTOs, CMOs, CEOs, through,” says Sonja Keerl, Global Head of Product Marketing at Contentstack and newly appointed President of the MACH Alliance. “It's extremely rewarding to watch that.”
Along with sharing lessons learned, the Alliance is introducing MACH in a hands-on way. This January, 20 teams joined the first MACHathon and created solutions to “get unstuck”.
“It was great that 20 teams started, but it was even nicer to see that 20 teams actually delivered something at the end of the week,” says Pascal, as a testament to the accessibility of MACH development.
Pascal also spoke about how impressed the judges were by the broad set of ideas the teams brought to the table. “It went way beyond headless content and headless commerce, and some of them are still in progress to be further developed and possibly to be introduced to the market.”
Growing the MACH community, from the executive to operational teams, is paving the way for the future of MACH adoption.
“That gets me really excited, seeing the brands associated with our ambassadorship and having them be a voice of the Alliance and also encouraging people that are younger in their tech careers to find a MACH company to join because that's the future,” says Neha. “That gets me really pumped up about the talent pool that we’re developing as an organization.”
“When we started a year ago, we thought we needed to talk about the ‘why’: Why do you need to transform the way you operate?” says Sonja. “In many ways, the pandemic has answered the ‘why’ for us and very quickly we found ourselves needing to answer the ‘what’: We need to quickly shift our priorities, what do we need to do? What's the right partner? Who’s the right agency? Who’s the right vendor? Much of the communication that you saw in year one answered that.”
“We now see more and more questions from the business side of the house come in.” explains Sonja, “How do we utilize this? How are we actually going to make MACH work for us so that we can get to all the business outcomes? Much of the new content that we’re creating will address that question: How will I be successful as an organization?”
Even with the big strides taken this past year, the group knows that there is a lot of work ahead to solidify the role of MACH in the evolving enterprise space.
“We’re just really on the front end of a sea change in how we conceive of services.” says Elaina, “It’s not just a matter of extending MACH principles beyond the experience into things like service and supply chain, it’s really reconceiving the idea of what Cloud-native means for business, how you use data, how you do engineering, how you think about innovation.”
Ultimately, the MACH Alliance is excited to use the momentum of this past year to take on the challenges ahead.
“When we started this it was just, literally, an idea on a napkin,” says Neha. “What it turned into is something really special in the industry and hopefully game-changing as we continue to embark on this journey together.”