What Does it Mean to be MACH Certified?
Over the past year, the MACH Alliance has grown from an idea to a movement, to an established non-profit organization with over 30 international members dedicated to advocating for open, best-of-breed technology ecosystems. The Alliance was initiated as a response to the paradigm shift in enterprise technology that the founders were witnessing, as businesses embraced Microservices based, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS and Headless technologies to propel their digital experience. The response we’ve seen has made it quite clear - and exciting - that this shift is happening even faster than we originally anticipated.
As true proponents of MACH technologies, we believe the Alliance has a responsibility to the market, especially to enterprise buyers, to approach MACH certification with a high degree of objectivity and scrutiny. It can be incredibly hard for a buyer to cut through industry jargon, particularly from big companies with loud marketing, to understand if a vendor or agency is truly following composable architecture principles. Our certification is our word that we have evaluated the technology, references, and roadmap of a member and they have proven they meet all the criteria for the Alliance to recommend them as part of a future-proof technology stack. Since our June 2020 launch, we have had around 100 companies - System Integrators (SI) and Independent Software Vendors (ISV) - apply and about a third have achieved certification.
The Alliance is a self-regulated organization and it is in every member’s best interest that we hold ourselves accountable to an independent, fact-based evaluation process. We have direct competitors sitting on the board, as well as in nearly every technology segment that is represented in the Alliance. For instance, our headless CMS members, Contentstack, Contentful and Amplience, regularly go head-to-head in sales cycles but that does not stop the Alliance from certifying all three. The value of a MACH certification does not come from market exclusivity, it comes from enterprise buyers’ trust in the Alliance to ensure that every certified member will enable them to accelerate, to innovate and to ultimately differentiate with their digital initiatives. In such a connected industry, earning that trust requires an unbiased and transparent review process. To ensure this, we have put in place a few essential rules:
First, each applicant is reviewed by three discrete task forces, one to evaluate from a business perspective, one from a technology perspective, and one representing the MACH advisory board. The task forces complete an in-depth review of the information provided by the applicant and, as a critical part of the process, speak to reference customers to ensure all accepted Alliance members provide a high quality solution in real-world applications.
To avoid conflicts of interest, ISV applications are reviewed by task forces made up of SI members and vice-versa. So if a search vendor applies for MACH Alliance membership, no other search vendor will be decisive in the evaluation. This is primarily to protect the competitive advantage of the applicant, but it is also crucial to protect the neutral nature of the Alliance.
If an applicant is rejected by the initial evaluation, they may appeal to the advisory board. The advisory board includes industry leaders with Lego, Burberry and Dawnfoods, and can be called to weigh in on complicated cases.
Secondly, we provide a clear definition of MACH compliance in our certification criteria and strictly adhere to them. As a non-commercial organization, our brand is our ultimate value. To protect the Alliance brand we err on the side of caution.
We believe this rigorous approach to qualification is particularly important to help enterprise buyers navigate the shifting technology market. Nearly every enterprise software vendor has the mission - and most of them the clear roadmap - to move away from legacy towards a MACH architecture. We strongly encourage this transition and understand that doing so requires a large amount of organizational and commercial change.
The Alliance has recently created an additional set of terms to help guide applicants in the transition to becoming a MACH vendor, which at a high-level includes:
- All products currently offered for sale must be MACH
- Non-MACH products cannot be marketed
- Last analyst evaluation from Gartner or Forrester must have been of MACH product(s) only
- Cannot be doing feature releases of non-MACH product
- Documentation and other technical collateral in support of existing legacy non-MACH products may still be available, but nothing is available in terms of thought leadership on the non-MACH product
As the market evolves our criteria needs to evolve to both champion this shift to MACH and preserve the authenticity of a MACH certification. We aim to be transparent about any refinements to certification criteria.
For example, our initial criteria required that every single product a software vendor offered had to be fully MACH compliant. We then saw a handful of vendors that were far along in the process of discontinuing their legacy products and were exclusively promoting and selling MACH products, but still had a few long term customers holding out on their legacy platforms. We believe it is fair for these vendors to be eligible for membership, as any new contract is guaranteed to be MACH compliant. On the opposite end of the spectrum, this year two of our certified members were successfully acquired by larger software companies and have subsequently lost their MACH certification. This is to ensure that vendors cannot use a single MACH compliant offering to “MACH-wash” the marketing for the rest of their portfolio.
The MACH Alliance depends on the volunteered time of our members, and their commitment to due diligence in reviewing applicants. In certain cases, it’s crystal clear that a technology fits with the Alliance and the applicant is accepted in a matter of weeks. Other cases have required intense scrutiny of resources and references with evaluations lasting months or longer. As we’re still in our first year as an organization, and have a finite capacity to process applications, our list of certified members is not a comprehensive view of every MACH-compliant enterprise player. There are vendors and agencies who comply with the full criteria but have not yet gone through the motions to apply. Our guarantee to enterprise buyers is not that we have evaluated every solution on the market, but that the members we have certified have provided extensive proof that their solutions are fully MACH and future-proof.
We’re incredibly grateful this year to our new members who have contributed their time, resources, and financial support to help the MACH Alliance thrive. We’re also grateful for the many applicants we spoke to who are well on their way to becoming composable but have not yet reached the critical threshold for MACH certification. Through these conversations especially, we’ve gained a deeper understanding of what it takes to shift from monolith to MACH and appreciate the honesty and transparency of the organizations on this journey. We’ve seen many exciting roadmaps for this upcoming year, and we look forward to the reapplication of vendors and integrators as they execute on their MACH strategies.
This year has demonstrated just how critical flexibility is for an enterprise business. The MACH Alliance’s mission is to help enterprise organizations to understand how and why a paradigm shift towards composable technologies offers the flexibility to deliver business outcomes better and faster. The goal of our certification program is to identify those technologies that will help them on this path. We are committed to staying true to that goal and will continue to set a high bar for MACH certification to ensure we provide value to our members and retain the trust of enterprise buyers.