Demystifying the MACH Purchasing Journey Q&A
Microservices-based, API-driven, cloud-native, headless (MACH) frameworks have been taking the business world by storm, offering seemingly limitless potential and numerous upsides for organizations who upgrade. But when it comes to replacing or modifying an existing content management system (CMS), there’s often hesitancy or misgivings from stakeholders and important decision makers. Upgrading to a cloud-based, composable architecture after years of successfully using CMS suites might even seem like a task that is simply too difficult for a company’s IT department to navigate.
We sat down with two experts from EPAM, Linda Sasso, Senior Director of Digital Engagement, and Brian Gilmore, Head of Growth for MACH and Acquia in North America, to discuss the details of MACH transformation and demystify the journey from exploration to implementation for businesses.
Q: Let’s dive in. The obvious question is, what is MACH? Why would you start considering MACH in your tech stack?
Linda Sasso: What is MACH? We're talking about an acronym for microservices, API, cloud and headless architecture. The reasons our clients are considering MACH as a tech stack is because they have at least an understanding that a MACH framework is going to enable a more flexible and adaptable solution that allows them to stay ahead of customer expectations, to stay ahead of the competition. And within that, speed to market is really key as well. So, exploring MACH for your next-gen tech stack is a smart move, when flexibility, adaptability and speed to market are key. Especially for our clients within retail and those that have significant commerce goals.
Brian Gilmore: Yeah, Linda, that reminds me of a client that we were recently working with that fit that very definition. They were interested in MACH because they were on a very traditional CMS platform. The client came to us and said, “It literally takes like $1 million and a year to do anything of significance.” They always had to rely on a project managers and developers to get a new site launched. And they had this initiative to basically commerce-enable their site, and they knew they couldn't do it on that legacy infrastructure.
So, they came to EPAM and worked with us to identify a commerce platform that suited their needs from the MACH Alliance. They basically used that as their anchor to create a new MACH-based architecture that enabled them to go to market much more quickly, to adapt and to change according to their customer feedback. That's a very typical MACH journey for someone.
Q: The other thing I also hear about is that MACH architecture is composable. How is that different from the platform strategies of the past?
Brian: Let’s start with a little comparison: The typical thing that a MACH architecture is compared against are your traditional suites. So, the suites of software are like an all-in-one solution that have everything that you might possibly need to run a store or a site of some sort. They might have commerce content, product asset management (PAM), digital asset management (DAM) and all these other things that they need.
But in MACH, when we say, “composable,” what that really means is, you're able to take the different services from these MACH platforms in the cloud and package them up into different business capabilities that now create or represent new products or services that you didn't have before. You can iterate on that to create different go-to-market solutions, and that's one of the things that makes MACH unique compared to those traditional platforms.
Q: So, you’re almost saying it’s like a best of breed.
Q: What are the typical benefits of MACH for the business, IT and the marketing departments? How does a MACH framework help alleviate some of the pressures on IT?
Brian: I think that the first benefit is one that's very often overlooked. Going back to the suite example, a typical suite may try to be everything. It tries to cover all the features, but it may not go as deep as you need. What I find very valuable about the MACH platforms is that each one has a richer and deeper capability set than you would typically find in a suite. They are very much specializing in their particular function, and that's one of the things that makes them best in class from a business perspective.
Linda: On that note of the benefit to customers, if I think about an often-unspoken value or benefit is the value of time. Marketers now can have more time dedicated to, let's say, digging into analytics to optimize their campaign strategies and optimize that experience for the end customer. IT leaders can now dedicate time to research and development (R&D), to innovation. So, the concept that I can now choose how to dedicate my time and provide more value and impact to my organization, I think is a really amazing benefit that we often overlook, but one that I think our clients are really seeing as valuable and as a benefit as well.
Q: What are some of the key considerations before implementing MACH? Obviously, a very big one is the CFO, who can be particularly challenging to get to understand the benefits of MACH.
Linda: Before digging into platform and purchasing considerations, I would say there are internal considerations for organizations. Almost think about it as prerequisites: There needs to be alignment on a vision; there needs to be an enablement path to ensure the organization from top-down and bottom-up is enabled and ready to embark on a MACH journey.
And lastly, I would say advocacy for both the vision and the mindset shift and change that needs to happen in order to really empower and influence the organization and the teams that are going to be embarking on this journey to MACH together.
Q: Before they start the project, is there anything else they should be doing, like assessments?
Brian: It's very often possible that you can miss some of the stakeholders. We all think we know who all the teams are, but one of the things that we do at EPAM is we talk to clients, and we have a framework, or a readiness assessment, that we use to help them gauge what groups within their company are ready for MACH and which ones might need some more focus. This is a great toolset that we make available to clients so they can understand what they need to do to help that adoption.
Q: If I’m a business, how do I get started with MACH? It seems there's a lot to digest.
Brian: Just think back to the last time you were out with your family, your friends, your significant other. Imagine all the food shows up at once. You know — your appetizer, your drinks, your entree, your dessert, your salad. That's not how it works, right? It’d kind of ruin the meal.
When you approach MACH, it's the same analogy as going out to dinner. You want to think about what piece you want to order first. You shouldn't be thinking about trying to order the whole proverbial elephant. One of the keys to starting the MACH journey is finding that one component that adds value.
And in relation to the vision of the journey that you're trying to create and just starting with that — you don't have to figure out the whole course in advance. And you know, my favorite course to start, of course, is dessert. It's totally okay to start with dessert.
Q: Then next steps is purchasing considerations. Any tips that you have? How do you know if a partner is actually credible?
Brian: The first thing I think that's very important to understand is that MACH is just not a marketing term. It's a term that has a very specific meaning. If a vendor or platform is coming to you, and they're saying, “Hey, our technology is MACH-compliant,” there is an actual process they have to go through to be evaluated, to be considered a member of the MACH Alliance. If they don't pass those technical and other considerations, they can't call themselves a member of the MACH Alliance. Just making sure that, first of all, somebody has that credibility means that you're talking to the right kind of partners to begin your journey.
Q: In your opinion, what's the true key takeaway from this conversation?
Linda: If I were to offer one key takeaway today, it is: Don't go at it alone. Make sure that you are choosing a digital solution provider who is credible, who has been validated as part of the MACH Alliance. That's really important. Also, ensuring that you are asking validation questions to select that partner. Don't be afraid to ask about their previous experience. How many implementations have they done? What are some key client stories and success stories that they can share with you? What partnerships do they have as part of the MACH Alliance? That's another critical one as well.
I would say just making sure that your organization internally is prepared to go on this MACH journey. I know I said a lot there, but really that one takeaway is: You don't have to do this alone.
Brian: Some people think, “All right, I want to try something out.” It's never too late to pull in that trusted partner to help you course correct and make changes. This isn't the suites of old, where if you make a mistake, it's like, tens of millions of dollars and multiple years until you can undo that mistake.
One of the beauties of the MACH architecture is it's very easy to change your course, adapt your architecture and work with a partner that can help you make those changes that suit your business the best. That's what I would recommend.
Listen to the full podcast recording here.
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