MACH Alliance: For More Success in E-Commerce

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What makes a digital agency successful? The service portfolio? The know-how? The expertise? The references? Yes, these things are important. But above all: The people and how they work together. Whether within their teams, with clients or with partners.

Successful digital agencies build on strong partnerships. By people. With know-how. With expertise. Which is why we are all the more excited to be able to strengthen our position in the area of partnerships as of today. Effective immediately, dotSource is an official partner of the MACH Alliance. A large step for us, and a (further) large benefit for our clients.

Learn more about which benefits these are and what is behind the MACH Alliance in today’s Handelskraft article.

The only constant in e-commerce is change. Thanks to flexible software solutions, stable infrastructure and agile processes, successful digital agencies do not just keep up with these changes but use them as opportunities to grow with the transformation of e-commerce. Sounds fantastic, right? Modern approaches such as MACH and composable commerce or best of breed, as well as partner networks such as the MACH Alliance make it possible.

M-A-C-H: Four Letters, One Goal

MACH stands for Microservices, API-first, Cloud native SaaS and Headless. With the use of microservices, single components of a system are no longer controlled by one large application, but rather by multiple smaller building blocks with their own features and functions.

Microservices: Modular Components for More Agility

The individual building blocks communicate through API interfaces. Unlike in a traditional, monolithic architecture, all the components of this system can be changed independently and are therefore much more scalable.
In conventional systems, when a component reaches its limits, the entire architecture needs to be scaled accordingly.

As expansion and scaling progresses, the complexity of the system also increases significantly. With microservices, the system can be kept lean even at an advanced stage thanks to intelligent API links.

This facilitates the implementation of new functions or components and ensures application availability. This way, the failure of a single component does not affect the entire system.

In today’s environment, companies must adapt systems to changing trends and diverse market developments more quickly than ever to avoid suffering a competitive disadvantage.

Microservices make it easier for development teams to continuously test new features, integrate, and remove them again. Rather than having to find one-size-fits-all solutions, small teams can adapt the microservice to the respective use case and reuse it as a building block in other projects. This also saves teams more effort down the line.

APIs: Interlocking System Components for Immense Speed

The building blocks that make up a system need a common point to fit together. This is where Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) come in. The classic »code-first« approach is becoming obsolete due to the multitude of microservices.

Instead, programmers are following the API-first approach and determining how interfaces should behave and what requirements they should fulfil before the actual programming.

Therefore, the development process begins with the documentation of the desired capabilities of the software or the desired solution to the problem. These requirements should then be fulfilled by the APIs.
Such an approach allows developers to:

    • Recognise problems quickly
    • Use the fast-fail method
    • Implement extensions to the applications very quickly
    • Reuse features across projects and systems

Here is another example of how duplicate efforts can be saved and the synchronised use of microservices can accelerate scaling considerably.
However, teams need to make sure that they plan the deployment of a system thoroughly in advance. Since these kinds of systems consist of many different building blocks, the integration and interaction between the multitude of interfaces must be well thought out.

Development teams must first learn how to work with systems made this way and adapt their strategies accordingly. The implementation of the API-first approach promises unprecedented scalability if handled properly.

Cloud: SaaS Applications for an Agile System Landscape

When it comes to the ability to react to competitors and market changes in an agile way, the cloud plays a decisive role. The trend is moving away from on-premises software and towards cloud services – and not without reason.
The SaaS (software-as-a-service) model is an integral part of the MACH Alliance philosophy because it is the only way teams can achieve such a degree of scalability in the first place. The other components of the philosophy are of no use to the company if the system landscape cannot change flexibly and agilely. The systems must grow with the company or risk creating a bottleneck that affects the data flow of the entire organisation.

With SaaS, companies can take full advantage of all the possibilities that microservices and APIs offer. Without this, valuable resources and opportunities remain untapped. Teams use the components on-demand, saving them infrastructure and maintenance costs.

Additionally, systems are better protected from data theft in the cloud of a specialised provider than in the company’s own server room. Providers can also guarantee availability better and shorten time-to-market, resulting in a possible competitive advantage.

Headless for Intelligent Commerce

In the headless approach, front- and backends are handled separately. Conventional systems consist of a front- and a backend that are dependent on one another – the entire system is interconnected. This inhibits the flexibility that companies adhering to the MACH philosophy need.

A headless system is a platform without one set frontend. Developers can lay any type of frontend, or user interface, on it. Content maintenance takes place in the backend, and the various user interfaces then pick up the content and play it out in a wide variety of ways.

The same content can be presented in multiple ways without needing to make any changes to the backend. It can also be played out on different devices, with only the presentation possibly needing adjustments. This even works on devices such as smart watches, which greatly differ from conventional devices in their usage.

Content can be changed in the backend without being dependant on adjustments in the frontends. This lets changes be implemented with unparalleled speed, and without the user noticing anything.

All of this can happen in the background without any system downtime. Teams can react to new emergences in the market by developing changes behind the scenes and then simply implementing them during running operations.

Especially when combined with microservices, headless systems can fully leverage their potential.

The exceedingly rapid development of systems these days can be overwhelming. To ensure that companies make the best use of all these new opportunities, it is advisable to benefit from external expertise during planning and implementation.

Composable Commerce and Best of Breed

Composable commerce is the future. At the latest since this year’s Gartner report, this is beyond question. But the selection of different systems and the integration of a composable commerce platform can initially seem very complex to companies.

However, the approach has numerous advantages to help keep pace in the rapidly changing digital world. Last year’s technologies are already becoming obsolete and new approaches offer amazing competitive potential.

At the commerce level, there are various possibilities to individually compile your system landscape. This is called best of breed or composable commerce, depending on the perspective.

Composable Commerce: Advantages

Companies that move away from all-in-one solutions and opt for services from different providers are primarily less dependent and can easily replace individual systems if they do not meet the desired requirements anymore. Another advantage lies in scalability.

Companies can build individual components of a system in a way that they are scalable and can cover certain peak loads. With multiple smaller applications, it is easier to directly identify which system might be posing a bottleneck – a job that is very difficult when you have one large monolithic application.

The clear separation of components also makes it easier to parallelise the development of new features and the maintenance of the systems. This in turn helps the company to identify individual departments for things like PIM and ERP, and to define clear responsibilities. This can prevent units from having to work in the same system at the same time and maybe even hindering each other.

By using smaller components, companies can also present new features to their shop users more quickly and react to the market in a more agile way.

Composable Commerce a.k.a. Best of Breed?

How does this concept differ from the »best of breed« approach?
Ultimately, both approaches pursue a similar goal. Companies use these principles to select the systems best suited to their requirements.

Nevertheless, there are differences. The name composable commerce already indicates that the focus is on the integration and networking of systems. With best of breed, on the other hand, this is not the main focus.
It is more about making the best choice for the respective system.

Moreover, the focus of composable commerce is on e-commerce, while best of breed generally refers to the entire business architecture – so components that have nothing to do with commerce can also play a role.

MACH and Composable

M – Microservices, A – API first, C – Cloud native Saas and H – Headless are principles which can be optimally combined with the composable commerce or best of breed approaches. Microservices create synergies particularly in SaaS portfolios due to their distinct scaling options.

They map business logics that standard systems cannot. Two small services that do one task very well can become ten, if necessary – for example, for an e-commerce shop during the busy Christmas season.

API-first and headless approaches help with the parallelisability of processes and the logical division of components. APIs make it possible to connect individual components and can quickly add new processes through interface thinking.

Even if a company works with multiple different systems, they must be managed holistically. A cloud-native approach enables fast and secure access to the infrastructure of different systems.

MACH Alliance: Partner Network for the Commerce of the Future

The MACH Alliance’s international certification program has built a member network of system integrators, enablers, and providers who use MACH principles to develop software and drive the e-commerce field forward.

The non-profit organisation supports buyers on their way to a flexible, interface-based digital landscape through expert training and networking events.

The long-standing dotSource partner commercetools was a founding member of the MACH Alliance in 2020 along with Contentstack, EPAM Systems and Valtech. But the MACH Alliance is open to all like-minded companies who wish to join. Other dotSource partners such as Akeneo, Bloomreach and Contentful are also members of the international organisation headquartered in New York.

MACH Alliance Membership Requires Long-Standing Expertise and Project Experience

To become a member of the MACH Alliance, companies, including dotSource, go through a strict application process. Proof of successful projects undertaken using microservices, API-first, cloud-native and headless technologies are required.

Successful MACH Projects: TROX & Hagebau

Together with our customers, we have been relying on these four magic letters for many years. For example, in our work with the ventilation systems manufacturer TROX. We have been accompanying the B2B company on its digital journey since 2017. Whether strategy development and project management, an interface based B2B platform with a project configurator, digital marketing and web analytics or UX design: what began as a challenging e-commerce project six years ago has become an intensive partnership with multi-stream success thanks to MACH principles.
It is precisely this flexible system structure that has made it possible for TROX to easily add, exchange or expand features such as product or process configurators over the years – all without major maintenance or downtimes.

With dotSource’s help, the building materials dealer hagebau also went from a monolith to an innovative content delivery network. Their new solution grants all hagebau shareholders, regardless of which e-commerce solution they use, central access to content elements that they can repurpose to offer their own users appealing commerce content. The basis for this is the headless CMS by MACH Alliance member Contentful.

Even More Exchange, Expertise and Further MACH Projects

For us, membership in the MACH Alliance is by no means the first step towards composable commerce.

But, as we have learned: If there is one thing we can rely on in e-business, it is permanent change. The rules of the game are constantly shifting. Keeping ourselves sharp for MACH principles is a logical consequence, and an important step to be able to continue offering our clientele what we promise.

We look forward to exciting insights, new inspirations, and an enriching exchange on microservice architectures and headless solutions.
Together with our partners commercetools, Akeneo, Contentful and Bloomreach, we will implement numerous other exciting projects in the coming months and years and push the development of digital experience platforms with MACH architecture even further.

MACH in Practice: Download TROX Success Story for Free Now!

trox e-commerce success storyYou can find even more practical insights into the advantages of the MACH architecture in the TROX Success Stories. Learn what successful digitisation in B2B can look like with dotSource as your partner.

You too can find a solution tailored to your needs in an individual consultation.

Fill out the form now and receive a free copy directly in your mailbox.

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