The importance of composable tech with Jasmin Guthmann

We catched up with VP of MACH Alliance Jasmin for a deep-dive into all things MACH.

  • Topic
    MACH Technology

Jasmin Guthmann has always been drawn to spaces and industries where there’s a lot of movement, fast dynamics, and smart people.

Change, doing things that haven’t been done before, pushing boundaries, and not having anything set in stone, have always driven Jasmin. It’s why there’s a certain sense of inevitability, in a career that spans advertising and financial services, she’s ended up leading, flourishing and thriving in the worlds of tech and digital.

Jasmin is currently Head of Corporate Communication at Contentstack and has been an integral part of the MACH Alliance since its inception in 2020 – serving as its Vice President and as an Executive Board Member.

We’re proud to be members of the MACH Alliance and the MACH ethos (Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, Headless) is one we firmly believe in. However, we know that composable commerce and MACH itself are relatively new concepts for many people so – after having her as one of the keynote speakers at our Retail Breakfast Club – we took the chance to catch up with Jasmin and take a deep-dive into all things MACH and composable tech.

Where did the idea for MACH come from?

In 2020, a handful of companies got together and founded the MACH Alliance. It began as this super cool idea where we said to ourselves – “Hey, why can’t we put our day to day aside for a minute and get together – despite the fact we’re competitors – to do what’s right and educate the market?”

This was a big thing because, three years ago, nobody was using the term composable and no one really knew what it meant – and it’s still something many people don’t fully understand because we see a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon saying their tech is composable when it’s not.

Composable is the future. MACH is the future if you want to build a flexible tech stack. Because if you build a tech stack that’s composable it means you can be faster, more efficient, and freer to do as you please and as your customers demand.

Why is having a composable tech stack so important?

There are so many reasons we could jump into but let’s start with this – if you want to be better able to meet not just today’s, but tomorrow’s challenges, then you need a tech stack that allows you to adapt quickly, and that’s where MACH and composability can really work some magic.

Look at the customer. The customer today wants it their way fast, and has no understanding or patience for things like ‘our back end can’t do that.’ If something doesn’t work or an experience doesn’t happen the way a customer expects then the chances are they won’t be your customer for much longer.

So there’s a huge part of it that is making sure you match and exceed customer expectations.

But it doesn’t stop there. For me, it’s so beautiful to see how much better teams collaborate when they make the switch from a monolithic platform to a composable approach.

Teams are happier, they’re more productive, you have less employee churn, you can future proof your business and create more return on investment – and who wouldn’t want that from a C-suite perspective?

Future proofing your business also has another component if you’ve transitioned or if you’re transitioning to a composable stack. Whatever is needed 12 months from now, 16 months from now, 18 months from now, 24 months from now, you’ll be able to integrate that into your stack because it is just another component.

And we don’t know what we’re going to need in the future. If you’re a retailer, anybody who tells you they know is lying because everything is developing so quickly. Nobody has a crystal ball so nobody knows what it is that businesses are going to need.

Moving to a composable stack will put you in a position where you don’t need to know now because you will have the flexibility in the future to adapt to the ever-changing landscape. And that will not be possible if you’re on a legacy platform that doesn’t allow you to do that because it’s not API first or cloud-native.

If a business wants to change from a monolithic platform to a composable stack, what’s the best way of doing it?

Obviously this will vary for different businesses. We’re still very much in the early adoption phase because a lot of people – for various different reasons – feel bound to the platform they’re already using.

If the tech teams had their way they would have migrated to a composable stack long ago. But then there’s business dependencies, and there’s different stakeholders and there’s obligations to consider.

So, what the forward thinking people are doing is to slice away at the monolith. Day by day, they take another little thing out – many times without even telling the monolith what they are doing.

I’ve spoken to people who are in charge of these processes and some of them are now choosing to not educate their board on the technology behind it. Their reasoning is that the digital maturity of the board, for example, may not be that high. Or they just don’t care that much about the tech; they care about the results first and foremost. Rightfully so.

Do people like this need to understand what composable means and how it works? No, they don’t. What they care about is what it’s going to do for the business, if it will produce faster returns, if it’s going to make processes more efficient, will it boost profitability and so on.

So the Product Owners are forgoing the technical conversations and instead saying ‘let me do it the way I think is sensible.’ And I think that’s a great approach.

What’s the biggest reason that stops people from changing to a composable stack?

People are generally much more afraid of change than the people bringing about the change assume. It’s hard to leave something you know inside out that you use every day – you may complain about it every day but you know your way around and you’re familiar with it.

Dropping that to do something completely new is one of the scariest things you can ask of people. And then, with new technology, there’s always a new way of working involved as well. You have to log into a new platform, you have to learn how to navigate it, and become comfortable with the new way of doing things – it’s a lot.

That’s why it’s really important to make sure the people who work with the tools actually see the benefit. ‘Build it and they will come’ doesn’t work anymore because if you don’t work hard to show the benefits of your tools it’s going to be very hard to get people to adopt the new stuff.

What are some of the biggest myths around MACH-based technology?

One of the big things that scares people is moving away from a monolith to five separate vendors because they see it as five times the work. The reality is this is a big misconception. Just because you’re procuring five things doesn’t mean they’re five separate things. What will actually happen is yes, you procure them individually right now, but then you build it into one cohesive stack and, because they are all API-first, you’ll be able to log in to all of them at once as they are all integrated.

What I’d encourage everyone to do is look at new ways of working. For example, sit down with your legal team before you start procuring and you say: “Hey, we used to have one RFP, we now intend to split it up into five pieces. What’s the best way to go about it so your life is easier on the contract side of things?” It’s so much better to have that conversation in the beginning rather than to run into everybody bitching that things are so much more annoying than it used to be later.

On a personal level, what excites about the future of tech and where we’re heading?

It’s equal parts scared and equal parts excited – which I think is true for most people.

What I’m super excited about is we’ve never before been in a position where things are changing so quickly. Six months ago most companies were unsure about AI. Now everybody is using it and saying it’s completely changing the way they do business.

It feels like we’re on the brink of a revolution where a lot of things are going to change and we don’t know what that’s going to look like. The exciting part about it is we have an influence and an opportunity to create things that are better and serve the needs of the people that use them.

The big question is how much good change can we bring about? It’s our responsibility to not shy away from how AI is changing things but to really go and see what it’s capable of, what the technology can do, and then identify how we can use it to society’s advantage and to be the change we want to see in the world.

We have more opportunities to do that than ever – so long as we’re not scared. I think if you’re bold – and if you’re ready to seize the opportunities – this is one of the most exciting times to live in.

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