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Composable vs. monolithic: Which is right for you?

The Contentstack TeamJan 05, 2023

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Businesses are trying to create better customer experiences, so composable digital experience platforms (DXPs) are becoming more popular. But what are they? How do they compare to monolithic platforms? And how do you choose the right one for your business? In this blog post, we will answer these questions and more.

What is a digital experience platform (DXP)?

Digital experience platforms (DXP) are purpose-built technology solutions for creating, managing, delivering and optimizing consistent digital experiences across different customer touchpoints. These tools offer businesses a valuable way to communicate with their users through content and obtain customer feedback through data collection.

Companies can utilize DXPs to create content tailored to websites, email campaigns, mobile apps, social media channels, e-commerce sites, IoT devices, digital signage systems and more. Beyond simply broadcasting content on each platform, DXPs also allow marketers to automate marketing activities and develop a unified digital experience that can take users toward their desired goals or objectives.

DXPs help companies understand what customers want and need. They can do this by looking at how customers act online on websites, social media, and other online places. Businesses can then use this information to reach out in new ways or to improve their relationships with existing customers. Ultimately, using a DXP helps organizations make more sales or conversions by providing a better user experience across multiple channels.

What is composable architecture?

Composable architecture is an innovative way of organizing and managing software development that separates front-end and back-end code. This technique enables teams to create, modify and launch content without relying on developers for coding. This method of organization helps speed up development and make it more efficient. 

Composable architecture makes developing software easier while encouraging teamwork between different departments. For example, if you use a composable content management system, the marketing team can make changes and publish their work without waiting for developers to finish coding. This way, teams can post new content more quickly. Additionally, developers can focus on creating unique experiences and features instead of being bogged down with marketing tasks or fixes.

What is a monolithic DXP?

A monolithic DXP solution is an all-in-one platform that provides a suite of tools for managing content. These platforms are designed to enable users to store, manage and publish content quickly and easily. They typically offer features such as content editing options, user permissions and roles and media asset management.

Monolithic content management solution platforms can be rigid in terms of how they operate and may not be able to keep up with the ever-changing needs of a business. Additionally, they tend to take longer to customize than composable DXP systems.

What is a composable DXP?

The composable DXP concept is still relatively new and has become increasingly popular recently. A composable DXP is a platform that allows digital teams to assemble individual services or microservices into an experience that meets their specific needs. This innovative type of DXP is essentially an assembly of best-of-breed solutions to deliver content and digital experiences to customers in a much more agile, flexible and efficient way than a single monolithic platform.

As opposed to the traditional monolithic approach taken with DXPs, this microservices approach enables companies to cost-effectively customize their DXP according to their business needs. Furthermore, allowing for a greater level of scalability and interoperability allows faster time-to-market for new features or services, as well as improved customer satisfaction.

The composable approach gives organizations better control over their digital experiences and helps them stay ahead of their competition by enabling them to focus on innovation instead of maintenance. A composable solution makes it easier for businesses to move quickly while keeping up with the ever-changing technology landscape.

What to consider when comparing a composable and monolithic DXPs

Can the platform integrate with solutions your team currently uses?

Monolithic suites are large programs often made up of products obtained through acquisitions and then given a makeover in terms of branding and user experience to fit into the overarching process. Such products lack the open-source code needed to integrate them seamlessly with other solutions, which can limit their utility as part of a more comprehensive DXP solution. This technique makes it simple for internal integration, but external integration can be difficult or even impossible.

On the other hand, with a composable DXP, external integration is better facilitated due to its ability to connect with existing best-of-breed solutions more readily. As such, organizations have more control over how their digital experiences are created and tailored for their specific audiences. Furthermore, each individual component can be monitored separately from the rest of the system, allowing for greater visibility into performance and ease of scalability when needed. Ultimately, a composable DXP offers organizations greater flexibility and agility compared to monolithic platforms by providing enhanced external integrations and visibility into performance metrics on an individual basis.

How much time will it take to deploy the platform?

Deploying a new monolithic suite can require significant time and effort — sometimes months — and demands constant monitoring for unexpected changes or challenges during set-up.

Moreover, it's necessary to ensure that all employees acquire the required skills to work effectively in this new environment. Besides the technical implications of such large-scale transition projects, there are also social and psychological implications that business leaders should take into consideration. Companies must be aware that transition periods affect team dynamics and thus must create an atmosphere of collaboration that encourages employee engagement and satisfaction throughout the process.

On the other hand, a composable DXP approach allows companies to start quickly, taking advantage of the existing knowledge their staff already has. This strategy eliminates the need for extensive training since they can be up and running with a condensed feature set using workflows they're already familiar with.

How will we keep the platform up-to-date?

Companies can easily keep their composable DXPs up-to-date as the various vendors focus solely on perfecting their solutions. Additionally, organizations can frequently enhance open-source products with improved customizations and updates that won't depend on the vendor.

For monolithic suites, a single vendor provides updates and new features; however, some of these “nice-to-have” additions may take an extended amount of time to be implemented to the platform  — if at all. Even minor bugs can be left without resolution until suite-wide updates are rolled out. Companies should be aware that they may not always get timely fixes for any issues they encounter while using DXPs with a single-source provider.

How secure are these platforms?

A composable architecture allows security updates and patching solutions to be implemented quickly for each component without hindering other systems. This expedited process allows for swift response times in case a breach or vulnerability is discovered. 

However, if a security flaw is found in one component of an entire suite, it can likely extend to the whole system, thereby rendering the entire suite susceptible to exploitation. Consequently, organizations must take extra care when monitoring their suites for security flaws to ensure that all corners of their system are protected from malicious actors.

On the other hand, monolithic solutions can be patched as a single software package. Still, patches may need to happen when the system is not being used, causing extended exposure to vulnerabilities.

Conclusion

Composable DXPs offer more flexibility and agility compared to monolithic platforms. This means they can scale better, have new features and services faster and improve customer satisfaction. They also provide shorter deployment times, easier updates and enable responsive security updates. However, while they may be more flexible than a single-vendor platform, companies must still carefully monitor their systems for any potential security flaws or vulnerabilities that could put their entire suite at risk. Ultimately, businesses can make informed decisions about which type of system best meets their needs by understanding the differences between these two approaches to digital experience delivery and the pros and cons of each.

Learn more

Learn more about composable architecture in our guide, “The ultimate marketer’s guide to composable DXPs.”

Schedule a free demo to see how Contentstack’s composable DXP can help your organization deliver the digital experiences your customers crave.

About Contentstack

The Contentstack team comprises highly skilled professionals specializing in product marketing, customer acquisition and retention, and digital marketing strategy. With extensive experience holding senior positions in notable technology companies across various sectors, they bring diverse backgrounds and deep industry knowledge to deliver impactful solutions.  

Contentstack stands out in the headless composable DXP market with an impressive track record of 87 G2 user awards, six analyst recognitions, and three industry accolades, showcasing its robust market presence and user satisfaction.

Check out our case studies to see why industry-leading companies trust Contentstack.

Experience the power of Contentstack's award-winning platform by scheduling a demo, starting a free trial, or joining a small group demo today.

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This approach takes you one step ahead of the competition as you successfully involve customers during every interaction. The rise of composable commerce in retail For a long time, retailers have faced numerous challenges with traditional commerce systems, including: Slow adaptability and rigid response to new market demands. Hindered agility and innovation. There needs to be more adequate customization and personalization. A composable system emphasizing flexibility and modularity helps you overcome these hurdles and create new chances for growth and success. Using these systems, you follow the market's trends, personalize customer experience, and optimize operational efficiency. This metamorphosis has prepared grounds for an agile and customer-oriented future. These systems utilize the capability of APIs and software integrations to formulate a dynamic and unified trade environment. A composable approach provides agility, scalability, and innovation, leading to greater customer experience and business growth. What are the critical features of composable commerce? The key features of composable commerce are: APIs: The composable system relies on APIs to connect different software components and create a customized commerce experience. Packaged business capabilities (PBC): The tech stack includes various PBCs, such as content management systems, customer experience platforms, inventory management, and order processing. Unified commerce ecosystem: This feature focuses on the integration of various components throughout the entire commerce journey, including inventory management, customer service, and beyond. By seamlessly connecting these features, you deliver an unparalleled and cohesive customer experience that is both efficient and satisfying. Integrating this approach in your retail business empowers you to streamline operations, enhance customer satisfaction, and drive sustainable growth in an ever-evolving digital landscape. How to build a composable commerce platform If you're considering building a composable platform for your business, there are a few key steps to help you through the process: Define your business goals While transitioning to a composable system is complex, identify your business objectives. Ask questions such as: Why do you want to transition to composable commerce platforms? What do you expect the composable approach to achieve? Clearly outline the areas requiring improvements, such as business growth, customer experience, and operational efficiency. Tip: From the start, document your objectives and goals and ensure they're achievable. This forms the building blocks for your success. Go through your existing tech infrastructure Your existing tech infrastructure might be hindering the adoption of a composable system. Verify whether your current infrastructure is modular and compatible with external services. Knowledge of these gaps helps you decode the upgrades and migration required before you think about using a composable system. Tip: Ensure your tech stack supports API-driven microservices and architecture. Research and choose various components Perform in-depth research to find services and components aligning with your business goals and objectives. Start by considering features like CMS, payment gateways, inventory management systems, marketing automation tools, etc. Tip: Again, choose components with a robust API infrastructure because it helps you customize and extend functionalities. Rethink your integration strategies Avoid the "hasty" integration approach. Instead, go slow by prioritizing critical components. This approach serves two purposes, Minimizes disruption of the existing workflows and operations. It helps you test and optimize your process along the way. Tip: Going slow with your integration helps your business evolve and transition toward a composable future. Train and upskill your employees The paradigm shift toward composable systems can become overwhelming for your employees. So, prepare your team for this change. Provide training and resources to support them in working seamlessly with modular components and maintaining the system's security and stability. Partner with experts While you train your employees to adapt to this digital maturity, consider partnering with service providers or experts who can guide you through the transition to composable systems while providing valuable insights and support. Monitor and evolve Your work doesn't end after the migration. Why not? A composable system’s implementation is not a one-time affair but an ongoing effort. So, consistently monitor it. Tip: Keep an eye on emerging technologies to ensure your tech infrastructure remains agile and adaptable to future requirements. The technical side of composable commerce Composable commerce is built on the core principles of MACH architecture. These components work together to provide you and your customers with a seamless and flexible digital experience. Microservices: Microservices act as the building blocks of composable commerce. A microservice architecture provides a decoupled and decentralized approach to meet individual retailer requirements. API-first approach: These systems focus on the API-first approach, where different parts of the eCommerce system communicate using APIs. This approach enables integrated and best-of-breed solutions. Additionally, APIs allow you to create a tech stack based on your requirements without relying on the functionality of full apps or pre-built plugins. Cloud-native architecture: Composable solutions are cloud-native, helping you independently scale to meet demand. Additionally, this easily integrates with other cloud-based services while providing a reliable experience to your customers. Headless Architecture: Headless commerce refers to decoupling the front end from the back end functionality. These two sides remain connected via an API. At the core of digital commerce exists a headless architecture. It gives you a better grip on the customer experience, helping you make changes in the front end without altering the back end functionality. Advantages of composable commerce Composable commerce offers many advantages, such as flexibility, scalability, and superior customer experience. To demonstrate the benefits of composable commerce, let's explore some real-time case studies where this technology proved helpful: Provides flexibility and agility Composable commerce empowers you to choose components within your ecommerce systems to meet your business needs. While selecting and configuring components based on your requirements is time-consuming, it improves your future business agility. You are no longer in the grip of monolithic solutions. Case study: How has Contentstack helped Dawn Foods' website become 80% faster than other sites? Dawn Foods faced the challenge of migrating from traditional orders to online services and was looking for an agile platform. For its MACH infrastructure, Dawn Foods chose Contentstack. Contentstack's composable digital experience platform (DXP) supported faster content updates, provided better customer experiences and helped them respond to customer preferences, making their online order site agile and customer-centric. Read the entire case study, "Cartier improves brand integrity and operations efficiency." What do our customers say? "Content updates in our site run 80% faster compared to publishing with a monolith CMS. In some cases, the content that could take up to a week to publish using a monolith CMS, we can publish in less than an hour with Contentstack." - Bob Howland, Chief Digital Officer, Dawn Foods Ensures superior customer experiences: Delivering exceptional customer experience is the heart and soul of today's competitive landscape. This technology helps you customize and personalize every touch point in the customer's journey, resulting in happier, engaged, and satisfied customers. Case study: How did Contentstack ensure a consistent experience for RetailMeNot customers? RetailMeNot faced challenges changing their website content and making back-end systems work together. They turned to Contentstack’s composable DXP to manage content and connect these systems. Using reusable components, Contentstack created and updated content without needing to write new code every time. This helped RetailMeNot update the website while ensuring a consistent customer experience. Read the entire case study, "RetailMeNot creates omnichannel content at light speeds." What do our customers say? “We’re able to use the content types in Contentstack to define the experience, the layout, the different components, as well as the way we fulfill the components.” - Gary Newcomb, Principal Engineer, RetailMeNot Enhances scalability The modular design and cloud-native approach of composable systems allow you to scale your operations up or down without disrupting existing processes. This scalability ensures business continuity and growth. Case study: How has Contentstack scaled MTR's operations? MTR Corporation wanted to increase its MTR mobile app experience by consolidating separate reward programs into one. Contentstack used the composable DXP’s ability to integrate with various channels to ensure MTR delivered omnichannel content. Contentstack's scalability allowed the MTR mobile app to shift from an ordinary app into a lifestyle platform that handles surges in user traffic while delivering content through various media channels. Read the entire case study, "MTR delivers rail riders an enhanced omnichannel experience." Increases innovation API-driven architecture helps you try different technologies, test your ideas, and innovate. It creates a culture of improvement and enables you to remain on the cutting edge of retail innovations. Case study: How did Contentstack help Cartier innovate? Cartier faced the challenge of managing multiple websites with inconsistent technology, time-intensive content updates, and a lack of brand alignment; they chose Contentstack's Composable DXP for its flexibility and ease of content management. Contentstack streamlined the website development and content reuse and created an innovative template-based "website factory" for creating localized sites. This innovation resulted in quicker site developments, seamless customer experience, and unified brand integrity across all the touchpoints. Read the entire case study, "Cartier improves brand integrity and operations efficiency." Predictions for composable commerce and retail innovation Because of the development and implementation of composable commerce solutions in the retail industry, you will likely witness exciting improvements in the next few years. With 70% of large and mid-sized businesses likely to include composability in their approval process for new applications by 2024, the foreseeable future of composable commerce shines bright. Some predictions include: Growth of microservices Modular design will remain a key focus area in the future, and you can expect to see more microservices in composable systems. Building a composable infrastructure requires smaller, specialized services because they offer greater flexibility and scalability. Integration of AI and personalization Integrating artificial intelligence (AI) to handle and analyze data collected through various touch points will provide personalized experiences for customers. This will lead to a smoother and more personalized shopping experience. Rise of headless commerce As headless commerce ensures greater customization and flexibility, you can expect more headless commerce-based solutions that offer distinctive and engaging customer experiences. With 92% of businesses agreeing that headless commerce makes it easier to deliver a consistent experience, this demonstrates its capability and growing impact on the business landscape. FAQ section How does composable commerce improve the time to market for new products? Composable commerce allows you to easily add or replace components in your tech stack, leading to faster innovation and quicker response to market changes. What specific business challenges does this composable system address? Composable systems address several business challenges, including the need for customization, flexibility, and speed in delivering unique customer experiences. Can you integrate composable systems with existing commerce systems? Yes, you can integrate composable systems with existing systems using APIs and software integrations. How does composable commerce support the customization of the customer experience? Composable commerce enables businesses to tailor their systems to meet specific needs and deliver unique customer journeys. What are packaged business capabilities (PBCs), and how do they relate to composable commerce? PCBs are software components easily added or replaced in a tech stack. They are crucial to creating a flexible and customizable composable commerce platform. The future of retail is composable Composable commerce is the future - or at least a revolutionary change empowering the future of retail and eCommerce. Its ability to enable retailers to make changes in the future drives its rapid adoption. Regardless of trends that come and go - including artificial intelligence, virtual reality, or any other disruptive innovation - composable commerce supports your business requirements. So, are you ready to jump on the retail revolution bandwagon and prepare your business to use the composable commerce approach? Schedule a demo today to see how our product can help you achieve your business goals.

Nov 17, 2023 | 6 min. read

Agile development: Building composable software for digital efficiency

Until a few years ago, developers built software and applications using the traditional monolithic approach. And they were satisfied with it. But, since composable software became a buzzword, the software development world hasn’t looked back. But what led to the shift from a monolithic to a composable approach? Dynamic business and customer requirements and businesses’ inability to adapt to such rapid changes gave rise to the new revolution called "Composable Software." With the composable applications and infrastructure market likely to reach $14.35 billion by 2028, most next-gen applications will be composable and integrated with video and speed capabilities while offering enterprise-level scalability.  This article explores the fundamental principles and steps in creating a composable modular software infrastructure. But let's start by exploring what composable software is. What is composable software? Composable software is built using reusable building blocks. This involves assembling loosely coupled and independent components and services to create complex applications.  Remember the time you played Lego and used the Lego block to assemble, disassemble, and create innovative things? Composable software works on the same principle. You can build composable applications by making smaller components instead of starting the development process at step one.  This results in more flexibility and adaptability for business operations. A practical example of composable software is a process where you can reuse functions from existing libraries to build your application.  The role of application programming interface (APIs) Composable software is primarily built around APIs. As a result, APIs ensure communication between software components, helping you to assemble these components and create complex applications.  Another reason APIs are critical in composable software is that they provide abstraction. They expose only the necessary interfaces and mask the complex implementation details.  This helps you focus on integrating new functionalities rather than worrying about the technical know-how of every component.  How do APIs improve application development efficiency? With APIs, you can compose and decompose applications based on changing business requirements. As it incorporates pre-existing functions, you no longer have to develop an app from scratch, helping to save you time and money. In addition, you can implement changes and upgrades to a single component without disrupting the entire application. This ensures the application development process is leaner and more agile, helping you meet your growing business demands. Advantages of composable architecture Composable architecture helps you build more scalable, flexible, and adaptable digital applications. Here are some benefits of composable architecture:  Improves efficiency and development speed Composable architecture deconstructs a system into independent components, improving efficiency and development speed. Writing and testing unit cases becomes easier as you can test individual components. Composable architecture makes identifying and rectifying errors easy, which speeds up development. The speed at which you can launch a feature in a composable environment is much higher. Because you only test/build small and independent components rather than fully-grown apps. Contentstack accelerated K2 Sports website implementation by 75% K2 Sports had difficulty managing its website, which was built on a homegrown CMS and Demandware. Its team experienced development challenges due to the highly technical nature of its CMS. So, K2 used Contentstack’s headless CMS.  Contentstack’s intuitive interface made the business less dependent on developers and enabled automation. Read the case study on how implementing Contentstack DXP resulted in 75% faster website development, 90% faster content delivery, and a 50% increase in productivity.  What do our customers say? "Contentstack is a versatile headless CMS. Onboarding was straightforward and quick. It was easy for the developers to set up and integrate applications with it. It was easy for the project managers and marketing people to use." - Nicole Fugere, Director of Web Services, K2. Promotes innovation The modular nature of composable architecture fosters a culture of innovation. As a result, you can test new features or functionalities without causing any disruptions to the pre-existing systems.  This ability to experiment and iterate paves the way for continuous innovation in the business environment, ensuring that businesses stay ahead of their competitors while opening new frontiers in software development. Offers a more secure option Compared to monolithic architecture, composable architecture provides higher security. As every component operates independently, this reduces the chances of cyberattacks. If one part of the component gets compromised, you contain the impact on that component, ensuring it doesn't disrupt the existing system. Ensures flexibility  Composable architecture is flexible and modular, allowing you to modify, upgrade, or replace components without disrupting the entire system. This flexibility is crucial in the digital landscape, as it helps you to respond quickly to market requirements. Today, developers seek such flexibility, as it improves the application while enhancing its stability. Contentstack accelerated REWE content creator's workflow REWE core website REWE.de was built using an expensive, customized, Java-based monolith CMS. This led to maintenance problems, unpleasant developer experiences, and complex dependencies.  So, REWE chose Contentstack’s headless CMS as it offered a more flexible approach, making it possible to roll out implementation in phases. Read the case study on how this phased implementation enhanced the productivity of their content manager and streamlined the workflows towards an agile content development process. What do our customers say? "You don't dismantle a decade-old monolith overnight. Our phased approach meant we could course correct as we progressed, maximizing the return on the investment in the pilot phase. In addition, deeper technical sessions for the most advanced content managers established trust." - Eduardo Zamin, Engineering Manager, Rewe Digital. Provides scalability Scalability is one of the benefits inherent in composable architecture that helps businesses increase system size. The architecture utilizes modular components for scaling specific functionalities. When one part of the system scales, it doesn’t impact the other components, creating a resilient and flexible system.  Composable architecture is cost-effective as it allows you to have scalable and responsive IT systems. This ensures optimum use of resources.  Building blocks of a composable software The building blocks of composable software are packaged business capabilities (PBCs). These independent modular components of functionality help build a composable system.  PBCs include inventory control management, customer relationship management, payment processing, and order management. The power of PBCs lies in their modularity, as these can be used independently or with other PBCs.  How modular components lead to a composable business As modular components fulfill a specific function, you can combine them to create an adaptable and comprehensive business solution or software. Adding, deleting, and modifying components empowers you to create customized applications and swiftly react to dynamic business requirements - leading to a composable business. Modular components ensure continuous improvement and innovation in a composable business. You can replace or change these components independently, helping you integrate the latest technologies and practices in the development process. This means your business stays at the forefront of technological advancements and creates a continuous learning and adaptation culture. Strategies for building composable software Here are some strategies to consider when developing applications with composable design: Build a composable infrastructure Composable infrastructure represents physical resources like storage, networking, and computing components. You can dynamically pool and allocate these resources based on the specific requirements of applications. In a composable infrastructure, you treat your devices as a service. When building one, ensure it allows a seamless integration with different PBCs. Use microservices and APIs Microservices break large applications into independent and scalable services. Each service is developed, deployed, and scaled independently, promoting agility and resilience. APIs help these microservices to communicate with each other and other systems, ensuring interoperability. In tandem, they develop agile and modular architectures that meet dynamic business requirements. Implement agile methods Use an agile development approach to build composite software. Agile development relies on iterative development, continuous improvement, and responsiveness to change, principles that align with composable designs' flexible and modular nature.  You can develop, test, and refine individual components in parallel, reduce development time, and increase an app’s quality using agile methods. Agile software uses continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) techniques. This helps you to make changes or add new features to the existing components. FAQs 1. How does composable software support digital transformation? Composable software supports digital transformation by helping businesses to adapt to changing market requirements and demand. Its modular design ensures easy integration with existing IT infrastructure, facilitating seamless digital transitions. 2. What are the cost benefits of switching to composable applications? The shift to composable applications brings about substantial cost savings. These modular components reduce the time and cost of development. As composable software offers flexibility, it can easily accommodate changing business requirements, reducing the need for costly overhauls. 3. How do composable technologies integrate with existing IT infrastructure? To integrate composable technologies with existing IT infrastructure, use APIs. This ensures a seamless workflow between different software components, irrespective of the technology or platform they are built on. Are you ready to embrace composable software? Adopting composable software is the smartest thing you can do to remain ahead on the digital innovation curve, as it will revolutionize your software development process. Embracing this innovative approach gives you the flexibility and scalability to manage changing business requirements. Ready to take your next step toward digital efficiency? Join us for a free demo to see how composable systems work. Find out how you can use these systems to increase the efficiency of your development activities and gain a competitive advantage. Sign up now to unlock the power of composable software!