How to avoid the pitfalls of a composable architecture

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Digital content management is in a state of perpetual evolution. Consumers have come to expect robust, seamless digital experiences when interacting with brands, and organizations that fail to meet those expectations can quickly find themselves left behind.

It’s tempting to think the solution is to build a digital experience that satisfies the expectations of today’s consumers; unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Every day brings new channels and competitors, and the digital experiences consumers want today might not look anything like the one they want tomorrow.

A composable architecture gives businesses the speed, flexibility, and scalability they need to deliver digital experiences that meet the expectations of current and future customers. However, there are complexities in the implementation process that enterprises need to be prepared for to ensure a seamless transition to composable architecture.

What is a composable architecture?

Content management systems traditionally have relied on monolithic architecture: an all-in-one system in which the front-end and back-end layers are handled by a single codebase. That approach served us well for decades; that is, until 2014, when mobile internet usage supplanted desktop usage. Since then, consumers have grown to expect a seamless omnichannel experience that a traditional monolithic CMS was never designed to deliver. 

“There are many more requirements on the customer [or] end-user side,” said Jeff Baher, head of product marketing at Contentstack. “Content that once resided solely on a website is now in many different places.”

Monolithic architecture offers a suite of functions that can be managed from one codebase, which makes for a fairly simple implementation process. But what happens when an organization’s needs surpass the capabilities of a legacy CMS?

“Can any one single vendor get their arms around it and solve for all that?” Baher asked. The answer is increasingly no. Enterprises are often forced to rely on clunky plug-ins to deliver the functionality they need, and with each new plug-in, the site gets a little slower — and the digital experience suffers as a result.

Organizations wishing to avoid plug-ins can update their CMS, but that’s time-consuming and expensive. With monolithic architecture, even minor front-end changes can require significant updates to back-end code. And, of course, that process must be repeated every time consumer expectations change or new channels emerge.

A composable architecture breaks down monolithic solutions' large and complex functions into smaller, more manageable pieces. An application programming interface (API) acts as the go-between for these smaller pieces, allowing them to communicate and transfer information more efficiently. In a composable CMS, the front-end and back-end layers are decoupled to make changes to the front-end independent of back-end functions.

The result is the same functionality found in monolithic architecture, only more efficient, more flexible, and with more freedom to build a customized or modular solution to meet an organization’s specific needs — once the new architecture is up and running, that is.

Common pitfalls of implementing a composable architecture

A composable architecture allows organizations to build rich, omnichannel digital experiences on their terms, free from any limitations imposed by monolithic architecture. But a wider range of possibilities also means more potential challenges.

What goes where, and who’s on first?

A monolithic architecture has a variety of inherent shortcomings, but monolithic solutions offer a clear benefit: simplicity. Although notoriously difficult to update, legacy architecture is fairly easy to implement, which may be attractive to some organizations depending on their needs. And since monolithic solutions are typically created and sold by one vendor, organizations benefit from a one-stop point of contact for any issues. 

A composable solution brings together the capabilities of different vendors, Baher said. This is undoubtedly a positive regarding flexibility and freedom, but if one element doesn’t work as intended, it can affect the entire digital experience. With a monolithic solution, the vendor handles identifying and fixing the problem, but with a composable one, the organization has to manage the diagnostic process. On top of that, if the issue is caused by two elements from two different vendors, which vendor is responsible for the fix?

The ‘kitchen sink' problem

The main selling point of composable architecture is its flexibility; there are few limits on what your organization can do with composable content and solutions. But just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should. A composable architecture is “similar to Lego pieces, allowing you to build many different things,” Baher said. “But that’s also the challenge: What do you build? How do you do it?”

Assembling or integrating the available pieces is only half the battle. The other half is making sure each component selected is necessary to create the digital experience you have in mind. Remember, there’s “must-have” functionality, and there’s “nice-to-have” functionality — and the more you have of the latter, the less time your IT team has to focus on the former.

Disconnects between teams

As the old saying goes, “a camel is a horse designed by a committee.” The flexibility of a composable architecture is useless if nobody can agree on the best way to use it. In organizations accustomed to monolithic architecture, it’s not uncommon for siloed teams or departments to form and operate independently of one another.

Under these conditions, each team may develop their idea of what “best” means regarding functionality, user experience, and so on, which can make for a rocky transition to a composable architecture. To overcome this challenge and to maximize content reuse, organizations need to break down those silos by clearly defining cross-team goals and making sure departments work collaboratively to achieve them. If not, the digital experience you deliver to consumers will likely resemble a camel.

The people problem

Ultimately, an organization’s ability to successfully implement a composable architecture rests mainly on its people, for it’s not only a technology shift, it’s also a mindset shift. With a monolithic CMS, all the features are included in the software, but a composable solution is essentially a blank canvas — and it’s up to your people to think through and feel comfortable and confident with how to fill it in. Eliminating disconnects between teams is a vital part of success in this regard, but organizations also need to have the right frame of mind and the right resources on the technical side to build everything out.

Overcome the pitfalls and go composable with confidence

Moving to composable architecture is more complex than many organizations realize initially, but the pitfalls are all surmountable. The following considerations are the key ingredients for success, according to Baher:

  1. Choose the right component technologies.

  2. Select vendors who view going composable as a partnership, not a dealership.

  3. Invest in automation technology to simplify integrations and automate routine tasks.

  4. Seek expertise and support to help you along the way.

  5. Run the numbers and a proper ROI analysis.

Learn more

Watch this episode of "Contentstack LIVE!" to learn strategies for implementing composable technologies from Auden Hinton, director of digital experience at Contentstack.

Schedule a free demo to see how Contentstack’s headless content management platform and industry-leading, cross-vendor support can help your organization transition to a composable architecture today.

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Leverage composable tech to drive business forward

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Composable architecture: How to future-proof your business tech stack

Technology is changing at lightning speed along with market trends and customer expectations. Adding more to it, as per a recent survey by the Conference Board, 93% of corporate CEOs are gearing up for a recession over the next 12 to 18 months. The immediate requirement for these leaders is to ensure the resilience of their technology stacks for the future, thereby keeping their businesses ready for a diverse range of unforeseen circumstances. In such a scenario, delivering customized user experience through composable architecture could ensure long-term survival and success.Customer experience is prioritized by 44.5% of enterprises worldwide, as per a 2021 Statista report. Achieving this in today's dynamic environment requires effectively using technology to create and deliver top-notch products and services.To help organizations respond to that sense of urgency, here are five tips to consider when futureproofing your business tech stack.1. Customized User ExperienceBrands, on their composable journey, must focus on offering personalized user experiences, attained using relevant user data right from the start. McKinsey reports that 71% of consumers expect personalized interactions from brands. Besides improving user experience, brands must focus on designing systems that scale with the growing user base and its dynamic functionality needs.2. Coordination with other business unitsContrary to traditional stereotypes, IT does not function in isolation. In fact, to ensure business success, technology initiatives must align with the business's overall strategy and add to the brand's short- and long-term goals. However, transitioning from a monolithic structure to a composable one must be iterative. Once a new technology is integrated within one business unit, it can eventually be rolled out to other units. While preparing for future challenges, the choice of technology will impact multiple business units during a business's transitional phase.To make sure a specific new tech works well for all units, it's essential to plan and think about the opportunities, problems and trends that might occur. This requires effective collaboration across business units. Given the interconnected nature of these departments, proper goal alignment must be ensured to deliver compatible, scalable, flexible and secure results. For seamless and customized solutions across different touchpoints, the chosen technology should be capable of scaling and accommodating new process changes across the organization.3. Constant hyper-personalization and differentiation The importance of customer experience (CX) is highly discussed in the current business ecosystem. Brands are constantly innovating new solutions to thrive in the face of competition. The only way to do that is by adopting highly scalable tech stacks that incorporate speedy change processes. While customers expect a more compelling experience, selecting any technology for the sake of it or, worse, by mimicking other brands will not work and will lead a brand to lose its competitive advantage. Instead, they must adopt best-of-breed components and change stack parts when required, creating the much-required hyper-personalized experiences.4. A flexible approachBusinesses are more unpredictable than ever, increasing the potential stakes for which leaders must be prepared. While tech leaders know that a tech revolution is coming, the exact nature of the change remains unknown. This unpredictability will lead to rapid and diverse market requirements and changes in user preferences. By investing in and leveraging technology, brands can quickly adapt to these changes and make necessary system adjustments. Furthermore, flexible tech is more interoperable, allowing smoother integration with other tools and platforms.5. Prepare your organization for the futureDon't bite off more than you can chew when it comes to composability. Business leaders can decide the number of components they want to switch at a time. Unlike monoliths, composable architectures allow business leaders to determine the number of components they want to change at a time. This makes the shift a lot smoother and much quicker. There is no rush to modernize in haste. With customer needs and industry trends changing dynamically, flexibility in business functionality is the only way forward and achievable through composable architecture. But before getting into the composable journey, organizations must find their motivation and identify their reasons for going composable to deliver a differentiated experience to their audience.

Empowering finance: The composable technology starter-guide

Why composable for finance makes sense (and dollars)The financial services sector, a front-runner in innovation, faces intense competition, from major investment firms to independent banks. When it comes to financial services, today's customers demand agility, security and continuous innovation. To surpass these expectations, the financial world is embracing composable technology for its unparalleled capacity for customization and innovation. Imagine tailoring services to meet each customer's unique needs, staying ahead of evolving regulations, and fostering relentless innovation. Composable Digital Experience Platforms (DXP) are the secret ingredient that fuels this transformative journey for today’s financial services organizations.Benefits of a Composable DXPThis shift offers financial institutions a chance to revolutionize their technology spectrum, driving revenue growth, faster market entry, cost efficiency, enhanced risk management and elevated customer contentment. Through a composable DXP, financial businesses gain the agility to adapt swiftly to market dynamics, personalize customer interactions, unveil new services quickly, and seamlessly integrate innovative solutions to maintain a competitive edge in the ever-evolving financial landscape. So what should financial institutions consider before getting started on their composable journey and how does this shift truly move the needle?Personalized digital experiencesToday’s customers crave personalization. They no longer want to be just another number on a spreadsheet; they want services tailored to their unique needs and preferences. This shift towards personalization isn't just a trend; it has become a necessity in the financial landscape. Composable technology serves as the backbone for this personalized evolution, allowing financial institutions to craft bespoke solutions that resonate with each customer. By leveraging modular components, these building blocks enable financial institutions to design personalized offerings that cater to individual needs. By breaking down services into smaller, interchangeable parts, institutions have the flexibility to mix and match these components, creating dynamic and tailored solutions for their customers. “Integrating a headless CMS into our cloud-native approach allowed us to really optimize edge delivery of a lot of our content… Render times are five times faster when compared to our legacy CMS.”— Clay Gregory | Principal Architect, MorningstarThis composable approach empowers organizations to adapt quickly to changing market demands, stay ahead of the curve and deliver innovative, customer-centric experiences.Improved connectivity, compliance and risk mitigationCompliance and risk mitigation have always been critical in finance. However, the increasing complexity of regulations and the fast-paced nature of financial transactions make these aspects even more crucial.Composable technology serves as a game-changer, not only enabling swift adjustments to comply with regulations but also enhancing risk mitigation strategies. Known for its inherent flexibility, composable technology empowers organizations to seamlessly update their systems to adapt to regulatory changes. This facilitates real-time risk assessment by enabling continuous monitoring and analysis of potential threats. Its modular architecture facilitates the integration of advanced risk management tools and AI-driven analytics. Additionally, it streamlines risk mitigation efforts by providing the agility to swiftly implement necessary controls and measures in response to identified risks. By leveraging composable technology, businesses can proactively identify and address potential risks, predict potential vulnerabilities, and implement preemptive measures, ensuring a robust and secure operational environment.Such a proactive approach not only fortifies the regulatory compliance stance but also bolsters the resilience of financial systems against unforeseen risks, safeguarding the integrity of operations in an ever-evolving regulatory environment.Increased customer engagement: Building loyalty with contentEngaging content is no longer limited to media companies. Financial institutions are recognizing the value in building loyalty and trust among their customers — and nurturing that customer loyalty requires a strategic blend of informative and engaging content. To build lasting relationships and deliver value beyond transactions, more financial services organizations are demonstrating their commitment to customer needs with personalized newsletters, social media, targeted emails and other various channels.But how does composable technology come into play in this context? By enabling seamless integration of various content delivery platforms, it empowers financial firms to create localized and omnichannel content strategies, ensuring meaningful engagement with customers across different channels and regions.This approach enhances the overall customer experience and strengthens the bond between financial institutions and their diverse customer base.“We’re aggressively making changes to the website. We’re trying to draw people in, and we haven’t done that before. We can spin up new pages faster now than they could previously.”— Jason Hagen | Software Architect, Harbor Capital AdvisorsModernizing workflows for today's expectations around agility and innovationAgility and innovation are no longer just buzzwords — they are non-negotiables. Composable technology is a force multiplier when it comes to modernizing workflows and increasing agility. The integration of composable technology not only amplifies agility but also catalyzes a culture of innovation within organizations. With composable technology, teams can streamline operational processes, seamlessly integrate new tools, and optimize collaborative efforts, resulting in enhancements in productivity and efficiency. "We cut out 40% of our tickets by having a CMS where other users can make updates to the website. That 40% is so valuable for us, so we can focus on revenue-driving initiatives and find new ways to get users to engage with our web properties to get more leads in the pipeline for sales. It is a huge advantage for us!"— Kevin Yang | Senior Manager, Digital Experience, ICE Mortgage TechnologyAdditionally, the rapid deployment of new functionalities and enhancements encourages a culture of adaptability, allowing teams to respond swiftly to market shifts and emerging opportunities. Composable technology not only future-proofs operations but cultivates a dynamic ecosystem where innovation thrives, positioning organizations at the forefront of industry advancements.Composable is the key to new growth and revenueIf you are still wondering why composable technology is the future of finance, consider this: it paves the way for new growth and revenue streams.By enabling customization, fostering innovation, enhancing compliance and improving customer engagement, composable technology helps financial institutions tap into previously unexplored opportunities. Composable Digital Experience Platforms are not just about keeping up with the times; they are a linchpin of progress. Composable DXPs embody modernization, propelling businesses forward in a landscape defined by agility, innovation and customer-centricity. Embracing these platforms isn't just about staying relevant; it's about reimagining your digital experiences to thrive in an era where adaptability, personalization and swift evolution are paramount. Are you ready to not just meet but exceed customer expectations?Get started today.

Composable commerce: Best-in-class tools for the job

Many people today use the phrase "composable commerce" — including monolith vendors like Adobe and Shopify. As the composable commerce space has matured, and as more and more brands have seen the value of a system that lets you leverage best-of-breed microservices for your brand needs, it makes sense that legacy tech platforms would want to carve out a piece of the composable pie. But the reality is, a monolith can never truly be composable. If you're on Adobe, you may be able to leverage a handful of third-party services with relative ease—but only ones that have been approved and integrated by them. You’re still locked into their ecosystem, and your ability to make changes and update your commerce experiences is driven by their feature development and priority list. True composability is about breaking down those barriers and putting control in your hands.What is composable commerce?What sets pure-play composable commerce apart? At its core, real composability involves component-based architecture, cloud-native infrastructure and API-first connectivity. This means that modular capabilities can be mixed and matched, scaled, iterated, and swapped as needed. Instead of an all-in-one toolset, brands access integrated microservices via APIs.Cloud-native infrastructure provides the foundation for this plug-and-play extensibility. Containered services scale automatically, while APIs enable headless commerce functionality alongside other capabilities. As capabilities expand, composable stacks stay cohesive yet cutting-edge.“The ability to curate your commerce experience using best-in-breed microservices, with access to the tools you want and need—nothing more, nothing less—is a compelling argument for modern retail and commerce brands,” notes Jason Cottrell, CEO of Orium. The market moves quickly. Brands need to be able to move alongside it.Benefits of composable commerceModular composability centered on APIs and the cloud provides:Targeted personalization: Leverage real-time data for contextualized messaging connecting commerce and contentContinuous experimentation: Rapidly test and scale what resonates without significant liftsFaster innovation cycles: Plug emerging engagement channels into your stackIf a new, better alternative comes on the market, swapping it out won't be an option. When you lock into a monolithic platform, your options will always be limited by their platform. With a truly composable stack based on MACH technologies, you'll be able to leverage the best solutions in the market for your needs. For example, if you need to understand user behavior (and you do), quantumetrics is an industry-leading solution that can be implemented into a modular composable architecture with relative ease. The same can't be said for monolithic counterparts.Overcoming implementation challengesSome brands hesitate to adopt composable commerce, fearing overly complex implementations involving stitching together disparate systems. However, MACH’s open APIs and microservices architecture streamline integrations. Composable also offers the freedom to work with preferred agency partners versus being locked into an agency ecosystem dictated by a suite vendor.With expert guidance, brands can launch composable stacks rapidly. Many even realize faster time-to-market versus monolithic solutions given leaner, more lightweight systems. Vendor-agnostic flexibility also allows engaging your preferred system integrator partners to streamline rollout.“As the space has evolved, moving to a MACH-based architecture has become easier. The emergence of accelerators, like Orium’s Accelerator, can smooth the process for brands, speeding time to first value without sacrificing the flexibility and scalability of a fully composable system,” notes Cottrell.Separating composable leaders from followersIncreasingly, legacy platforms now pay lip service to composability but lack the cloud DNA and API foundations required. Their tools remain a walled garden, restricting the versatility that authentic composable architecture provides. Even with approved partners, integration is complex, expensive and provides minimal capability.Forward-looking brands opt for these purpose-built composable commerce technologies to future-proof innovation potential. With composability anchored fundamentally in the cloud and powered entirely by APIs, curating cutting-edge yet cohesive stacks becomes simple — an unmatched advantage.ConclusionComposable commerce delivers instantly extensible, best-of-breed stacks aligned to business goals. In 2024 and beyond, composable architecture offers unmatched adaptability to address digital experience challenges through continuous experimentation powered by specialized tools. It lays the foundation for optimized customer journeys that convert. This unmatched advantage makes composable the obvious choice for digital experience success.