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Opinion /

MACH 101; What is MACH and why should businesses care?

Santa gifted my 7 year old son a Star Wars Ewok Village Lego set for Christmas, which after 3 days of solid work stands proudly in his bedroom. We all know and (mostly) love Lego mainly because of its design aesthetics, but also for its simplicity, accessibility from child to adult, and its endless possibilities of creation.

Lego can be built to create characters, buildings, houses, cars, dinosaurs and spaceships to name a few.. literally anything. It's extremely versatile.

MACH architecture can be thought of as the Lego of the tech world. 

Freedom of choice

Traditionally, businesses run their digital customer experiences (websites, apps) through what is known as a monolith platform. This is an all-in-one platform that does everything out the box to power the experience. Your CMS, search, e-commerce, media, personalisation, CRM.

Whilst monolith platforms have many advantages, the main challenge they face today is the lack of flexibility. Think of your old inkjet printer sitting at home as an example, it only works via the same manufacturer's ink cartridges. The lack of options is not just frustrating, but also massively limiting for running a business, especially during today's era of uncertainty.

So what happens when you want a search facility from another new platform? What happens when you want to integrate a better e-commerce platform? What about publishing content once and automatically distributing it to multiple websites, apps and digital services? These all-in-one platforms struggle to achieve this flexibility well.

A MACH architecture approach fundamentally changes this approach, putting the power of choice into the hands of the business end user.

MACH stands for

  • Microservices-based
  • API-driven
  • Cloud-native
  • Headless architecture

 

MACH is a design approach for building digital products and services in a way that allows for better flexibility, in giving you freedom of choice when it comes to what Lego bricks you want to build, or what platforms and features you want from any suitable vendor. All the platforms adhere to the MACH principles, therefore playing nicely, and/or integrating with each other out of the box via standardised protocols.

Why should you care?

Ease of change

The future is less predictable, therefore businesses are unable to forward plan and buy a platform 2 years in advance anymore. The world moves on faster. MACH architecture allows you to efficiently change bits of your digital landscape that are not performing, without toppling over your business, or causing huge time delays.

Speed of development

Developers flock to this way of working. The tech stacks that run on MACH platforms are modern tooling such as React, Next.js, Vue.js. The momentum in which development can progress is staggering, because the platform and its services are fully functional out the box.

Launch features simultaneously

Marketing and sales teams are wanting more and more out of digital products. The speed in which they need to launch small improvements and whole changes is faster. No more standing in queues waiting for your turn to release a feature. Structured in the right way MACH architecture can enable parallel releases that don’t impact one another.

Lightning performance

As the services that power the experiences are cloud native, and the experiences themselves are developed in what is called a headless architecture, there is no direct connection between what the customer sees and where the data/service comes from. This means blazing performance speeds all round.

ROI

TCO in finance and procurement has looked at the cost of platforms as a singular fixed return. Buying X platform at £X value now, will return X value back after 5 years. Sadly most of the time, 3 years down the line time has moved on yet your platforms haven’t, so you're forced to throw it all away and start again. This large investment every 3 years is not acceptable.

MACH architecture platforms should be looked at differently when it comes to ROI, as the benefit is the speed of micro improvements, and flexibility to change. The scoring should be against continual improvement gains rather than one large investment. For example, we spent £X on a faster search facility, it returned a higher engagement rate, which has resulted in an increase in orders. Let’s now scale that up to gain further value.

In summary, attribute investment against continual improvement gains.

Where to start?

Often businesses get excited about MACH and the possibilities, but when reality kicks in and they start to look at the feasibility of changing, it’s often deprioritised.

Rather than looking at this as a wholesale change, approach it exactly like Lego. Start small, build one wall first.

The beauty of MACH architecture is that you can portion off one part of your business's digital experience to migrate over to a more flexible MACH approach, without affecting your other services, all relatively easy. At Freestyle we recommend slicing off one market, language or even product line to build and launch a new MACH enabled tech stack. This allows all stakeholders to gain confidence in the change, test the feasibility, and learn along the way.

Inevitably as the positive results roll in, portion further areas into your new MACH architecture tech stack. Until eventually you have phased out the monolith all-in-one platform.

Summary

MACH brings a reduction in operating costs, huge flexibility, and improved performance throughout. As Yoda would say, "flexible and fast, like a lightsaber, one must be. To adapt and strike, quickly and efficiently, is the key.”

If you’re interested in finding out more about MACH Architecture and exploring the benefits it could offer your business, let's talk. Drop us a line: hello@freestyle.agency

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Author: Tom Downing, Technology Director, Freestyle 

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