IN THE LATE ‘90s, there was a popular television series in the U.S. called Early Edition. If you don’t remember – or, perhaps, chose to forget – it was halfway decent, lasting four seasons.
The show delivered a novel twist on the classic dramcom by adding a unique fantasy element. Here’s the gist: Each morning, the protagonist (played by Southern charmer Kyle Chandler) mysteriously receives a copy of the next day’s newspaper on his doorstep, revealing events that haven’t happened. Yet.
At first, he uses the predictions to dabble in the stock market (who wouldn’t?) but ultimately succumbs to altruism, using the prescient headlines to thwart mayhem and save lives.
Seeing the future proved handy for this reluctant hero. Unfortunately, there’s no Early Edition when it comes to technology. In fact, reading tomorrow’s headlines might be too late in a world where AI changes things by the hour.
Still, it’s safe to say that one of the most popular trends in 2023 – the shift towards composability – will continue to transform the market in the year ahead. And with that, news about MACH (Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS, Headless) will make its way to the front page.
And what will that news be focused on?
Short of having a predictive paper landing at our feet, we’ve got the next best thing: Casper Rasmussen. I recently spoke with the esteemed president of the MACH Alliance about what’s in store for 2024, and he shared three big predictions from the pages of his own Early Edition.
Before we peruse Casper’s predictions, it’s worth consulting the rearview mirror on a few of the MACH Alliance’s accomplishments.
By all accounts, 2023 was a milestone for the organization as it ramped up its advocacy for open, best-of-breed technology ecosystems – and challenged the status quo with its pure vision of composability.
For starters, it was a big year of change at a structural level as the Alliance introduced a new slate of executive board members from across its ISV, SI, and Enabler cohorts. The board appointments included greater representation from North America, reflecting the organization’s focus on the growing demand for MACH in both the U.S. and Canadian markets.
Without question, the pinnacle achievement was the Alliance’s second annual conference, MACH Two, which was held in Amsterdam this past June. The world-class event rivaled expectations and was packed with attendees from around the globe. The agenda featured a “who’s who” of speakers from up and down the technology stack, as well as successful use cases from notable brands that have embraced MACH architectures.
For aspiring members, the Alliance published a new Admissions Playbook in an effort to bring greater clarity to its certification process – something the market had been asking for, and a reflection of the Alliance’s commitment to transparency. On the buyer’s side, the Alliance also introduced a MACH Maturity Assessment tool designed to help organizations evaluate their MACH readiness.
In December, the Alliance surpassed 100 members, a testament to its sustained growth and a reflection of the market’s continued shift towards MACH and composable. Notable brands like PayPal also became members, strengthening the Alliance’s clout and expanding its influence at a global level.
Along with numerous appearances at events like ShopTalk and bevy of webinars with members and partners, 2023 also saw a continued investment in the Alliance’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, including its novel Women in MACH program, and a keen emphasis on building future pipelines for talent.
A new Education Council was also established to focus on both business and technical foundations across the organization’s communities of interest – another example of the MACH Alliance doing what it does best: teaching, sharing, and elevating the composable conversation.
While still (relatively) early in his term as MACH Alliance president, Casper Rasmussen has a few miles under his belt – and the perspective of a seasoned co-conspirator in the MACH movement.
As Global SVP of Technology at Valtech, a global digital transformation agency, he’s had a hand in shaping the organization’s vision from its earliest days. Valtech was, after all, one of the establishing entities behind the MACH Alliance – so it’s fair to say that some of its DNA is imprinted on the Alliance’s vision and values.
I’ve spoken with Casper frequently over the course of 2023, starting at the Boye & Company CMS Kickoff last January, and several deep-dive chats at the MACH Two conference in Amsterdam. There’s plenty to marvel at, from his proven technology chops to his adept business acumen. But what impresses me most is his restless passion and commitment to the composable vision – and the masterful way he distills the value of MACH.
When I asked him about what’s ahead in 2024, he placed a tacit emphasis on research as a key activator. To that end, the Alliance recently greenlit an initiative to explore the certification of not just companies, but also specific products within broader portfolios. Like all of its endeavors, the organization is taking an industry-first approach by conducting thoughtful analysis across the broader market. The research should be wrapped in Q1 of next year and could mark a significant shift in the Alliance’s approach to certification.
“This initiative is really to make sure that we are still [focused] on the buyer’s needs, the one actually choosing and procuring software,” he said, detailing the impact of the research project. “The promise is to make sure we help to shortlist and accelerate their decision-making cycle, so it becomes easier and safer to buy software in the enterprise space. The product versus company level certification initiative is going to answer that very, very important question of whether we need product level certifications, regardless of the larger portfolio they sit within. And the answer to that question will be based on the actual research and needs of the buyer – not based on the membership. So it's truly an industry-first approach that we're taking to it.”
Education continues to be a major push for the Alliance. Throughout 2023, Casper has referenced the critical need for sharing knowledge and elevating awareness across the broader market, which he and other members of the board delved into during the press session at MACH Two. That’s coalescing in a big way as the Alliance introduced a beta of its first foundational learning class in December, with plans for a public rollout at the beginning of the year.
“It’s super exciting that education is really plowing forward,” he said emphatically. “The beta test is being run within our ambassador community, so we can test it in a safe environment where we know the individuals and have a high degree of quality intimacy. It's a high-bar environment, so they tell us the way it actually should be. We see [education] as a key tenant, meaning beyond just a certification and being a kind of value proposition. Education becomes that next wave in order for us to maintain relevancy.”
With 2023 almost in the rearview, I asked Casper what’s in store for ’24, specifically regarding MACH.
Based on the Alliance’s current strategy, we can certainly expect continued investments in research and education to advance MACH adoption. AI will definitely be part of the picture, especially after a record year of investment up and down the stack.
We might also expect the Alliance to further invest in safeguarding its rigid certifications, specifically from organizations claiming to be MACH. This is a charged – if not controversial – issue, and was recently the subject of an open letter to the market.
But I was hunting for bold prognostications. Things I’m not thinking of, and insight that only Casper could provide. What does he see as the key areas of focus? And how will they continue to shape the trajectory for MACH, which has already had a profound impact on the shift toward composable?
As promised, here are three areas he sees as emerging opportunities for MACH in 2024, mostly born from trends across the industry:
If you’re a coder, you’re already familiar with CI/CD – the combined practices of continuous integration and continuous delivery or deployment. Outside the tacit domain of DevOps and Git pipelines, they’re often mashed into a collective stew of continuous (software) development.
But wait: have you heard of continuous everything?
As Casper explained, it’s the next evolution of continuous development. It builds on the promise of easing workflows for getting code to production and allowing for incremental cycles of innovation – and ensures that you can actually do it all across an enterprise quickly, safely, and sustainably. This is precisely why it matters to MACH.
“As you get into some of the more regulated and higher compliance areas of your enterprise, continuous everything is basically a process optimization, making sure that you automate anything from security scans through quality assurance to code quality feedback,” he described. “This includes server environments. The infrastructures. The hygiene that actually goes into making sure code functions and also scales. Continuous everything is this concept around easing the path to production across the entirety of the enterprise.”
In essence, continuous everything is reinforcing a core tenant of what MACH set out to do: enable enterprises to move faster. Being composable, scalable, nimble, and responsive gives companies an edge – and MACH architectures are designed to deliver those attributes with greater efficacy. Continuous everything is also about tapping the potential of greater optimization and automation, particularly in growing areas like AI.
Because of these benefits, he believes continuous everything will be getting more airtime in 2024, and have an enduring impact on MACH.
“Enterprises want to build more and operate less, right?” he queried. “And [continuous everything] really supports that emphasis on the craft and the value of engineering, focusing less on what it actually takes to operate. All the hygiene factors – security, quality, things you must meet and do – these are what you want to optimize through integrated processes and workflows.”
In a year when Elon Musk envisioned an “everything app” and Everything Everywhere All At Once stole the Oscars, the idea of continuous everything is timely – if not posh. As more enterprises adopt MACH, optimizing and automating will become a top priority given the complexities involved with building and maintaining composable architectures.
2022 was a dour year for mergers and acquisitions. Then came 2023.
“Yuck” might not be a technical term, but it feels apropos when analyzing M&A activity over the last 12 months. Globally, it fell to its lowest level in ten years, bombarded by historically high-interest rates and an economic slowdown across multiple sectors – including tech.
These conditions weighed on companies and their dealmaking confidence, but there’s good news ahead as bankers and lawyers are predicting an uptick in 2024. Casper agrees with this prognostication and is bullish about the opportunities for MACH within the calculus.
“We believe that M&A will make a comeback at a higher velocity than before, simply because the market is going to bounce back and enterprises will gain from that,” he said. “But we also see M&A as a business strategy – and with MACH as an architecture concept, it actually fits in quite well because MACH is an open architecture that's open to change and integration. And that is exactly what you do when you're buying companies and buying businesses.”
As Casper explained, the flexibility of composable stacks is becoming a benefit to companies that have an aggressive M&A strategy. So if businesses are back on a buying spree in 2024 – focused on growing their revenue, geographic presence, customer segments, or other capabilities – they will likely be looking for mergers and acquisitions with businesses that have invested in a MACH posture.
“MACH is relevant in that conversation because it maximizes the value of the investment you're making in buying another business,” Casper said. “It really optimizes the integration process and ensures that these businesses can actually coexist and collaborate to become one company.”
This idea of “composable M&A” is certainly novel – and might prove valuable on multiple levels. For starters, it would provide greater confidence around integrating seemingly disparate processes due to the interoperability of MACH principles and architectures. Think about inheriting the myriad of applications and corporate data from multiple sources, and the amount of work involved with synthesizing everything.
But from an efficiency perspective, the idea of having MACH’s flexibility pre-built into a target company’s systems and processes could translate into an accelerated timetable for realizing the benefits of a merger or acquisition – and impact the cost and complexity of a strategic transaction.
Integration can be costly, but MACH might be a pathway to harmonizing some of the biggest challenges with M&A.
When previously covering the addition of new vendors and system integrators to the MACH Alliance, it has typically been within the digital experience and commerce ecosystems. This makes sense, as most of the market traction has emerged in verticals like retail or consumer packaged goods.
But the fabric of MACH use cases has been steadily evolving, and Casper sees new industries embracing composable as we look to 2024 and beyond.
“We’ve heard many really good stories from industries that are not commerce,” he said. “Not rooted, for instance, in retail or CPG. So that’s also something that the MACH Alliance is going to follow very tightly – asking how do we actually see the value of MACH come to fruition in different types of business environments that are not driven by commerce or transactional types of activity?”
According to Casper, some of the most intriguing category targets for MACH include financial services and automotive – both of which are far less adjacent to the industries that MACH is currently focused on. To that end, he believes there’s a heightened awareness requirement for the MACH Alliance and a big education component for realizing the potential.
“There are entirely other use cases, like the connected car, or some of the data streams you need to service functionality on demand in mobility scenarios,” he said. “There’s lots of market demand, curiosity, and interest from some of these industries that are just less adjacent to where we are today.”
Automotive is just one great example where MACH – as both a concept and an architectural philosophy – has been successfully applied, unlocking go-to-market strategies for a new breed of connected cars and their parent brands. Likewise, many other products and industries have experienced the impact of rapid digital transformation over the last five years and may be adopting composable strategies across their enterprise.
This is where MACH can do precisely what it’s done for commerce: provide access to the right technology and practices from a best-of-breed ecosystem, as well as the human knowledge and insight to realize its maximum potential.
As 2023 falls behind us, we’re all left with questions and uncertainty about the future. Last year ended much differently than it started, with a roaring U.S. stock market and the immense tragedies of multiple global conflicts.
With no Early Edition, we’re left to predict based on the past – and trust the guidance of sage leaders as we traverse the undiscovered country.
In the “hope” category, Casper seemed incredibly jazzed about the possibilities ahead, but not just because of the Alliance’s technology or certification programs. His enthusiasm is, in part, built on a central theme that permeated 2023: the growing demand for openness and transparency.
“We want to demystify MACH,” he exclaimed. “There are so many people out there who care about what we do and how we do it, that we simply need to be open about saying this is it. This is how our admission and certification processes work. This is how we make decisions. This is how we're spending our money. One of the key initiatives that we’re coming out with publicly will be an annual report, where we’re going to show exactly what our P&L is, how we spend our money, and what we're investing in. It's all about this openness and transparency to make sure we take the club feeling out of it.”
That “club” feeling he referred to is that infamous egalitarian yoke that has bolstered and stymied the Alliance since its early days. The reference (originally coined by Joe Cicman of Forrester) described the fledgling organization as an exclusive, roped-off cabal of cool kids. But today, that's the antithesis of the organization's goal – which, as Casper has frequently pointed out, aspires to greater openness and connection. This goes beyond technology and blends the need for MACH as a mindset, and how it shapes both principles and practices.
As more traditionally composed DXPs have embraced composability within their product offerings, the message has also become less about countering the “monoliths” and more about understanding how legacy systems are unified within an overall architecture.
As a final question, I put Casper on the spot and asked if there was one thing that stood out in 2023 – one success that rose to the top during his tenure as president.
“There's so much to choose from, but what immediately came to mind is the size and the level of care that exists in our community,” he observed. “MACH Two was an amazing testimony of that. It was such an engaged, active, and caring atmosphere – and you saw brands share the good and the bad of their stories. They shared the scars of their transformation. I think it was lucky for us to experience that and just be there, seeing it come to fruition and seeing it in action. That confirmed [for me] the power of a community.”
The power of a community. A powerful reflection for MACH in 2023 – and a perfect headline for 2024's Early Edition.
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