What composable means for MarTech in the enterprise
The history of composability in MarTech is tied to the origins of software engineering. As you can guess, this hyped architectural pattern is anything but new or ground-breaking.
The history of software architecture has been one of progressive evolution, moving from relatively simple, single-component structures to increasingly complex and multifaceted systems. Early on, monolithic architectures dominated the landscape—these were systems where all the software components were interconnected and interdependent. This type of architecture has its benefits, including simplicity in design and consistency of operations, making it an appealing choice for in-house solutions.
However, these architectures have increasingly shown their limitations with the rapid acceleration of technology and escalating business demands. Monolithic systems can be inflexible, difficult to scale, and pose significant challenges when integrating new technology or adapting to changing business models.
This has led to the rise of composable architecture—an approach that structures systems as interconnected, interchangeable modules that can be assembled and reassembled to better meet changing business needs.
The Problem Composable Architecture Solves
Composable architecture addresses several critical challenges posed by monolithic systems or suites, as they are known in the MarTech arena. First, it enables greater flexibility. By breaking down the system into distinct modules, businesses can quickly adapt to new technologies, market shifts, or customer demands without overhauling the system.
In MarTech, most people call this pattern “best of breed”, but it’s mostly referring to multiple platforms or vendors combined in the MarTech practice than an actual composable pattern.
Second, the composable architecture supports scalability. As the business grows, additional modules can be added or expanded to handle increased loads. This also provides a cost-effective way to manage growth, as you only invest in scaling the modules you need rather than the whole system.
Where Composability could fall short
Complexity and Learning Curve: While the concept of composability sounds promising, it may introduce a new level of complexity that requires a steep learning curve for non-technical users. Even with the help of low-code or no-code platforms, understanding how to effectively compose elements to achieve desired outcomes may not be straightforward.
Risk of Errors: Composability can lead to errors, especially when dealing with data. Even with guardrails in place, there is a risk of making mistakes that could have significant impacts.
Dependence on APIs: The future vision of composability relies heavily on APIs. However, not all applications expose their functionality via APIs, and the ones that do may not expose all the functionality needed for effective composability.
AI and Composability: While using generative AI to advance composability is exciting, it is still a developing field. The effectiveness of AI in understanding technical mechanics and translating natural language requests into composed workflows and datasets remains to be seen.
Data Security and Privacy: Composability often involves combining data from different sources. This raises concerns about data security and privacy, especially when dealing with sensitive customer data. For instance, composable CDPs can reduce security and compliance risks by using data directly from cloud data warehouses without copying it, but this doesn't eliminate the risks entirely.
Orchestration: Managing the complexity of composable architectures can be daunting, requiring a nuanced understanding of each component and how they interact. Security is another concern, as more components and interconnections increase the potential for failure or attack.
Additionally, migrating from a monolithic to a composable architecture could require a significant upfront investment in time, resources, and capital.
Future Scenarios in a Fragmented Ecosystem
As we look to the future, we see a landscape of highly fragmented ecosystems, each composed of myriad solutions and channel proliferation. In such a scenario, a well-designed composable architecture could be a game-changer, allowing businesses to plug and play the components they need to navigate this complexity.
This might include advanced AI modules for predictive analytics, omnichannel integration tools to connect various customer touchpoints, or new security solutions to safeguard data in the cloud.
The key is to approach this with a strategic mindset—plan for the investments required, ensure that the architecture aligns with the business strategy, and prioritize the components that will deliver the most value. For instance, a report from Mckinsey (2023) suggests that investments in customer data platforms (CDPs) and predictive analytics can deliver a 10% increase in sales for companies transitioning to composable architectures.
The shift from monolithic to composable architecture represents a significant evolution in marketing technology. Despite the challenges, the benefits of flexibility, scalability, and the ability to adapt quickly to market changes position composable architecture as a key enabler of business growth. As we move into an increasingly fragmented and complex ecosystem, having a composable architecture will be critical to leveraging the full potential of emerging technologies and delivering exceptional customer experiences.