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Stories from the Blok #9: What did we learn about Technology Ecosystems and the MACH Alliance?

Partners Ana Ilievska Ana Ilievska
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Our Stories from the Blok (SftB) events have become an important component of our story and an excellent opportunity for us to share the latest developments from the Storyblok ecosystem and the larger web development community.

The 9th edition of SftB was held on October 27, 2022. This event, which can be found on our YouTube channel, was the Tailored-for-Technology edition. Together with our Partners, we talked about the best practices for building a Technology Ecosystem and how an ecosystem can thrive. In addition, we took a deep dive into what the MACH Alliance is and what the MACH Alliance, technology ecosystems, and agencies all have in common, especially when it comes to being future-fit.

Segment #1: Building a Technology Ecosystem

A talk with Christopher Holley - Global Director, ISV Partnerships at commercetools and David Barth - Sr. Director, Global ISV & MACH Alliance at Algolia.

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The concept of Technology Ecosystems has become very important in 2022. Therefore, it was essential for the speakers to describe what the concept stands for. To begin with, Alin Tanase, Technology Partner Manager at Storyblok and the talk moderator, explained that an ecosystem is a network of partnerships where each relationship goes way beyond an integration between a Product A and a Product B. So, what does that truly mean?

All the speakers agreed that a Technology Ecosystem is a network of friends and a collection of elements that collaborate to help their joint clients (end-users) build the solutions they need. Nobody can do it all by themselves and essentially there is no monolithic suite that can satisfy all the needs of a modern site. A perfect suite needs to be built with best-of-breed technologies, which is why technologies partner together. As partners, technologies complement each other because each partner is extraordinary and an expert in their field. By working together, partners in an ecosystem can succeed as they leverage each other’s strengths in order to build a dynamic, growing environment.

When asked about what a Technology Ecosystem is composed of, Christopher mentioned 3 components: a cloud environment where the different providers are deployed, the tech providers themselves, and the people behind these technologies whose skills help bridge the gap between the tech environment and the client needs. David added that an ecosystem needs influencers who will advocate for each other in their own separate networks of clients. Lastly, Alin added that education is an important element of the overall technology ecosystem because that is where the future tech company founders are built. Moreover, all speakers agreed that more established tech companies have to make an effort to help start-ups enter and become successful in the tech ecosystem. In doing so, and by striving for innovation at all times, we are able to push each other to grow together. Competition is healthy as it helps bring better value, better customer outcomes, and more success for everyone. Christopher noted that there is room for everyone to be successful.

The talk concluded with a few thoughts on how to build a healthy ecosystem. A few of the major points made were:

  • Define the direction in which your ecosystem should go and what its focus should be (what are the competencies, skills, and expertise your ecosystem should have).

  • Strive to create partnerships that will bring predictability, scalability, and positive outcomes to your ecosystem and your clients.

  • Create partnerships with solutions that have certifications in order to have a strong ecosystem of expertise. It all comes down to having fewer choices with the best expertise instead of too many options that could confuse your clients.

  • Align your ecosystem with your ideal customer profile. Strive to find partners that will also align with the needs of your clients.

Segment #2: MACH Alliance ready

A talk with Tim McMillen - Founder & Director at Profound and Iris Schiefer - Senior Enterprise Account Executive at BigCommerce and MACH Alliance member.

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Julius Hemingway, Analyst Relations Manager at Storyblok and the talk moderator, started the conversation by asking Iris to provide the audience with a quick introduction to the MACH Alliance. Iris told the audience that the MACH Alliance is a non-profit organization founded in 2020 with the goal of helping companies adopt a more composable technology stack, a best-of-breed focused approach. The MACH Alliance has created a definition for what best-of-breed really means in the market today, put in place a certification process to ensure member technologies and System Integrators (SIs) meet the best-of-breed standards and allows for flexibility of choice across technology categories. Essentially, MACH is an industry tech standard describing modern technology. The prerequisites to achieve this standard are Microservices based, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS, and Headless.

The talk continued with Tim sharing the story of why Profound decided to work with headless, best-of-breed technologies 4 years ago. After working with monolithic, all-in-one suites for 10 years, the agency realized that those platforms were not delivering the same value to their clients as they used to when they were first implemented. Moreover, any upgrades and modifications to the platforms, which were necessary to keep up with the changes in the market, were too expensive and very time-consuming. On top of that, the team at Profound was getting frustrated with having to design the same thing over and over again because they were limited in what they could do. Working with headless technologies, like the members of the MACH Alliance, has eliminated all of the setbacks they and their clients were experiencing. As Tim said, their lives are much easier now.

Iris mentioned that the future of the MACH Alliance is focused on education on how using a MACH approach can help companies. Tim agreed and mentioned that Profound makes an effort to educate their clients on how such an approach is going to bring value to their business. He added that agencies should focus on bridging the gap between the technology and the business values those technologies will bring to the overall organization. All of the speakers agreed and concluded that MACH Alliance members and agencies need to work together closely as part of the larger ecosystem.

Panel: Future-fit technology stack and innovation

A talk with Tim McMillen - Founder & Director at Profound, Chris Bach - Co-founder & CSO at Netlify, and Christopher Holley - Global Director, ISV Partnerships at commercetools.

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The conversation started with Chris giving his opinion on how the technology scene has been changing over the past 10 years. One very interesting point he made was that organizations exist in a world where most of their problems have digital solutions. This means that having a composable architecture is not just something that is modern to have but is truly essential as it helps solve issues faster and more efficiently. Christopher added that working with headless solutions, part of the MACH alliance, allows organizations to eliminate the fear and friction that comes with building a solution that is going to be future-fit. Tim, from Profound, an experience design agency, added that it makes a lot of sense to use MACH-aligned technologies as part of their stack. He said that each of those technology providers is specialized in their own field, which means that they are always working with best-of-breed solutions.

Chris shared a fun fact with the audience: “In 2020, only 20% of enterprises were interested in building composable DXPs. However, in 2022, that percentage grew to 75%”. This goes to show that the MACH Alliance and the evangelization around headless have helped enterprises realize that composable and headless is the better way: faster, safer, scalable, and cost-efficient. Chris pointed out that there is still room to grow. Organizations that have not switched to a headless architecture but are choosing to stay in a monolithic suite because they made an investment long ago and don’t want to lose on that investment are actually losing more. He mentioned that the “cost of not doing anything” is costing organizations who choose to stay with a monolithic suite more as the operational cost for such a system is extremely high. From an agency’s perspective, Tim added that a more cost-effective approach is to start building a DXP over time instead of changing everything at once, which, thanks to the headless architecture, is very easy.

The panel continued with a discussion about MACH Alliance enablers. Chris explained that as an enabler in the MACH Alliance, Netlify enables MACH solutions to be super viable and create cohesive web projects. Netlify is an orchestration platform to tie all the elements of a composable DXP together, which allows organizations to free the potential of each solution involved. Tim mentioned that Profound is also an enabler, in a way, as they help their customers find the best solutions (technologies) and put the mix together. Christopher agreed and mentioned that commercetools has accelerators which are organizations that prefer to work with the commerce platform and serve as ambassadors for them. He concluded that only when everyone works together, agencies and technology providers, will the customer get the best result.

If you are interested in learning what the speakers had to say about what is next for the Technology Ecosystems, watch the full talk above.

Key takeaways

Hosting Stories from the Blok #9: Tailored for Technology Edition was a true pleasure. It revealed the fact that an ecosystem is a crucial part of any company looking to grow and expand. After all, you are only as strong as your partners are! In fact, that is why we at Storyblok are looking to create not only a business relationship and a partner program but also an ecosystem where we can work with our partners to become the best versions of ourselves.

We invite you to listen to the talks as there is a lot to learn from these experts. We look forward to seeing you at one of our next events.

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