4 min

Moving from Monolithic to Composable: it’s the CIO’s time to shine

The world is changing. It’s a constant topic of conversation in work and life, from ChatGPT to the metaverse. But despite the accelerating pace of innovation over the last two decades, it seems to me that we are all still surprised by just how fast the world is changing.

Many experts believe that the technology we’ll be using in five years – that’s five years, not fifty – is yet to be invented (even if we now sense that it will be driven by artificial intelligence).

The ways we use these new technologies, and the benefits we can draw from them, are evolving so quickly that this must have an influence on how organisations around the world evaluate, buy and implement technology.

Enterprise technology in the years 2000–2020

The two decades following Y2K saw the rapid rise of a handful of technology companies, including Salesforce, Microsoft, SAP and Oracle. These companies have become empires, and congratulations to them – millions of organisations worldwide were so seduced by their offerings that they have based their entire technology stacks on these platforms.

Those organisations entrusted one company’s technology to satisfy the needs of as many departments as possible. While it might have been risky to base a tech stack on one or very few providers, it simplified integration between the different modules, as they are natively interconnected, and therefore minimised other risks involved with integration.

The famous saying that ‘Nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM’ does well to summarise the state of mind of most CIOs around the world during this period.

Enterprise technology in the years 2020–2040

Today, these same organisations are finding that the technology they need to deliver superior customer experiences involves a lengthy implementation process, or simply isn’t available to them.

New solutions and channels are emerging at a faster rate than ever before, and it’s unimaginable that the monolithic commerce platforms that dominated the first two decades of the 21st century will be able to keep pace. Acquisitions may speed up development, but innovation will still move faster than monoliths can to integrate all of these technologies into their platforms.

Organisations require agility to adapt to fast-changing customer demands. Monolithic architectures lack agility by design. Any small change requires a large and disruptive system upgrade. When an organisation needs a new feature, they need to be able to implement it as soon as possible without waiting on a new release for the full monolithic stack.

A recent study commissioned by the MACH Alliance has stated that legacy is still holding companies back, with one in five companies spending over half their IT budget on upgrades. How can an organisation be innovative, competitive and profitable if half its budget is spent simply maintaining the technology it already has?

The role of the CIO is now more important than ever

The role of the CIO is to give their organisation a solid base on which they can successfully operate. A modern CIO will not put all their eggs in one basket – that is to say, they will not base the backbone of their enterprise technology ecosystem on one or a few monolithic players.

Instead, they will need to compose the IT system of their company with the building blocks they need, like building LEGO.

This is the new superpower of a good CIO, selecting for each block the best-of-breed solution based on:

  • The supplier’s expertise in that topic, allowing a full spectrum of use cases that will provide the CIO agility in case the current needs of the company one day evolve. 
  • How flexible, open and easy it is to integrate with other software already used by the organisation, allowing the CIO to compose their LEGO castle to fit the exact needs of the organisation and its customers. 

The MACH Alliance supports CIOs in selecting these solutions – its membership only features best-of-breed ISVs, integrators and enablers who embrace composable commerce and have a track record of successful integration into existing technology ecosystems. 

The question that CIOs must ask themselves now is if their monolithic commerce platforms are able to incorporate new use cases and innovations fast enough to meet their organisation’s needs – or if these dynamic, agile, best-of-breed companies can do it better?

Further reading