How to assess your composable architecture

Monolithic applications are out. Microservices are in. Here are five value pillars to track when assessing the performance of your composable architecture.
August 1, 2023


Welcome to the digital-fast era — all around you, there’s hand-held ecommerce shopping, mind-bending virtual reality experiences, and personalized content that evolves with your wants and needs. 

Who’s shaping these trends? Your customers. On-demand experiential customer interactions are forcing brands to be immediately responsive and consistently adaptive. To keep pace, digital teams have turned away from monolithic solutions in favor of the microservices of a composable architecture. 

The flexible, modular capabilities of composable architecture give teams the ability to build digital experiences that are better, faster, and infinitely scalable. The question now is, how do digital teams show the value of these strategies and technologies in a way that can be documented and easily digested?

Contentful is the foundation on which thousands of brands build their composable architectures. Through collaboration and conversation with companies framing how digital-fast operations are done today, we’ve learned a few things about tracking and measuring value.

What is composable architecture?

Composable architecture breaks the capabilities of all-inclusive monolithic suites into individual microservices that can be constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed again and again to meet evolving digital needs. 

These microservices are connected through APIs to create composable architectures. Built upon a composable content platform like Contentful, these architectures use content to power engaging, scalable customer experiences.

This framework is equatable with microservices architecture, modular architecture, and best-of-breed architecture. There’s also the MACH Alliance, a not-for-profit advocacy group whose members include software vendors, systems integrators, agencies, and individual experts, which is especially useful to guide the selection of individual technologies.

How composable architecture differs from traditional solutions

Traditional digital experience stacks rely on monolithic applications that cover an array of business capabilities through a single, tightly coupled tool. It can be difficult to deviate from the limited offerings of these suites, which can be restrictive and constraining. 

The proliferation of digital channels and the pace at which customers expect to engage with brands on those channels have forced companies to prioritize flexibility, agility, and speed. As headless options emerged to offer greater freedom in language and tooling, monolithic vendors began selling add-ons to stay relevant. The problem with these offerings is that they are often overpriced, underperforming, and have lengthy, resource-hungry integration processes.

Composable architectures offer freedom by allowing development teams to pull in nearly any tool — open-source, third-party, or house-built. Plus, these modules, tools, and components can be infinitely constructed, deconstructed, and restructured to fit the next project or newest digital channel. 

Why assessing (and sharing) the value of this architecture is important

When building composable architectures, developers select tools in which features and functionalities align with business needs rather than existing capabilities. Once integrated, what’s important should shift to how well a given tool accelerates business objectives. This ensures the value of each microservice and the stack as a whole is not only observable but something you can compute. 

It’s important to take a step back and consider how each tool contributes to organization-wide speed, flexibility, extensibility, scalability, and reliability. To quantify value, we recommend collecting data in each area via choice KPIs. In doing so, development teams can minimize pullback on tools that actively contribute to business wins and increase their runtime within the organization. 

Graphic of a platform stack

Five value pillars that matter most

1. Speed: Seize the opportunity

Technology that promotes speed is quick to value, quick to market, and quick to operationalize. It comes with pre-built features and documentation, so developers don’t have to write entire codebases from scratch. If and when updates need to be made, individual contributors should be able to do so and publish the change at a swift pace. Tools with automation features provide added value by eliminating redundant or unnecessary tasks. 

Here are three of nine speed-oriented KPIs we recommend tracking in relation to speed: time to first launch, percent of product built, and percent of processes automated.

2. Flexibility: Customize to your current and future needs

Flexible architectures and tools accommodate shifts in external and internal forces helping digital experiences remain relevant at all times. They minimize — or entirely eliminate —  technological debt, satisfy unique programming language and frameworks preferences, and enhance employee experiences by eliminating the need to develop workarounds. This allows teams to return to the roles and responsibilities they were trained for and enjoy most. 

Here are three of the nine flexibility KPIs we recommend tracking in relation to flexibility: number of workarounds, number of programming languages available, and team member satisfaction.

3. Extensibility: Integrate tools and workflows

The tools a company relies on today might not satisfy tomorrow’s need for in-store digital signage or a mobile app with AR/VR features. Extensibility enables brands to create an ecosystem of tools that can be connected (or disconnected) in support of new needs and operational efficiency. The most extensible tools are easy to integrate and require few resources and limited developer dependencies to do so. They also offer deep customization options so individual contributors can configure their workspace in a way that makes sense to them. 

Here are just three of the nine extensibility KPIs we recommend tracking in relation to extensibility: governance capabilities, number of app integrations, and percent of UI customized. 

4. Scalability: Go big or go big

Two things are true of business growth: companies of all sizes seek it and it requires new tools. These tools should extend a brand’s market reach by offering localization services and reliable global delivery. And, because it’s sometimes not enough to speak to the masses, they should support personalization, so every customer feels seen and cared for. Technology that removes silos and allows for content reusability makes localization and personalization efforts more efficient while safeguarding brand style and messaging. Bonus points if source code is hidden from non-technical users. 

Here are just three of the nine scalability KPIs we recommend tracking in relation to scalability: number of locales, customer conversion, and percent of content reused. 

5. Reliability: Avoid risky business

As businesses scale, it’s more likely that security, privacy, compliance, and human error arise and impact an app’s state. Tools that offer deep storage and routine backups provide a cushion and an opportunity to roll back to previous state changes as developers work to debug the system and mitigate side effects, or mutations. Tools that utilize CDNs to improve page load times and support high traffic offer added value by minimizing latency and downtime. When products, services, and information are delivered quickly, customer satisfaction increases. 

Here are just three of the nine reliability KPIs we recommend tracking in relation to reliability: number of breaches, page load time, and bounce rate.

Icon of a clipboard with a checklist.

Wrapping up

​​The Contentful composable content platform is built for easy integration across any composable architecture. 

It offers you the flexibility to build the UI your team wants and the scalability to drive the omnichannel experiences customers expect (we’re looking at you ecommerce). With Contentful’s exposed tooling, frameworks and App Marketplace, digital teams can integrate with or build out the capabilities they need. 

For more on these value pillars and how a composable content platform like Contentful lays a stable foundation for composable architectures, check out our free white paper on “Assessing composable architecture performance”.

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Editor’s note: The general definition of composable architecture outlined here should not be confused with The Composable Architecture (TCA). According to GitHub, TCA is a framework and library similar to Redux that’s used to build ios applications with toolkits like SwiftUI or UIKit toolkits in an Xcode environment. Instead of being known for its flexibility and future-proof qualities, as composable architecture is, the framework built by Point-Free is recognized for bringing consistency to applications by promoting functional programming and state management.

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