Innovation Requires Iteration

Rory Dennis
August 4, 2020
5 mins

“Innovation is the creation, development, and implementation of a new product, process or service, with the aim of improving efficiency, effectiveness or competitive advantage."

When you ask Google “What’s the best definition of innovation?”, this is the response you get. Google attributes the content to the government of New Zealand. I am not sure how an entire government can be given credit for a definition, but I have to agree, it’s a good one.

It’s no secret that in today’s fast-paced mobile-driven digital world, improving efficiency, effectiveness or competitive advantage is the key motivator driving brands to innovate with their technology platforms. It’s become clear that a brand’s ability to continually capture and retain customer interest is dependent on how successful they are at responding to consumer wants and needs immediately. So clear, that Google gave a name for the trend, defining it as “micro-moment marketing."

Due to a variety of factors, the wants and needs of the typical consumer change rapidly. Consumers expect brands to roll out new products, new features, and new content on an almost daily basis. From automated product recommendations and virtual dressing rooms to contactless payment options and curbside pickup, brands have to update data, revise code, and integrate new tools into their technology to remain relevant in the market. As a result, companies constantly monitor technology advances, industry trends, and their competition to identify upcoming customer expectations, and then turn to their IT teams to innovate and implement new features to address them. All too often, the response they get is, "No, we can't do that." Or, “We can do that, but we’ll need 100 people and six months.”

The simple fact is, adding a feature is easier said than done, because innovation requires iteration. The innovation process typically takes months, sometimes even years, from concept to completion. It took Apple five years to produce the first iPhone for example – and it takes Nike an average of nine months from the design stage to the release of their new sneakers/trainers. It’s no surprise that adding a new feature to a commerce platform can take 4 to 6 months – especially on those older legacy platforms. Software development can be a tedious process which is exacerbated by the organizational bottlenecks, siloed systems, horizontal teams, outdated technology, and waterfall development processes.

“People innovate, not organizations.”

On the other hand, digitally native vertical brands (DVNB's) and tech-first companies have embraced modern MACH technology and processes which enables them to experiment with innovative approaches that allow frequent release cycles. They don’t have to jump through hoops to release new features because their MACH technologies and processes support an agile development methodology.

The basic concept behind MACH is that today’s technology platforms should be underpinned by Microservices, APIs, Cloud-native architectures, and Headless approaches. With this MACH approach, brands can innovations quicker to meet evolving business demands sooner.

How MACH speeds up iterations and delivers faster innovation.

M = Microservices

Loosely coupling services in an application enables each feature to have its own release cycle to speed up iterations.

A = APIs

Pluggable, scalable, and replaceable, APIs simplify programming and accelerate speed to market.

C = Cloud

Provides on-demand availability and instant scalability to support A/B testing, while offering high security and faster content delivery.

H = Headless

Decoupling the front-end of the platform from the back-end allows each side to iterate independently while ensuring no disruption in the UX.

The MACH Alliance

While large organizations have been aware of the importance of “digital transformation” for many years now, gaining the stakeholder buy-in necessary to transition from legacy platforms to MACH at non-tech organizations can be difficult.

The MACH Alliance, formed by 14 technology providers, was created specifically to help line of business stakeholders understand the benefit of a future driven by MACH technology ecosystems. As a non-profit co-operative, the alliance aims to help organizations by presenting the business advantages that truly open, composable, ecosystems offer enterprises and to provide the resources, support, and guidance necessary to spearhead the transition to organizations that can move at high speed in order to better serve their customers.

As Kelly Goetsch, a founding member of the MACH Alliance and Chief Product Officer of commercetools says: “To survive in today’s environment, organizations need to be clever, nimble and agile. MACH’s promise of an open, modern, and composable approach delivers exactly what organizations need to break the archaic 'time to market issue'.”

The time has come, let’s take advantage of it!