Strategy

How decoupled architectures help manage complex business problems

By Nicholas Gracilla  ·   October 11, 2021  ·  2 minute read

If you hang around technology folks long enough, you'll eventually hear about headless, which makes me think of chickens. It's actually an architecture that helps businesses handle the problems they face today.

A hallmark of modern websites and web applications is a decoupled architecture, sometimes called “headless.” Let’s see what that means and unpack the value it brings. 

I often hear this from businesses struggling with their technology systems: “I hate my content management system. What should I use?” They then fall into a research hole, comparing HubSpot to Drupal or whatever. I’ll hear things like “our editors are comfortable with WordPress” or “we think this CMS offers the best templates.”  

This kind of platform vetting was helpful 5 to 10 years ago. But these platforms are solving yesterday’s problems: how to move content, media, and data through templates and business logic to make a web page.

The modern business challenge is handling multiple channels.

Yeah, sure, a website. But also e-commerce, a client portal, a digital display, and — soon — conversational interfaces are all parts of the modern customer experience. And marketing still produces product catalogs for the sales teams, both digital and print. How to handle them all?

The traditional, monolithic approach doesn’t scale.

I call the traditional solution the mushroom approach: create a CMS for each of them. You can see the challenges:

  • Platform dependence means businesses are bound to the platform success and can’t innovate at their own speed;
  • Plugins prosper, seeking to fill features and functionality the platform wasn’t designed for — but introduces security risks, unmaintained code, and conflicts; 
  • Multiple CMSes create headaches for IT to maintain and struggles for editors and staff to learn and manage.

The multichannel problem inspires the decoupled approach.

Rather than running separate applications for each channel, the decoupled approach separates business concerns: content and data storage are handled independently of a specific front-end. The CMS isn’t a “web page maker,” but a replaceable component for handling abstracted content. And that content gets pushed through separate systems to create different products and tools.

Next essay: how do decoupled architectures work?



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