composable digital experiences

The Future of Enterprise Content Strategy Is Composability

January 20, 2023 9 minute read
Composable content builds better digital experiences faster than ever.
composable digital experiences
 

Businesses have been forced to embrace the unknown. We’re all facing digital disruption, but rather than viewing it as an obstacle, we can reshape current strategies. 

People expect digital experiences to be timely, meaningful, and customized to their needs — even as those needs change ever-more. To stay agile and connected to customers, brands must create on-demand content and services. 

But what does that mean? It means the world has moved on from one-size-fits-all customer journeys and siloed, web-based content. Content has proliferated, ushering a simultaneous boom in digital channels and modalities — IoT, voice, mobile, AR/VR, SMS, and so on.

Today, IT leaders must learn how to engage with customers across various channels and interfaces. IT teams’ old systems and architectures are obsolete. As they explore the best option to unify customers’ digital experience, top analysts are encouraging them to revisit their central architecture. As a result, CIOs are moving towards a composable architecture with composable content.

Rather than focusing on a single moment, user, or channel, the open, composable architecture of a digital experience platform (DXP) adds enhanced capabilities that empower organizations to embrace composable content in their enterprise content strategy. 

What is a composable content strategy?

Digital leaders struggle to run siloed legacy technologies that deliver content on specific channels. Why? There’s no centralized architecture that brings the content together so it can be reused efficiently. 

A composable content strategy has overarching governance but breaks structured content down into individual components. These components can serve a number of channels and business functions, and they can be reused across a variety of contexts.

By freeing your content from the constraints of a specific channel, interface, or technology, it’s easier for teams to use that content wherever they need it. In turn, organizations can quickly serve content to customers on their preferred channels.

Pioneering the composable enterprise

At Acquia, we approach this problem by embracing the composability and freedom of Drupal software. The Drupal community creates a vast, open source marketplace of 45,000+ modules that enable organizations to adapt to evolving digital demands. It allows developers and marketers to embrace change by assembling packaged business capabilities and services into tailored, customer-centric experiences. Simply put, Drupal lets us build whatever customers need and expect — you can do this, too!

A composable enterprise content strategy will dismantle rigid business models and empower deeper collaboration across the entire organization to shape more personalized and contextually relevant interactions with customers. The strategy offers three essential differentiators from a monolithic solution:

  1. Pivot: Shift in the face of uncertainty to meet customers where they are and embrace changes on any channel or interface.
  2. Speed: Create and deploy digital experiences quickly through open, accessible content and data elements that enable faster development and that can be reused and reassembled to meet current market needs.
  3. Scale: Allow companies to improve the functionality of existing applications to meet customer demands, launch new applications, and connect with other leading solutions as they emerge in the market.
     

A word about monolithic solutions: They’re great, but an all-in-one solution often locks customers into expensive vendor agreements that limit “composability” to their own software ecosystem. An open, composable system is built to play nice with your existing stack. Let’s explore more about what composable architecture is and how it works.

What is composable architecture?

A composable architecture is one in which the architect or developer can assemble their solution from a combination of services, libraries, packages, and custom code, allowing them to quickly add, remove, or change pieces of the architecture to meet the changing needs of the business.

As a framework, Drupal is the original “low code” toolset with a “configuration over code” approach, and it continues to iterate on those underlying patterns. Through years of real world use and millions of hours of developer time, useful patterns have naturally arisen and been standardized. These concepts are elegant, flexible, and have security baked in. At its core, there are five high-level concepts that define a composable architecture: 

1. Structured data and composable content

Drupal has an advanced system for managing structured data known as entities. An entity is a loadable “thingy” in Drupal that can be fieldable and revised. Teams can use entities for both content type data as well as configuration type data. This simple pattern allows us to create a very flexible and robust system.

There are many types of default entities: content, components, media, terms, comments, and users. While each entity type has its own in-app location and set of functionalities, the underlying foundation is the same. We can use the same field types from one to the next, load and manage the data in the same basic way, and layer on specific functionality as needed. Even better, we can create custom entities that use the same system but provide completely unique functionality.

2. Layout and display that powers composable design

When most people think of a low code tool, they usually imagine a UI of some type for creating or assembling applications from reusable and configurable bits. Indeed, the ability to control the experience is a fundamental requirement of any good composable system.

Drupal provides a number of valuable patterns here. In addition to content and media, there’s also the idea of blocks or components. These are reusable and configurable entities designed to be contextually aware and to be used in the display. Drupal also provides a core tool — Layout Builder — that enables a site builder to control much of the output of the page with a visual tool.

Atop this foundation, Acquia’s Drupal Cloud includes a tool called Site Studio that turns the building experience up to 11. Site Studio enables low code creation of styles, templates, and configurable components. It also provides a powerful visual page builder tool that makes it even easier for content creators to assemble (or compose) their content with minimal effort. This tool simply extends the capabilities of the underlying system.

3. Composable business capabilities built through low-code configuration 

An important aspect of any composable architecture is the ability to make changes to the system without deploying code. In fact, one of the biggest factors that can slow a project is if it requires a code deployment to make small changes. From the beginning, Drupal has had a “config over code” bias that solidified its position as the original low code framework.

With configuration entities, Drupal provides a core method for managing and responding to any type of configuration options in a reliable and secure way. This covers not only the UI aspect of changing the system state but also a code-based approach to package and deploy configuration, which also allows the reuse of that configuration for additional sites or applications. The flexibility of supporting both code and UI-based configuration is a powerful advantage.

4. API-first architecture allows for open, composable technology stacks 

Of course, no modern system would be complete without a reliable way to integrate with other systems via APIs. Drupal provides a core services layer that can be used in a number of ways to power any type of integration or connection. In fact, we find that any limitations with an integration are on the other side of the wire because Drupal is so powerful and flexible.

With JSONAPI in core, GraphQL in contrib, and native support for custom REST endpoints, Drupal defines the hybrid decoupled model that the industry strives for — the best of all worlds and composability for both marketers and developers.

Building components in Drupal 

Many monolithic CMS platforms leverage entire web pages as their building blocks and organize these pages within a hierarchical library of different folders. However, Drupal breaks down the basic page even further into smaller units or entities that can be applied in a variety of different ways. This composable approach to content management allows components to be reused across multiple platforms. We touched on these entities briefly earlier, but let’s explore them in a bit more depth.

Here are the foundational three:

Nodes

Traditionally, nodes were understood to represent a single page on a website. The node may contain references to other entities (like images, documents, or videos) and fields that store specific types of data (like a link, telephone number, email address, etc.). In a composable content model, nodes don’t need to be equated to pages — nodes can be used to represent a piece of content, such as a product or recipe.

Media entities

Media entities represent a single type of media — images, documents (such as PDFs), videos (generally hosted externally), or other types of embedded media, such as a social media feed. These kinds of content entities are more suitable to reuse in multiple places but are limited in the type of content they can contain.

Custom content block entities

Custom content block entities are the most flexible type of content entity that Drupal provides. They can be reused across multiple platforms and devices and are delivered via APIs. See what this component-based site building looks like in Acquia Site Studio:

Drupal grants developers the freedom and functionality to deploy digital experiences across multiple platforms and devices while keeping all of the data and content in a centralized location. 

The ability to deconstruct experiences within Drupal into atomic, composable pieces of content allows for a more efficient editorial experience. Unlike the restrictive platforms that tie content to specific presentations, Drupal’s open, composable architecture provides the fundamental building blocks that deliver the next best experience in any context.    

Building blocks to better digital experiences

The whole point of composability is the ability to create content and serve it across diverse channels, formats, and contexts. As technology has progressed, customer expectations have grown, and content consumption platforms have multiplied. To compete in the modern digital landscape, a composable enterprise will lead the way by having content that’s ready to build wherever your customers want it. 

Visa said it first: “It’s everywhere you want to be.” 

If you want to learn more about composable content and how the composable enterprise is the future of digital experience, we’re happy to help. Get in touch with our team today.

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