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The Evolving Scope of ‘Digital Experience’ Blog Feature
John Zimmerer

By: John Zimmerer on November 24th, 2017

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The Evolving Scope of ‘Digital Experience’

Customer Communications

Back in 2015, we wrote about digital experience scope creep and the omni-channel customer journey. Our goal was to draw attention to how each department and line of business tended to have its own narrow focus on touchpoints along the customer journey, and to how people, processes and technologies tend to remain siloed from each other, with little to no integration between digital experience (DX) applications and tools across an organization. And with omni-channel communications, enterprises found themselves grappling with not just scope creep but more like a scope explosion, as they struggled to integrate disparate systems of engagement into a cohesive DX architecture.

That process is still very much ongoing. Two years later, however, the market is starting to get its hands around it. Instead of just getting overwhelmed and reacting to changes in the DX landscape, more organizations are starting to understand how the scope of DX is evolving and are working strategically in the direction of selecting and integrating DX technologies that serve customers at every stage of the customer lifecycle.

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We can trace this shift in the perception of DX scope through the evolution of industry analysts' coverage of products and business imperatives. They started out covering DX as a product category (or several product categories). Analysts soon started treating it as an architecture as it became clear that there was a lot of overlap in product categories and the tools needed to share customer data, content, and context for maximum customer experience effectiveness.

Forrester was the first to articulate the architectural nature of digital experience delivery, but they left some blanks to be filled in. We understand that Gartner will be defining the DX platform and scope of product categories within, and that they intend to further explore integrating other complementary technologies in the future (i.e. analytics, data, content). We’ll be paying close attention as the thinking continues to evolve. There’s probably at least one more iteration in this evolution of thinking to come.

What's Core to a DX Platform?

We recently urged readers to think beyond “martech” (or servicetech or ecommerce tech) to think of any and all software involved in the delivery and management of the digital customer experience as “engagetech.” If a solution doesn’t look beyond its niche purpose to how it works as a piece of the entire lifetime engagement with the customer, it’s just going to be another silo in a sea of silos. We have to think more broadly now, with an eye towards integration.

So what should be in your DX hub? That depends on your industry and organizational needs. For example, industries like retail and public transportation don’t need to generate a lot of customer correspondence, but industries like healthcare and finance do. So some organizations need a powerful customer communications management (CCM) solution as part of their DX architecture while others don’t.

To determine what you need, Forrester analyst Ted Schadler recommends starting with the customer journey to plan out your DX technology strategy: “1) Start with a customer journey map; 2) apply cloud-hosted, mobile-first, and insights-driven thinking; and 3) implement a digital experience platform to serve customers along every step of their journey.”

Gartner analysts Olive Huang, et al, also recommend starting with a customer journey map as part of their Ten Steps for Planning Your Customer Engagement Hub:

  1. Identify important customer journeys for improvement.
  2. Translate the improvement opportunities into business and technology imperatives.
  3. Secure the project owner and budget.
  4. Discover cross-departmental collaboration opportunities.
  5. Take stock of the "as-is" CEH components.
  6. Identify technological convergence when selecting technology components.
  7. Develop a "pervasive integration" strategy to support the CEH.
  8. Establish a two-tiered approach: one for the implementation project and one for the ongoing operations.
  9. Plan for the "big change" and build a culture of fluid change.
  10. Design the measurement of business impact on productivity and CX.

Notice step eight in Gartner's recommendation. Also called "bimodal IT," this approach allows you to develop a future-ready architecture in tandem with your existing architecture, shifting functionality to the new framework as you go. In other words, you can start with your core essential platform and supplement it with best-in-breed purpose-specific solutions depending on your customers’ needs as revealed through customer journey mapping.

Customer Engagement Is Bigger Than Any Single DX Solution

The takeaway is that the customer engagement architecture is bigger than any one piece of the customer lifecycle, and it’s highly dependent on the industry and nature of your particular organization. There are several large software suites called DX platforms that cover most of the bases, but the truth is, you’re almost certainly going to have to supplement those platforms to meet all of your customers’ needs.

Integration is the first step. You MUST connect all of the DX tech pieces together. Start with your customer journeys and work your way around, stitching everything together as you go. In the process, you’ll encounter dead ends in your existing architecture — places where you literally can’t get there from here. So when you’re evaluating possible replacement solutions to solve your business problems, do so with the future in mind.

INTOUCH® is a great example of a low-risk evolutionary step in your strategic DX architecture development. Any organization that needs CCM probably has legacy software in place that can generate and deliver correspondence, but that solution probably wasn't developed with the need to integrate with future DX architectures in mind (e.g., they’re likely not cloud-friendly, services-ready, highly integratable, etc.). If that sounds all too familiar, consider using a bi-modal approach and add INTOUCH to your customer engagement architecture alongside your legacy CCM solution. As your engagement architecture evolves, you can leverage more of the underlying content services INTOUCH offers, and eventually decommission your legacy software application(s).

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About John Zimmerer

John Zimmerer is the senior director of marketing at Topdown, where he leads market research and outreach efforts for the company's customer communications and customer experience products. Most recently, John has been researching and writing about the future direction of the technologies that power customer experience, and is regarded as a thought leader in this area. John has nearly 20 years of software product marketing experience. His areas of expertise include market research, analyst relations, public relations and digital marketing.

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