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Overcoming the digital experience challenge with a composable DXP

We are in the era of offering total digital experiences, and DXPs — or Digital Experience Platforms — have emerged as the enabler of this for digital teams.
JP Syriatowicz (blog)

John-Paul Syriatowicz 20 Jan 2023

There’s a LOT of choice when it comes to building your digital experience tech stack. What doesn’t help the decision-making process is that it can seem like everyone is offering very similar solutions. Instead of getting lost in the minutiae, here are some tips to cut through the noise.

  • Your tech should make it easy to build great digital experiences, quickly.
  • Your platform has to give you significant flexibility to adapt over time, without forcing you into bad trade-offs or operational disruptions.

The Shortcomings of a CMS

Content Management Systems (CMS) are a good place to start when considering this challenge. A CMS allows non-technical users to create and publish content on the web. A CMS also allows organizations to create workflows and set permissions, for quality assurance.

When CMSs were first introduced, they were the perfect solution to help overcome the technical hurdles of content sharing. It enabled the management of content published on the only digital channel available - your website.

However, if there’s one thing you can put your money on, it’s that digital evolves and quickly. Over time, things have started to get more complicated. Customer expectations have shifted towards connected, personalized experiences that cut across channels, locations, and devices.

We’ve moved from static content management to dynamic digital experience creation. It’s a big shift but one that is welcomed by organizations that want their customers to get more from their digital platforms to deliver business results and efficiencies. Yet, team sizes have remained the same (or even decreased) and expectations to deliver have only increased.

A CMS alone can no longer provide the support required. A new class of software is needed.

Moving Beyond Content Management — The Rise of the Digital Experience Platform (DXP)

We are in the era of offering total digital experiences, and DXPs - or Digital Experience Platforms - have emerged as the enabler of this for digital teams.

Many tools in the digital landscape claim to fix one part of your digital experience, but a DXP is about looking at the whole picture. It simplifies and centralizes data, systems, and processes - regardless of source or channel. Its pre-built components, templates, and integrations also cut development time, increase the reuse of existing work and improve solution resilience. True DXPs bring together what’s needed to create experiences, native within the platform or third-party applications - and make them work as though they are one solution.

All of this significantly accelerates the creation of more sophisticated experiences, without the complexity or instability that traditionally plague multiple systems and applications cobbled together.

At a time when tech talent has never been scarcer, and the market landscape continues to be uncertain, a DXP gives you more control.

The Promise of a DXP

We discussed at Squiz Sync that a DXP promises five things required to meet the challenges of a dynamic digital experience environment.

  • Experience: Create different types of digital experiences with one platform. For example, websites (of any size), intranets, portals, mobile applications (PWAs), and more. Establish your own consistent design system to keep all digital experiences consistent and manage teams that work across them.
  • Channels: Publish the same content to different channels and maintain experience continuity. For example, start a transaction on your mobile device and complete it on your desktop. A DXP ensures that the functionality, content, and editing experience are consistent and connected as one.
  • Personalization: Influence customer or user action by curating an experience that is relevant to the person when they visit. Surfacing personalized content to the individual also maximizes usability because it cuts out the noise and gets them to their outcome as fast as possible.
  • Self-service: Integrate different systems and data sources to empower customers to self-serve. Create applications that allow people to complete the tasks they’re trying to do, independently and quickly.
  • Governance: Make it easy to manage everything under your remit. From security, content auditing, and web archive, to the performance and scalability demanded of an enterprise. Work across platforms and channels knowing that content and data are governed. Permissions, user groups, SSO, and content approval workflows offer control over what is created, published, and available.

Expanding to Seven Promises: Breaking Down Governance

When summarizing the promise of a DXP, “governance” is a term that encapsulates a number of different angles (as seen in the short description above) and so, in order to really do it justice, we have now expanded our five promises of a DXP out to seven, making governance a standalone pillar with a clear outcome.

  • Governance: Work across platforms and channels knowing that content and data is governed. Permissions, user groups, SSO, and content approval workflows offer control over what is created, published, and available.
  • Security: Have peace of mind, with embedded advanced security and privacy. A DXP will live up to security best practices (such as ISO27001 and CSA STAR) and offer continuous monitoring to interpret performance in real-time.
  • Optimization: Use data and insights to make decisions and improve the customer experience based on their needs, wants, and behaviors, automatically.

What is a Composable DXP?

For many, the definition of a composable DXP is taking multiple best-of-breed products and capabilities and bringing them together to create a solution, such as a website or portal.

This is accurate to a point, but it’s only part of the story. It doesn’t present the full advantages of true composability.

The move to composability comes in an effort to counter the pitfalls of adopting a monolithic architecture. Monoliths mean you are stuck with one vendor, all-or-nothing scalability, and solutions that break when switching tech in and out.

But there are, of course, benefits of this approach as it offers you consistency. It’ll have a single entry point, a consistent user interface, and leave you with just one piece of technology to monitor and manage.

Composability is more than just connecting products and capabilities with integrations. Yes, you can build in this way and yes, that would technically create a “composed” solution. But the challenge you face is that these capabilities are somewhat stitched together. This approach results in multiple entry points for users, multiple pieces of technology to maintain and govern, and difficulty when adapting your solutions.

The true quality of a composable DXP is measured in how much it feels like one, seamlessly integrated platform, while still offering you flexibility, adaptability, and scalability.

Bringing Capabilities Together to Build Different Solutions

Digital capabilities, such as content editing, forms, personalization, content and data management, and site search, are all expected from a DXP. But when managed and offered individually or through point-to-point integrations, they are hard for employees to manage, and create a disconnected experience for customers.

With a composable DXP, these services and capabilities can be sourced from different vendors, but still come together to form one, common solution that works like they’ve always belonged together. They can be removed, updated or replaced with minimal disruption to the customer experience. Whether they come from one or multiple vendors. Changing one capability would have no impact on the performance of the others, or the whole.

Better still, once those solutions have been built - either by your team or by an external provider - a composable DXP will enable you to reuse the content or functionality on other channels, creating even greater efficiencies and consistency of experience.

More sophisticated digital experiences can be built really fast and easier with a composable DXP.  Experiences can also be managed more efficiently at scale.

Composability as the Great Advantage

The beauty of a composable DXP is that it doesn’t stop at the point when a solution is built. You can continue to add and remove services as they are required, in order to meet the changing demands of customers.

What’s more, you may already have core services that work for you. You may not want to swap these tools out. A composable DXP gives you the freedom to bring together only what you need and connect the data/tools/content required so that your customer gets one brand experience.

An example is when you have multiple CMSs managed by different teams. You are happy with them, but you might want to create a single website or landing page that brings content and data from these CMSs into one place. How do you do it without having to replace your existing tech stack?

With a composable DXP, you can keep your CMSs and still achieve this unified customer experience. Pull in all the content into the DXP - making the CMSs act like one platform. Easily republish those assets to other channels of choice. Manage approvals and workflows of all the content to ensure compliance, regardless of the source CMS. Execute personalization across the channels. Manage it all from one platform. No rip-and-replace is required. No costly disruptions for your teams.

In an ever-growing landscape of martech solutions, the flexibility to adapt your choice of solution without compromising control of the total experience is the only way forward for modern organizations. This way, you get to keep leveraging innovation on your terms, without trading off a seamless customer experience that’s easy to manage.

If it isn’t yet, composability should be priority criteria on your DXP vendor checklist.