The complete digital experience from one digital provider. Ah, sounds refreshing, doesn't it?

Or maybe it doesn't. Maybe being locked into one vendor sounds scary.

The truth is -- most experts think the industry is far from having an all-in-one.

Forrester Research reported this in its first Wave for Digital Experience Delivery Platforms last month. It determined no vendor offers a truly "end-to-end solution."

Heck, when even vendors admit they don't offer the complete digital package, you know it's the truth.

"Our end goal is a common user interface for everything end-to-end," one software company product manager told Forrester researchers. "Currently we only have that for the first third of the journey."

We asked three professionals in the digital industry to weigh in on this question of "all-one-in."

The Question

Forrester claims no digital experience platforms offer end-to-end solutions. Do you agree with that generally? If so, what factors stop vendors from being the be-all, end-all digital experience provider? Will they ever break through these barriers? And do customers even want one, end-to-end provider? 

Tony Byrne, Founder, The Real Story Group

customer experience, Discussion Point: Can One Provider Ace Digital Experience?In 2001, Byrne founded CMS Watch as a vendor-independent analyst firm to evaluate content technologies. Over time, CMS Watch evolved into the multi-channel research and advisory organization known today as The Real Story Group

Byrne, the original author of The Real Story Group's Web CMS research, a former journalist and a 20-year technology industry veteran, oversees all of The Real Story Group's technology streams.

Before 2001, he managed an engineering team at a systems integration firm. He now focuses his own research on enterprise community and collaboration software, SharePoint and web content management. Tweet to Tony Byrne.

First, there’s really no such thing as a Digital Experience Platform.  

Today customers depend on a wide variety of tools to support all their customer touch points. These systems can range from various flavors of CRM, to Salesforce automation, email marketing, social engagement, web content and experience management, transactional portals and many specialized mobile delivery platforms, to name just a few. The variety of these customer touch points is broadening each year.

Now there are vendors that will claim to offer many of these solutions. But their platforms are invariably cobbled together from acquisitions rather than a single organic whole, and therefore likely no better integrated than if you had licensed reasonably open systems from multiple providers. 

The term “Marketing Cloud” sounds enticing, but is largely mythical and will remain so for some time. For marketers and other customer-facing managers, this means that you need to live in a multi-system world (even if you obtain many of those systems from the same vendor), and bring resources to bear accordingly.  

Remember that since there’s no magic bullet, all your competitors face the same challenge. A savvy enterprise, then, will build strong bridges between marketing and IT (ideally co-locating marketing-oriented technologists with business partners) and invest in comprehensive digital education and training for marketing staff, who no longer have the luxury of assuming that marketing tech is a black box that falls under someone else’s domain.  

We’ve been working with some of our subscribers on how to build solid enterprise architectures around data and process flows. Much the same way there is no one uber experience platform, you will need to build logical data warehouses and processes that can flex to accommodate new systems. In short, a “digital experience platform” is the overall architecture that you create. Once you have that, you can successfully evaluate individual solutions as your needs arise.  

R. Shay Miles, Digital and Mobile Experience Lead, The North Face

customer experience, Discussion Point: Can One Provider Ace Digital Experience?

In her current role at The North Face (a division of VF Corp – Outdoor Coalition), Miles leads digital innovation including user experience and design, “mobile-always” strategy, strategic partnerships and strives to enhance the multichannel business model. 

She has more than 10 years of experience driving growth and profitability, championing the need for digital investments and developing and executing strategies. She is on the executive board of Oakland Digital Arts & Literacy and is a member of Women in Wireless -- San Francisco Chapter. Tweet to R. Shay Miles


Indeed, there are limitations amongst our current options of digital experience delivery platform providers. Today, companies rely on a variety of platforms to address all phases of the customer experience journey -- not just for digital customers, not brick-and-mortar customers, not omnichannel customers -- but “customers” (and audiences) period, who expect to get what they want, seamlessly, in their immediate context. 

Certainly, there are areas for improvement that would be effective for ambitious online retailers, multichannel marketplaces and financial/commercial/entertainment service providers. To start, vendors need to unlock/build on the software to make sure companies have the opportunity to drive customer engagement through emotional connections as well as commerce.