CMSWire thanks everyone who played a role in what truly was the success of this publication’s first sales and marketing technology conference, including all who attended the big event in Chicago, all of our remote participants and all of those who put up with our persistent reminders and the #DXS15 hashtag everywhere.
Now let’s put aside the gratitude and accolades for a bit, as we take a forensic analysis of what we’ve learned. We’ll start, as promised before, with a re-examination of what I believed the Keys to the Conference would be, and whether they turned out to be the key issues.
Key No. 1: Mapping Technology to Strategy
The statement that an organization’s technology strategy should be closely aligned with its business goals (the focus of Part 1 of our series) seems like a point against which no argument can be made. At issue this week were two big, unresolved questions: how and when.
“To be honest, we tend to go from strategy straight to technology, and skip that blurry part in the middle,” said Forrester analyst Mark Grannan during the Tuesday program. “And this is the elephant in the room — this is the hardest one. This is getting your employees on board, to do what they need to do to work together to enable the customer.
“Unfortunately,” Grannan noted, “that’s a lot of different stakeholders.”
Among many of the attendees with whom I spoke, there was general acknowledgment that a technology strategy of some sort does indeed exist within their organizations.
This is progress compared with just three years ago, when executives and marketing chiefs were not quite certain what their technology strategies actually were, and were searching for the right people to ask where their strategies marched off to.
Back then, I often asked, “What’s the technology strategy within your organization?” More times that I can count, this response came back: “Oh, we use SharePoint.”
I heard almost none of this from the attendees at DX Summit.
In fact, I sensed a growing exasperation among SharePoint subscribers, struggling to determine just what Microsoft’s strategy for SharePoint will be before deciding whether to align themselves with Microsoft.
The problem for most organizations represented this year at DX Summit was not the need to adopt a technology strategy. It was the need to extend the adoption of that strategy across departmental boundaries, and in many cases, among partners as well.
One big ray of hope on this topic came from Nick Panagopoulos, who directs strategic alliances for Translations.com.
During a Tuesday panel session, he told moderator Jill Finger Gibson about how his business deals with organizations that need an easy way to make their existing content multi-lingual.
Translations.com accomplishes this through an aggregation of content, Panagopoulos said, enabling some content to be translated through crowdsourcing. But the process of deciding what content gets translated when and by whom requires the company to bring the primary stakeholder into the room for a one-on-one discussion.
“The one time when it’s not one-on-one is, it’s going to be marketing and IT in the room together with us often, if there’s a marketing-related task,” he said. “We don’t often split them up, because IT — they don’t want to talk to us about it on their own, and marketing doesn’t feel comfortable talking to us about technology without IT there.”
In other words, Translations.com actually has to bridge the gaps between the two stakeholders in a client’s content, if it is ever to work out a plan for that client. And evidently, the client recognizes that this needs to happen, if it is ever to make progress.
Key No. 2: Is a Cultural Shift Necessary for Better DX?
Vendors often speak about the need for organizations to completely rethink their business models, in order for them to better understand the pressing need for them to purchase their products and services immediately before the zombies reach the outer gates. The debate over the need for a cultural shift was the focus of Part 2 of our series.
During a Wednesday roundtable, Hilton Worldwide Senior Director for Global Marketing Meghan Walsh turned the cultural shift question entirely on its ear.
In response to a question from our Siobhan Fagan about whether getting “buy-in” from corporate executives for a DX initiative continues to be the problem, Walsh inverted the scene, saying that DX advocates need to better comprehend the nature of the systems for which they would be champions, lest they end up advocating bad processes.
With the mobile check-in process, for example, Walsh said, “That has to function on-property. You have to know that, if you’ve checked in on your phone and you get to property, you’re going to be able to get into your room."
“That requires understanding how the check-in process works at a hotel, how things are communicating to the hotel via systems, what do the front desk people need to know? What questions do they now need to be able to answer?”
Walsh coined what may very well be a new phrase for marketing technologists looking to improve DX within their organizations.
“It tends to be more the operation impacts of being customer-centric at headquarters,” she said. “That transition is sometimes thornier than, I think, people like, because you really are talking about a unique individual when they walk into that hotel, and go up to that front desk to get their key. We always have to be cognizant of that.”
Certainly technologists have the best interests of customers in mind, she said. But perhaps we’re already past that milestone; we all have the customer’s interest firmly in mind. From here, we need to align customer processes with business processes.
“Sometimes we don’t know what the impacts are of the business decisions and ideas we are coming up with,” the Hilton VP said.
Key No. 3: What Will DX Mean Tomorrow?
It was refreshing to see a dialing down of the tired notion that cloud, mobile, and social technologies are conspiring to change all our lives. If we’re being truly customer-centric, then technologists need to craft digital experiences that transcend any and all delivery platforms.
Whether DX continues to evolve at the pace of the last five years (the subject of Part 3 of our series) will depend on how organizations deal with analytics. There’s little doubt that analytics is necessary, but there’s considerable disagreement over what analytics is, and just what kinds of customer-produced signals require constant measurement.
“As these different digital channels have grown up, they’ve grown up organically,” said Phil Kemelor, senior manager for digital analysis at Ernst & Young and a long-time friend of CMSWire, during his Wednesday afternoon session.
“Because they’ve grown up organically, the social media team... uses their analytics to inform the social media team; the Web team will use their analytics to improve the Web site; the advertising team will use their analytics to figure out how they should deploy their search budget. But there isn’t a whole lot of collaboration going on.”
Each of these departments tends to invest in some form of analytics on its own. Add to this list one more department: IT, which uses application performance management tools to maintain explicitly detailed logs on all its customers’ sessions.
Indeed, one of the first uses for Hadoop big data in the enterprise was by IT and DevOps, to make immediate sense of all the signals being produced in its logs by APM agents injected into applications.
Kemelor told his attendees that the silo walls being built organically, separating the digital analytics teams from the business units that could make the best use of that data, have actually grown stronger in recent years.
Who should serve as the primary stakeholder in the process of sewing together a cohesive platform across all the organization’s technologies, breaking down the silo barriers and evening out the playing field? That’s what one attendee asked Earley Information Science CEO Seth Earley (who presented a DX Summit workshop Monday), during a follow-up session on Wednesday.
“What you find is that you have multiple owners across all these different areas,” responded Earley, verifying what Kemelor had said earlier.
“That’s why it has to come from the C-suite. Full stop, end of story. If it does not come from the CMO, CIO, CEO, you really can’t do it.”
There were plenty of major technology vendors represented last week at DX Summit, including Jahia, Oracle, Translations.com, CareerBuilder and Siteworx. But no single vendor dominated the discussions at DX Summit 2015.
And that’s as it should be. No vendor or analyst firm or technology advocate can effectively re-align its orbit around the customer, if it insists on casting itself as the center of gravity.
Last week, CMSWire launched a new satellite into orbit. Its flight path revolves around you and only you. And its orbital period comes around again next year.