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The path to workplace consumerization is coming along slowly, according to Tony Byrne. PHOTO: Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho

Digital customer experience (CX) and digital workplace technologies have crossed paths because businesses want to consumerize their employee experiences.

That consumerization is on a slow trajectory, though. 

That was one of the themes presented by the Real Story Group in a webinar this week, “2017 MarTech & EmpEx Vendor Map: What Does It Mean?” 

Tony Byrne, CEO and founder of the Olney, Md.-based vendor research and analysis firm, discussed trends for enterprise technologies in the areas of digital CX (i.e. web content management, marketing automation, CRM) and digital workplace (i.e. enterprise collaboration, human capital management).

Workplace Consumerization Slow Trail

Tony Byrne
Tony Byrne

While some of the innovations, methods and features of the digital customer experience world are finding their way into the digital workplace ecosystem, Byrne said consumerization in the workplace isn't catching on like gangbusters.

"There is this long-held belief or aspiration," he said, "that we all want the consumerization of workplace technologies. I'd love to believe that this is really happening, and it is happening, but very slowly. We're talking with our subscribers about adapting some of the methods in the customer digital experience world and taking it to an employee experience environment."

Byrne has helped CMSWire drive home lessons from the digital experience and digital workplace trenches at the company's two events — Digital Workplace Experience and DX Summit

Byrne will be leading a workshop titled, "The Right Way to Select Digital Experience Technology," Nov. 13 at the DX Summit taking place at the Radisson Blu Aqua in Chicago.

'Backlash with Suite Vendors'

Byrne discussed other trends in enterprise technology during the webinar, including the breakdown of what he calls "center" tech verses "periphery."

In a nutshell, picture this as Microsoft verses smaller point solutions

Technology practitioners face choices including the ongoing suite verses best of breed debate. Byrne said this choice is "very situational" without a particular blanket answer.

He noted Real Story Group sees a "little bit of backlash with suite vendors," particularly in the digital marketing and customer engagement segments, due to poor integrations. Large suite vendors typically come with complex implementations. They've also acquired smaller technologies, leading technology practitioners to feel as if they're leveraging "best of breed" anyway.

"There is a little backlash on that on the digital workplace side, too," Byrne said, with the exception of Microsoft, which is a force in the marketplace.

The enterprise technology landscape also includes a "new verses old" conversation. 

Some newer technologies, like Slack, for instance, are natively offered in the cloud. Newer tech may sound great, but you may not get the continuity or reliability that you perhaps would with an established vendor.

However, with the old systems come the risk of technical debt, Byrne said, and "sometimes an increasing interest rate on that technical debt."

Digital Marketing and Digital Workplace Technology

'Vertigo-Inducing' Amount of Tech Choice

New or old, businesses do not lack for choices when shopping for a solution. Scott Brinker's MarTech landscape includes more than 5,000. CabinetM lists 7,000 in its MarTech, AdTech and sales tech database

This doesn't even begin to touch the enterprise content management, human resources software or collaboration technologies, though RSG broke out 200 significant solutions for the latter.

Byrne calls the technology invasion "pervasive fragmentation," a fancy phrase, he said, for the fact there is "a heckuva lot of vendors." He called this a "good thing" because it leads to innovation, in some cases keep costs down and leads to choices for technology practitioners.

RSG finds technology variations per region, business models, licensing, channels and cloud offerings.

While it's good to have these choices, it can be "vertigo-inducing" because there are "too many" choices. 

The choices boil down to platforms verses products, Byrne finds. Products can be used right away, while platforms are customizable and more extensible.

Products can be cheaper and less complex than platforms, but lack what Byrne called "feature richness."

Try Before You Buy With Enterprise Tech

Enterprises need to gauge what kind of resources they'll need for deployment. How developer-intensive will it be? What kind of operational capacity will you need to be effective? Would you want a system built for the cloud or one that's cloud-enabled and retrofitted into the cloud?

Larger vendors are making substantial investments into the cloud and advancements in the areas of cognitive technology, particularly artificial intelligence (AI).

Byrne cautions practitioners to ensure promises of AI are actually met with finished, polished applications.

"The reality," he said, "may not be quite as vivid as you may like."

Ultimately, enterprise technology selections should be an iterative, adaptive, test-oriented, hands-on and team-based process. Never make a selection without a "bake-off" of your finalists.

"The biggest mistake is enterprise technology selection," Byrne said, "is not getting hands-on with the technology and simulating what life is going to actually be like using this technology before you buy it."