To effectively communicate the value of digital customer experience technology, Adrian Newby frames every conversation so that it resonates with the life experience of his audience.

“You have to be able to relate to what people are doing and experiencing in their own industry,” he said.

Diving Deeper Into Digital Governance 

As chief technology officer for digital experience management software vendor Crownpeak, Newby calls on his prior experience in financial services, healthcare, online gaming and media and entertainment working for companies such as Avega, Digital Insight and Transamerica.

“I can almost always find an example or a business illustration that’s familiar to the person across the table and with which they can easily identify,” he said. “This approach helps the conversation become real for them, gets us out of the abstract and into the realm of real challenges, identifiable opportunities and practical solutions.”

Crownpeak is going through its own transformation as the web content management player moves further into digital governance via the recent acquisitions of ActiveStandards and Evidon

“I don’t think we’re done with our M&A plans.” Newby noted the company will likely build, buy and partner to continue to expand its digital experience management offering.

Crownpeak is a sponsor of CMSWire’s DX Summit taking place Nov. 13 through 15 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago. Newby’s colleague Scott Meyer, president of Crownpeak’s digital governance division, will give a session titled “Don’t Let the GDPR Kill Your Marketing Campaigns: Collect Data While Achieving Compliance” on Nov. 14.

We spoke with Newby about how companies should prepare to comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), his thoughts on digital governance and where he thinks companies could improve their digital customer experiences.  

Investments in Compliance and Security Are Not ‘Luxury Taxes’

CMSWire: Where is there room for improvement in the digital experiences companies provide to their customers today? 

Adrian Newby: While we have come so far in providing high-touch, relevant, personalized experiences, it takes a great deal of personal data to create those realities and many companies are still not doing a great job of keeping that data safe. In many cases, companies don't even know what data is being collected in their name, having outsourced huge chunks of their digital program to a succession of third-party systems integrators and digital agencies. As a general principle, that’s not good at all.

Every company strives to establish trust as a core element of its brand with its customers. And the seemingly never-ending series of revelations around data breaches at major organizations around the world are the quickest, most-effective way of destroying that brand equity.

Even more so, now that data protection regulations such as GDPR have defined clear rights for consumers and established severe penalties for companies’ failure to protect those rights, companies need to bring their data protection, privacy and security programs up to the same standards they have achieved with user experience.

CMSWire: How should companies be preparing to comply with the EU’s GDPR, which is due to take effect in May 2018?

Newby: First of all, get advice. Lots of advice. The Regulation is complex, obligations are many and penalties for non-compliance are severe. If your company interacts with anyone inside the borders of the European Union (and that includes casual visitors to your public website), then GDPR applies to you.

Basically, you need a mechanism to keep track of what personal data you are collecting from visitors in your online digital experiences. That includes all of the data collected by third-party technologies — tags — included in your experience, whether or not you were aware they were present in the first place. Then, with the exception of a small class of 'essential' data elements, you need to disclose that list to the visitor and seek their explicit permission before activating those tags and collecting the data.

You also need to provide mechanisms for visitors to determine what data has been collected, request that that such data be erased and manage any disputes that may arise along the way. That’s a very high-level summary but you get the idea. It’s big and it’s comprehensive. 

Learning Opportunities

CMSWire: Are companies likely to face other compliance issues elsewhere in the world in the near future?

Newby: While GDPR is very significant, it’s not the first such program in the world, by a long way. Those challenges already exist and compliance with all the subtle variations in law and regulation is very difficult.

If there is a hope with GDPR, it’s that, since it applies to the second-largest market in the world (measured by GDP), it may well evolve into a global de facto standard and allow a singular approach to prevail worldwide. This would dramatically simplify compliance programs and greatly improve the efficiency of global trade.

CMSWire: In your opinion, why do some companies see digital governance as more of a nice-to-have technology rather than an essential investment?

Newby: I just blogged about this recently in the wake of a recent major data breach at a US-based credit reporting agency. In that article, I suggested that some companies still seem to view investments in compliance and security as inconvenient, unwelcome 'luxury taxes.' Comprehensive governance programs are expensive and it's all too tempting to take a 'risk-based' decision to defer, or even cancel, investment in data protection, compliance and information security practices.

Unfortunately, when it turns out that the downgrading of perceived risk was unduly influenced by the motivation to improve short-term financial results, the consequences can be far-reaching. Today, we see news of mass departures at the C-suite level in the wake of ransomware run amok at a major pharmaceutical firm and billions of dollars’ worth of market capitalization being wiped out at that credit reporting agency.

CMSWire: When you’re not traveling, you like to build furniture. What has been your most ambitious project? Do you see any parallels between building furniture and building software? 

Newby: I once furnished an entire room in Art Deco-style mirrored wall paneling, complete with molding I designed myself and floor-to-ceiling fitted cabinetry. I was really proud of it when it was finished but it was a lot of work.

Lots of great applications have been built with an agile, iterative approach but trying that in the physical world tends to waste a lot of wood. Regardless of what you’re building, though, I think there’s no substitute for a good plan.

For the Art Deco room, in the end, the plan ran the project and helped me out of a few tight spots when things didn’t go entirely as planned. I think that applies to most ambitious undertakings in life.

Editor's note: Learn more about the Digital Customer Experience (DX) Summit here

Learn how you can join our contributor community.