Marketing and IT professionals holding interlocking jigsaw pieces, working together
PHOTO: Shutterstock

In trying to provide compelling digital experiences, organizations may face internal challenges which can limit and delay their response to customers’ changing digital experiences needs, meaning they risk losing those customers. Typically, the teams involved in creating, managing and monitoring digital experiences find themselves unable to work together as a cohesive unit.

One key factor is often the lack of a single and centralized digital experience platform (DXP), which, if it were in use by all of the groups, could greatly improve communication and collaboration amongst these teams. A DXP combines a wide set of integrated functionality including content management, analytics, portals, search and personalization. Usable by both technology and business users, a DXP allows organizations to manage any digital touchpoint customers are using to engage with them.

Although other groups such as HR and legal may be involved, the primary departments focused on digital experience tend to be marketing and IT. There can often be something of a disconnect between the two groups, as noted by industry analyst firm Forrester Research in “Digital Experience Changes Everything,” a technology adoption profile commissioned by IBM.

In the research, Forrester writes that “developers and marketers still have a tenuous working relationship,” pointing to survey results revealing that only 47 percent of technology developers report a “good” relationship with marketing, while 40 percent described the relationship as “neutral” or “poor.”

This divide is the one of five major challenges that organizations may face when trying to get their digital experience teams working together more efficiently and effectively.

1. Lack of Empowerment and Productivity

One of the frustrations often voiced by marketing is that they don’t feel empowered to be able to shoulder a lot of the responsibility for delivering and refining digital experiences. All too often, marketing lacks the necessary customization abilities and has to keep going back to IT to request changes in order to deliver digital experiences. IT may not be able to address those requests as quickly as marketing might like given their often limited resources and additional projects. In the end, neither marketing nor IT are as productive as they could potentially be.

The Forrester research noted that, “Marketers felt they could do a lot, but technology professionals weren’t so sure, especially for more complex digital experience tasks like personalizing experiences and driving them consistently across channels.”

Consider the following data points:

Stats from 2017 Digital Customer Experience Survey
PHOTO: Simpler Media

Clearly, such gaps need to be bridged, whether they are real or perceived, so that both communities can work together to deliver better digital experiences.

At the same time, the lines are blurring between different departments and their responsibilities within many organizations. This can lead to confusion about the roles individuals and groups play in digital experience creation and management.

“What’s needed is clarity on who owns what part of the content management process and an understanding of each group’s expectations of what they want to achieve,” said Russell Scherwin, Director of Marketing, IBM’s Watson Commerce.

Resolution: The key is changing and unlocking traditional business processes so that marketing can make the necessary changes without having to call on IT. Once an organization has launched a new digital experience, it will rapidly gain customer feedback and other insights which will inevitably lead to some needed adjustments that will help optimize and iterate the experience.

The most significant benefit of a flexible DXP is the amount of time it takes to roll out iterations and improvements to your digital experience after they’ve been launched. In other words, how easy it is to change and improve upon the first new digital experience.

2. No ‘Bridge’ or Liaison Role Between Departments

Organizations are taking existing business processes and the way they interact with their customers and collapsing channels together to provide customers with consistent digital experiences. In many cases, rethinking digital experiences is part of a broader digital transformation project underway across an entire organization and all of its departments. What may be lacking is a group of staff who can make sure these endeavors, which may be taking organizations into unfamiliar territory, are successful.

Resolution: An important role organizations need to fill is one or more line-of-business analysts who sit in IT and represent the interests of three stakeholder groups to IT. These include marketing and other non-IT departments, the organization’s customers and its partners. These analysts know IT and the DXP and they can help bridge the gap between IT and business roles. It’s mostly a communications job, translating what marketing is saying into IT-speak and what IT is saying into marketing-speak.

These individuals have either started out in line-of-business roles such as marketing and then have grown more IT savvy over the years or have begun in IT and then gravitated to gaining more and more understanding of the business and its needs.

3. Hard to Find and Retrieve Required Content

In today’s visually-oriented world, it’s a prerequisite that every piece of content includes at least one image and/or video. This puts marketers under pressure to be able to access the most compelling and appropriate illustrations to accompany text. Clearly, if marketing can locate and upload content and images themselves without resorting to IT, they can move a lot faster in delivering content.

For IT, the goal is to help marketing serve up content across a broad range of channels from web to mobile to kiosks to social media like Instagram. “You need to be able to take all of your content and make it work across all channels,” said IBM’s Scherwin. “You want to enable an ecosystem of digital points where you can get content from and put content to.”

Marketing also needs access to all customer historical and current behavioral data across every digital touchpoint so that marketers can use that insight to tailor their content to customers’ needs.

Resolution: When IT can work with a DXP which uses a headless or head-optional CMS, they have the ability to orchestrate content across all of an organization’s channels. For marketing, a DXP which is built on an open platform enables integrations with a wide variety of complementary tools which marketing can use to help refine digital experiences.

4. Using More than One Platform

In our SMG/CMSWire’s “2017 Digital Customer Experience Survey,” one of the questions asked to respondents was to describe their current CMS/DX platform:

Stats from 2017 Digital Customer Experience Survey
PHOTO: Simpler Media

While one application development team within IT may own digital experience, underneath it’s likely a mix of separate teams which are aligned to the often different technology platforms they’re using and their skillsets. So, there may be different teams in place for website development and for mobile development.

“As chatbots become a new channel for self-service and communications with customers, staff and partners, it’s another platform with a different skillset and team,” said Bill Swatling, director of client and partner engagement at Streebo, an IBM partner focused on delivering digital experience and digital transformation solutions to its customers. “The challenge is that multichannel gets to be very expensive,” he added. “Every time they want to roll out a new capability, they have to develop it three times, one for each channel.”

Resolution: A single DXP can be “a real time and money saver, if you have web apps, mobile apps, and even chatbots all built on the same platform,” Swatling said. “If you can collapse those silos [of different development teams,] you can deliver orders of magnitude in benefits in costs and time in delivery.” Streebo and IBM customer Adarsh Credit Co-operative Society (ACCS) is an example of using one platform, the IBM DXP, to deliver a web, mobile and chatbot digital experience.

ACCS is an Indian credit union with 809 branches that serve over two million members, many of whom are turned off and afraid of traditional big banks, meaning that providing a variety of easy-to-use, consistent and engaging customer experiences is very important. ACCS was able to deliver a member-facing mobile app in six to eight weeks and an advisor app in four to six weeks with 30 percent less total cost of ownership.

5. Partners Have No Access to the Platform

Many organizations also work with third parties to some degree when creating and refining the digital experiences they offer to customers. An organization may engage a design agency to help in the look and feel of its digital experiences or they may strike a deeper partnership, meaning that the design agency ends up leading the implementation of its designs.

Often, the design agency will use its own technologies to demonstrate its designs but the partner doesn’t tend to engage directly with the organization’s digital experience platform. The result is a failure to capitalize on a range of potential efficiencies which could advance the project.

Resolution: By directly interacting with an organization’s DXP and the content repository part of the platform, a third-party partner can help the organization realize significant benefits around the digital experience lifecycle.

“You can gain a lot of improvement in speed and quality in terms of how well the design agency’s designs are implemented and how they work with IT to implement the platform,” Swatling said. When an organization and its partner are doing all their digital experience prototyping on the same platform, it speeds up the whole project.

IBM’s Scherwin agrees with Swatling that it’s “critical” that partners can work with an organization on the same platform. A cloud-based DXP, such as Watson Content Hub, which allows an unlimited number of users can help organizations open up their platform to third party collaboration.