Currently many Digital Experience Platforms (DXPs) are relentlessly pushing their support for headless publishing and the composable DXP, not only in terms of their marketing messaging, but also in their services, features and capabilities. More providers are moving over from PaaS to SaaS, offering previously integrated services independently, improving their APIs and ramping up their headless CMS.

While there are many advantages to the headless and composable model, and a more lightweight, agile and cost-effective approach to managing a multi-channel digital footprint is certainly attractive, it’s also worth remembering that the more integrated and traditional approach to a DXP still has merit, and even some advantages.

In this article we’re going to cover three situations where a more traditional DXP is arguably a better fit.

1. DXP Monoliths May Rule: If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It

There are many teams who are more than happy with their current DXP set-up based on an integrated, monolithic solution. They may have used it for several years, are extremely familiar with how to use the system, are comfortable with the cost, and it provides the platform they need to manage successful digital customer experiences. Perhaps they have a successful long-standing relationship with a digital agency based around using the platform.

The question is why would they change to either a headless or composable model, when there is not necessarily anything to fix? There is an argument that a composable DXP or headless publishing provides a more flexible and agile platform to help them remain relevant and competitive for the future, but this is unlikely to be enough to provoke a change. For the time being, the more traditional DXP will be regarded as still the best fit for these teams.

2. Tighter Control Over Governance, Workflow and Security

Some larger enterprises have very complex digital footprints; for example with a swathe of multi-language sites across different channels. In some companies, these may be organized in a relatively decentralized way with little governance applied and local site owners having considerable autonomy. However, other organizations may take a far more centralized approach with greater governance required relating to brand, design and content. There might be strict approval workflows in place for content publishing and any design changes, a highly granular approach to roles and access, and strict protocols around security.

If you’re a complex organization with strict brand controls, a regulatory need to control your digital channels, or you just have a top-down culture, then generally a more integrated, traditional DXP with native features is likely to give you a greater ability to control user access, automate different approval workflows and provide a consistent front end experience. Some organizations with more stringent needs may even need to have an on-premises platform or for your DXP to be hosted in a private cloud. In practice, these infrastructure options may also limit platform choice and will rule out a headless or composable architecture.

However, even if you’re a large, global organization and you don’t need to exert a lot of control, then headless and composable options may prove to be more attractive.

Related Article: The Benefits — and Challenges — of Composable Digital Experience Platforms

3. You Need to Hold on to Sophisticated Native DXP Features

Some sites have highly sophisticated capabilities such as dynamic personalization available on the fly, or sophisticated sales tracking. These capabilities may be provided through the mature, native digital marketing features of an existing DXP. While it is perfectly possible that there is an equivalent SaaS-enabled feature that could possibly work within a composable DXP or headless set-up, this is not always the case. Even native DXP features that are also available on a MACH (Microservices, API-first, Cloud-based, Headless) basis, are not always as sophisticated as the original feature from the integrated platform, even if both options are offered.

If you are thinking of going headless or composable, it is always important to check first that you’ll still be able to get the level of functionality you require. If not, then you may need to stick with an integrated DXP in order to avoid being locked out of a particular feature.

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: 25 Best Free or Premium Headless Content Management Systems (CMS)

What Happens Next for DXPs?

A central question in all this is what happens next and whether DXP providers will continue to offer and update their integrated experience platforms and if so, for how long? I perceive that some providers are still not that transparent about this issue; the lack of clarity is probably due to them being undecided, but it still feels like the elephant in the room.

I think vendor actions will very much depend on the appetite in the market and how many organizations, particularly those who are quite happy to stay with a large integrated DXP, will be prepared to move to a headless and composable model. It will also depend on the strategic and product roadmap for individual vendors, who may conclude it is not viable to keep on updating and maintaining an integrated platform.

Through 2023 vendors are extremely likely to continue with the marketing messages we saw in 2022. They will almost certainly be keen to make it easier for organizations to switch to headless or composable architecture through:

  • Starting to release capabilities that are only available as part of the composable structure so there is no longer parity between integrated and SaaS offerings
  • No longer upgrading some parts of the integrated platform
  • Offering easy upgrade paths to convert to headless and composable
  • Creating orchestration dashboards and features that make headless and composable DXPs easier to manage and less of a learning curve for teams that are more used to an integrated environment.

In particular, the development of features that help content and digital marketing teams orchestrate content and campaigns through headless and composable architecture should be welcomed, as this will lower the barriers to entry on what is an exciting and fast-moving area.

Conclusion: We Still Have Choice With Digital Customer Experience Tech

In 2023 digital experience teams have a wide range of choices on the technology they use to manage their sites, apps and experiences. At this point in time, the more traditional integrated DXP still has considerable value for some teams.

How long the same options are in place still remains to be seen.

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