smooth waters and prow of boat
Implementing a digital experience platform doesn't have to be a painful experience. Here are eight tips to ease your way PHOTO: Michal Janek

When your company first agreed that it needed to develop a digital experience strategy, enthusiasm was high and everyone was looking forward to implementing it. So you went out into the marketplace to see what your organization’s options were.

You attended some events, got invited to view some demos and even experienced some personalized proofs of concept. Everyone was excited about the opportunities and the return on investment the new implementation would bring.

Running Into Daunting Roadblocks

But as the months passed by, your company started to understand — painfully — that defining and creating those digital experiences wasn’t going to be as easy as it first appeared. Products had bugs, partners didn’t deliver everything they promised and implementing what you saw on the demos often turned out to be just too expensive.

Then, as budgets and timetables swelled and there was no one your company can turn to for trusted advice, you came face-to-face with the most daunting roadblock of all: despite all your time, investment and effort, the digital experience you had been planning to give your clients ended up looking unfocused and immature.

8 Ways to Achieve a Smoother DX Implementation

Sound familiar? If this scenario has happened to you, you’re not alone. And if your company is just beginning its digital experience journey and wants to avoid this painful journey, here are eight pointers that will help you create a smoother implementation with better results:

1. Start by defining clear goals and KPIs

Any big project will have a lot of people involved in it which means that many decisions will need to be made. Decide in advance that critical decisions should be escalated, but small decisions can and should be made in the trenches.

For this to happen, you’ll need a set of parameters that empowers project members to act when they can. For example, I’ve seen many projects stall or slow down because the HTML doesn’t look exactly like the wireframes.

Now, having HTML that’s an exact copy of the wireframes isn’t likely to improve your end customer’s overall experience in a meaningful way, but your designer has created a bottleneck by insisting that the HTML be identical. In a case like that, who gets to decide and when?

People get sidetracked by discussions like these when clear decision criteria and chains of command haven’t been put in place. Putting clear KPIs in place upfront not only helps get rid of silos within the company but reinforces the digital experience project’s original vision and mission.

2. Designate an owner for the project

These days, most projects are implemented (at least in theory) using Agile methodology, so the concept of designating a Product Owner should not be new. However, even if you don’t use actual Agile software like Scrum, having a single owner for every project will be one of the most important decisions you can make to maintain the health of your implementation.

The person you designate to be the product owner must be available, must be knowledgeable and must have the final authority to make decisions. Even if upper management weighs in with differing opinions, the decisions the product owner makes must be respected. Make it clear before you begin that the product owner is the captain of the ship and that even if your CEO is also onboard, the CEO is only a passenger and the product owner ultimately gets to chart the course.

3. Integrate your software and marketing implementation objectives

It’s often all too easy to forget that, at its core, a digital experience implementation is a software application. As such, you should follow the best practices for any software development. At the same time though, it’s also a marketing initiative, so having a precise definition of what is needed should be one of your first objectives.

Although there will be a lot of unknowns — and many blanks to be filled later — the overall blueprint should be finalized before the software team starts to code. You don’t want to start coding just to push delivery dates because this will backfire. Insist on clear requirements before bringing in the programmers.

4. Choose your products and platforms carefully

Product choices will vary a lot depending on your budget, your current platforms, your desired timeframe, etc. Regardless of those variables, what product you choose marks a determining moment in the present and future of your implementations.

So solicit good advice, ask for success stories, understand licensing models, be ready for up-sells and thoroughly research the risks. Good software isn’t necessarily expensive, though it can be. Be sure that your platform is flexible and scalable enough to accommodate both your current and future needs. And take into account that adding flexibility also means adding complexity, so strive for a good balance between the two.

5. Choose your partners even more carefully

Look for a partner that will not only advise you wisely but implement well. Nurturing a sane relationship with a partner requires a lot of effort and a lot of time, and how successful that relationship is will rely greatly on the amount of trust that the partners have for each other.

The right partner will help you understand your own needs better and will be a great advisor for defining your digital strategy and roadmap. A committed partner wants to avoid having things to go off track as much as you do, but if things do derail, a great partner will support you in bringing things back on track.

6. Avoid fixed bids and RFPs at all cost

If you’re buying paper, new computers, construction materials or desks for your new office, by all means, use an RFP (request for proposal). But if you’re looking for sophisticated products and services, avoid RFPs at all costs.

That’s because you probably don’t even have a clear understanding of what you need so you won’t have enough information to write a good RFP. That means the contenders for your business will try to tweak their estimates in order to fit the RFP and the biggest loser in that process will be your company. Look for alternative ways to choose your solutions because it will be better — and cheaper — in the long run.

7. Understand that this will be a discovery process

Technologies come and go, trends appear and disappear, markets change and economies go up and down. Digital marketing is a very dynamic practice by its very nature so digital projects need to build in a great deal of flexibility.

When you buy a new platform or engage with a new system integrator, you will learn a lot of things that will gradually open your thinking to new possibilities. Some of your goals will be transformed and consequently, many of your paths of actions may change. And this is good. However, from your organization’s standpoint, you must acknowledge and facilitate that flexibility.

8. Enjoy it!

It’s easy to forget how exciting it is to be in the digital arena these days. There are always new things to learn, features to add, bugs to remove and issues to understand better. So don’t let the pressures of the daily grind create a negative environment for you and your team.

Instead, realize that pressures come with the territory and communicate to your organization and team that they can handle them. Not only will that attitude enable you to better enjoy the ride, your customers will notice and appreciate it, too.