CHICAGO — During an intimate and explorative workshop session yesterday at CMSWire's DX Summit here yesterday, Seth Earley, co-founder and CEO of Earley Information Science, demonstrated the basics of a process he and his colleagues use to discover where organizations stand on their respective roads to optimum customer experience — as well as measure how far they have yet to go.

It’s the act of devising a maturity model, which Earley explains as a starting point in determining an organization’s journey as a customer. Granted, it assumes that technologies that enable DX are essentially purchases rather than creations.

In the field of web content management, the lion’s share of professional advice leans strongly in favor of purchase rather than “homegrown” development.

1 Big Pile vs. 6 Littler Ones

“Organizations and business leaders are getting overwhelmed by choices,” said Earley. “And it’s really about simplifying that process; how do we make those decisions? How do we select the right teams and technologies?”

Earley led attendees in a series of exercises that represent simplified forms of the maturity model process creation. In the first, attendees were given a series of tokens representing stages in a customer lifecycle.

While a standard lifecycle in Earley’s system may take the form: Discovery | Choice | Acquisition | Use | Support | Engagement, Earley showed that other industries’ lifecycles may take alternate forms. He left it to attendees to decide the right alignment of verbs to the stages of their businesses.

It was an ingenious way to avoid the arguments centered around, “What do we call things?” by letting his attendees settle that matter for themselves.

“There’s lots of inputs, when you start thinking about the customer lifecycle; there’s a lot of pieces to it, lots of components, lots of moving parts of the organization,” said Earley.

The Sources of Confusion

And then his talk immediately took an interesting turn.

“A lot of folks talk about contextualization and personalization, wanting to get the right piece of information to the right customer at the right time, connecting any piece of information and any piece of content,” he explained. “But there’s a lot of flawed constructs in terms of how vendors are approaching this, and that causes a lot of confusion.”

He blamed the classic triumvirate of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) for sustaining vendors’ claims that they can address multiple aspects of customers’ expectations simultaneously.

“It’s very difficult to think about aligning the organization, and many of the internal processes, to marketing technology or customer experience technology… The hard parts are not fun. They’re hard: governance, data hygiene, the architecture — those are pieces that, if you don’t get right, none of the rest of it will work.”

Earley deals with clients who wrestle with the tasks of aligning businesses’ goals and aspirations with the products they currently own and those being pitched to them.

Here is where the issue of the nature of platforms hits us squarely in the head: In terms of software, from a technical perspective, a platform is a support system for interoperable components. The Web is a platform; Microsoft SharePoint is another.

A CMS that utilizes genuine plug-ins and adaptations to make customizations and even personalization feasible, is a platform.

But vendors are often a bit loose with the term, using it as a substitute for “product.” Any software product, whether it resides on-premise or in the cloud, may provide a limited set of functions to a customer.

Learning Opportunities

That doesn’t make it a platform. And that’s a problem, because in Earley’s world, different stages of the customer lifecycle have different needs.

Just as in the 1990s, vendors today specialize in resolving individual issues for particular business segments, particularly with software products — whether or not they can be considered platforms.


Earley’s maturity model process brings individuals face-to-face with the sheer quantity of those tasks, even though they can be divided into only six categories. A platform could conceivably bridge the gap between those tasks, and bring different aspects of the organization together.

Consultant Seth Earley shows analyst Tony Byrne how to put together a maturity model.

Conceivably. But it takes a feat of engineering to pull this off. Earlier yesterday, The Real Story Group Analyst Tony Byrne mentioned how organizations were crafting their own operational data warehouses, as mechanisms for gathering the data from multiple products into one place and exposing them to outside functionality.

It’s one way to make a platform out of something that wasn’t a platform to begin with. But it’s a tremendous feat, and it may not always be feasible.

“’Marketing customer experiences’ is no longer as clearly defined as it used to be,” said Seth Earley. “It really spans different processes, from sales, services, support, engagement — and there’s a lot of other pieces to this.

“So it really needs to be thought of from that whole lifecycle, everything from the initial awareness to the ongoing support. Traditionally, that’s been held by lots of different parts of the organization. And now, marketers are being responsible — digital experience people are being responsible for it, and they have to make much more difficult decisions.”

Earley’s maturity models helped attendees in influential positions for making technology purchasing decisions in their organizations, to not only perceive the magnitude of their jobs, but to break those tasks down somewhat into manageable, tangible, incremental tasks.

More from DX Summit 2015 in Chicago as it happens.

Photos by Scott Fulton