There've been quite a few takes on the digital experience (DX) technology stack published on this site recently.
Ian Truscott reminded us in one post there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all digital experience platform. In another, John Kottcamp rightly identified the main logical components of the DX stack. Meanwhile, Lisa Loftis advised us to view the digital experience holistically through the lens of the customer journey. And Tony Byrne offered a digital marketing and customer engagement reference model architecture.
What follows is my meta approach to all of the topics covered in those articles, bound by a common theme: integration.
The Integration Imperative
Byrne wrote that companies with more mature DX stacks are creating core enterprise services, focused on more granular divisions of Kottcamp’s logical functional components. Byrne noted those services will almost certainly come from multiple vendors, emphasizing Loftis’ and Truscott’s points regarding the need for integrating those services. Byrne advised choosing “anchor tenants” that provide “enterprise foundational services” while leaving room for extending the stack with products that offer “niche functionality.”
Here’s where I differ with Byrne and the others: I recommend you consider all of the services in the DX stack as specialized “niche” functionality (i.e., get as granular as you can). You should focus intently on the integration of services into your unique DX stack.
Everyone agrees on the need for integration when it comes to the DX stack. However, I had yet to see any substantive discussion on exactly how that integration is supposed to happen — until recently.
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The DX Stack Alliance
This past September, in a little-noticed development at Optimizely’s Opticon18 conference, several companies announced they had formed an organization called the Digital Experience Stack (DXS) alliance. The founding members include Amplitude, Atlassian, AWS, Contentful, Full Story, New Relic, Optimizely and Tealium.
According to Contentful’s announcement that it would be part of DXS, the purpose of the alliance is “to create a cohesive way for companies to leverage best-of-breed technologies to deliver digital products and the engaging experiences that customers expect.”
Here are two items of special interest to note about this development:
- The alliance is organized according to the logical functional layers of the modern development stack, including DevOps, LaaS (Logging-as-a-Service) and PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service); content; customer data management; collaboration; experimentation; analytics; and performance monitoring. I’m sure John Kottcamp is smiling right now.
- Each member of the DXS alliance specializes in one of those layers.
It’s also interesting to note that not a single vendor considered by Forrester Research or Gartner to have a digital experience platform is part of the DXS alliance. Essentially, the founding members have declared themselves to be providers of the best-of-breed solutions in each logical category.
Whether or not members will be added — either in new logical areas (e.g., application programming interface management to orchestrate the services) or in existing areas (e.g., content) — remains to be seen. Plus, the members acknowledge that they have yet to determine how they will handle integration of their various offerings — and what degree of integration they will pursue.
With all of that in mind, I still believe that the DXS Alliance is a good first step and a harbinger of things to come.
The Open Data Initiative
Data is represented as a foundational element in nearly every published DX reference architecture. The problem has always been how to integrate data from disparate sources that use different formatting.
In another development that occurred in September, Adobe, Microsoft and SAP announced the Open Data Initiative, whose goal, according to Adobe, is to support “a seamless flow of customer data” — with everything from behavioral, transactional, financial and operational data in one data model — to provide “a comprehensive, real-time view of your customers across all touchpoints.”
Adobe went one step further and created an open-source data model that provides a data dictionary that names and defines the attributes of data, an approach that one-ups Microsoft’s recently-announced proprietary Common Data Model.
There’s clearly room for further collaboration, even among the Open Data Initiative founders.
Even with open data, there is still a need for a master data management system, like Customer 360 ID from Salesforce, to tie together records related to the same person in the data stores. And you’ll still need a tool that can integrate and manage the data sources, like Apache Unomi.
Even with those caveats, the Open Data Initiative is a big step in the right direction. Using a common data format will help normalize the data that needs to flow across the DX stack, enabling applications to interoperate. Bravo to those three vendors for taking the first steps.
Still Early Days for Standards
Several years ago, we saw the birth of the CMIS standard for integrating content stores. That was an important first act that allowed the sharing of fully formed files. We desperately need Act 2 — CMIS for Digital Asset Management — which would enable the seamless exchange of more granular content objects across the DX stack. It has been six years, and that initiative has stalled.
It takes time for vendors to respond to the market and agree on open standards, but I believe the pace of these developments will quicken.
If you haven’t already, start thinking more granularly about your DX stack. Investigate the standards and practices for integrating your chosen best-of-breed systems. And most important, watch this space. Things are just starting to get interesting!