many questions marks
PHOTO: Véronique Debord-Lazaro

Amid all the uncertainty around "digital transformation," one of the more clarifying developments of the past several years is understanding that delivering omnichannel digital experiences requires a stack of technologies. Yet reasonable people still disagree: What should that stack look like?

It Depends

Any DX stack should necessarily depend on the contours of your enterprise. For example ...

Your Size

Larger enterprises need broader and deeper stacks, with more pieces, and a greater emphasis on exploiting big datasets. Sometimes radically different use cases at a global level can compel licensing multiple tools for the same function (think: Magnolia for your WCM, with WordPress for microsites and blogs). Smaller enterprises will want more out-of-the-box, multi-functional solutions (think: HubSpot).

Your Type of Business

Business models matter a lot here. B2B stacks that drive marketing-qualified leads to sales teams can look quite different from B2C-oriented stacks that drive transactions and loyalty at scale. A go-to-market strategy that relies on intermediary firms will call for a different set of services than going direct-to-customer.

Your Sophistication and Maturity

Your MarTech operational capacity will ultimately determine the limits of your ambitions. Sure, you can license more tools, but effectiveness comes from the depth and breadth of your human capacity, including experience, skills, adaptivity.

Two Value Gaps - Source: Real Story Group

Fig 1: Close your capacity gap before expanding your DX stack. Source: Real Story Group

Related Article: Choosing a DX Platform: Shrink-Wrapped Chicken Sandwich or Pastrami on Rye?

This Much Is True

Regardless of the business you're in, I believe four basic truths always hold.

1. If you care about omnichannel engagement, you need to separate core enterprise services from experience delivery silos

If you're going to create 360-degree views of the customer — or better yet, give them a 360 view of your business — then you need to liberate core data and services from specific engagement silos. If all of your personalization happens in your WCM, what happens when a customer gets a generic email from you? Likewise, if all your prospective customer behavior data resides in your marketing automation platform, how will your others channels access it properly?

Savvy enterprises are building out what Real Story Group calls "Enterprise Foundation Services," which remain unbound from any particular engagement platform or channel. Such services could include:

  • Identity and Access Management (IAM).
  • Customer Data Platform (CDP).
  • Campaign and Journey Orchestration.
  • Marketing Analytics.
  • Core Content Store.

Digital Experience Stack Reference Model - RSG
Fig 2: DX Stack Reference Model, with foundational services decoupled from engagement silos. Source: Real Story Group

Related Article: What Every CMO Needs to Know About the Marketing Technology Stack

2. If you want to future-proof, get your DAM/MAM house in order

Digital marketers increasingly follow the old adage that pictures (and video) can tell a thousand words. If you agree, then Digital Asset Management will play an increasingly important role in your stack going forward.

DAM technology started out by supplying glorified image libraries for use by information managers and preservationists. This is still a foundational use case, but enterprises today want to focus on putting their rich visuals and media to work in customer engagement. In a marketing context, this leads to a greater emphasis on services like compound asset management, dynamic derivation and usage tracking. We are ushering in an age of Marketing Asset Management.

3. You are going to operate a multi-vendor stack

Even if you fall in love with Salesforce, Adobe, Oracle or IBM, you're still going to have to manage a multi-vendor stack. There are several reasons for this.

First of all, no single "cloud" vendor excels across the stack. For instance, Adobe's DAM is comparatively weak, Salesforce offers no WCM, and IBM's CDP is ethereal. Moreover, these mega-vendors don't come close to covering all the tools you may need in your "MarTech Mall."

Your burgeoning stack brings many consequences, but at RSG we've been focusing on one core piece of advice for our subscribers: integration over customization. As your stack grows, look for strong functional fit at each layer so you can focus your limited technical resources at wiring the whole ecosystem together.

In the end, you cannot buy a digital experience platform, but you can assemble a DX stack.

4. You will need extensible platforms as well as out-of-the-box products

For certain anchors in your MarTech mall, you will want to deploy highly-extensible platforms, and invest in developer resources to get full value from them. Perhaps you'll host them as single tenants in IaaS environments. For more niche functionality, you will want to deploy more packaged products: configurable but perhaps not extensible, and more apt for multi-tenant SaaS deployment.

One thing you should never do? Build your own tools. Flush with venture funding, the thousands of vendors in this space are innovating rapidly and slowly building critical customer communities. As an enterprise technology buyer, you almost never want to compete with that by building your own tools.

Related Article: Balancing the Pros and Cons of Best of Breed Software

What Do You Think?

How does this mesh with your experience as an enterprise technology customer? Leave a comment below or start a conversation on LinkedIn.