People sitting down during a keynote in a conference hall.
PHOTO: TopRank Marketing

Organizations in the market for a digital experience platform (DXP) over the next two years can expect to spend more effort and money after they select a vendor. The selection process is only the beginning. 

That may not be an earth-shattering revelation, but the number reported by Gartner may grab your attention. In its second Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms (fee required) released last week Gartner found that through 2021, 85 percent of effort and cost in a DXP program will be spent on integrations with internal and external systems, including the DXP’s own, built-in capabilities. And here’s another number to share with your marketing teams: 90 percent of global organizations will rely on system integrators (SIs), agencies and channel partners to design, build and implement their digital experience strategies.

We recently uncovered some of the costs of DXP implementation. Meanwhile, on the heels of the Gartner report, we caught up with the lead author and discovered some other key findings in the digital experience market.

What Is a DXP Anyway?

People have varying definitions of DXP. It's not as clear-cut as, say, a web content management system. According to the Gartner Magic Quadrant (MQ) published last week, a “DXP is an integrated set of core technologies that support the composition, management, delivery and optimization of contextualized digital experiences. DXPs entail a high degree of emphasis on interoperability and cross-channel continuity across the entire customer journey.”

That isn't the only definition. Gartner admitted as much in its MQ published this week. Vendors, Gartner authors found, use a “range of definitions” in terms of what they “regard as critically important.” It varies based on vendor strengths. 

At least one notable industry watcher doesn’t buy into the term DXP. Tony Byrne of Real Story Group contends DXPs don’t exist. “There is no marketplace here, because no enterprise digital leader in her right mind would actually purchase ‘digital experience’ as a platform,” Byrne wrote. 

Related Article: Tony Byrne: There's No Such Thing as a DX Platform #DXS15

Digital Experience Myths Vs. Reality

So what are the actual outcomes when implementing and managing DXPs? Irina Guseva, lead author of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms and Gartner’s senior research director for DXPs and web CMS, put together a myth vs. reality comparison when asked to dispel certain myths around DXPs:

DXP Is (Reality) DXP Is Not (Myths)
Central technological foundation to be built upon and to support the entire, continuous customer life cycle across all digital channels Not just a mashing together of new or existing technologies. Not just a bucket of products.
Multichannel delivery via APIs of digital interactions across all touchpoints, including IoT, AR/VR, digital assistants and kiosks Not just a website channel. Or a responsive/mobile web. Or mobile app
A unified and integrated platform on which an employee experience (among other experiences) can be deployed Not a stand-alone intranet package
It’s a platform where business and IT with various skills and responsibilities work together toward the common goal of customer experience improvement. Not an IT system, not a marketing system. It is, however, a way to manage experiences and that management is far from just a task for the IT organization
DXP is built for change and can be easily changed as a response to changes in demand Not a monolithic system that doesn’t undergo constant evolution, optimization and refinement

Reliance on System Integrators ‘Tremendous’

Back to the integration matter. Are organizations prepared now for the massive integration work that DXPs require? What kinds of surprises do they find? Who’s doing the work now vs. 2021 when, according to Gartner, SIs, agencies and channel partners take over and do the bulk of the work?

Guseva told CMSWire in an interview that the majority of global organizations (of any size) are not prepared to carry out DXP implementations themselves. A former executive at DXP vendors BloomReach and Adobe, Guseva said organizations in the market for DXPs are driven by complexity of both their own DX strategy and specific requirements, as well as the complexity of DXP technologies. Because of this, “reliance on SIs and partner ecosystem is tremendous,” Guseva said. 

Related Article: Investigating the Cost, Integration and Other Realities of Digital Experience Platforms

Designed as an Integration Hub

Headshot of Irina Guseva of BloomReach, who discussed GDPR compliance in the BloomReach marketing technology toolset.
Irina Guseva

A true DXP is designed to be an integration hub, in addition to providing the capabilities around experience composition, management, delivery and optimization of digital experiences across the entire customer journey, Guseva added. Architectural flexibility, API-driven approaches, Content-as-a-Service (CaaS), head optional/hybrid/headless, microservices-oriented architectures are all supposed to aid in integration work, but this is “not consistent across the marketplace and some vendors do this better than the others,” she added. 

DXP is the centerpiece for customer experience and digital experience strategy execution, but it’s not a silo and cannot be viewed as a single platform to solve all business needs, Guseva added. “DXP is the centerpiece in the tech ecosystem that brings content, data, experiences, applications and micro-experiences into one layer,” she said. “Therefore, integration with multiple in-house, legacy, adjacent technologies is a must. The goal is a unified, continuous and optimized experience. You need integration with other systems to accomplish that.”

Related Article: 9 Tips to Consider When Selecting a Digital Experience Platform

DXP Integration Barriers

Bottom line? No vendor can do this elegantly enough: remove the complexity and integration barriers, Guseva added. “A lot, of course, depends on digital maturity and digital business strategy of the client implementing/buying a DXP,” Guseva said. “... The organic DXP's own capabilities are important here: the buyers may be under the impression they’re buying a tightly integrated cloud/suite from one vendor, but this is not always the case.” 

The integration challenge weighs heavily on buying decisions for DXPs, according to findings from the Digital Clarity Group (DCG) 2018 report, "Digital Experience Platforms: Buyer Trends, Preferences and Strategies" (login required). What's important according to survey respondents? Availability of technical support, solution quality and ease of integration. These requirements, DCG researchers found, outweigh the vendor’s product roadmap and vision. Partner networks and partner expertise outweigh price considerations, according to the report.

DXPs ‘Need Work’

The Gartner findings related to DXP integration fall in line with revelations in the State of Digital Customer Experience report released last week (Editor’s note: Simpler Media, the parent company of CMSWire, produced this report). Customer data management and data integration is the second area for digital customer experience investment at 44 percent behind the top answer: 46 percent for analytics and dashboarding. Further, 46 percent of respondents said their digital customer experience platform and tools “need work,” while another 41 percent said they are “satisfactory.” Only 13 percent answered “working well.”

Related Article: Why Web CMS and Digital Experience Platforms Are Different

How Gartner Views DXP Vendors

So how about those vendors? Below is how the DXP market shapes up, according to the Gartner MQ. Now, keep in mind, Gartner only analyzes vendors that generated revenue of at least $10 million in annual license and/or subscriptions in the four quarters to June 30 of last year. Gartner includes other requirements, too, in the areas of geography, cross-industry, ecosystem activity and market interest. We suspect there are a few more vendors classifying themselves in the DXP market (ask Scott Brinker for a few suggestions). 

  • 2018 Leaders: IBM, Sitecore, Liferay, Adobe
  • 2019 Leaders: IBM, Sitecore, Liferay, Adobe, Salesforce
  • 2018 Visionaries: Episerver, Bloomreach
  • 2019 Visionaries: Episerver, Bloomreach
  • 2018 Niche Players: CoreMedia, SDL, Crownpeak, Kentico Software, Squiz, Jahia, censhare, Oxcyon, GX Software
  • 2019 Niche Players: CoreMedia, SDL, Crownpeak, Kentico Software, Squiz
  • 2018 Challengers: Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, OpenText, Acquia, Salesforce
  • 2019 Challengers: Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, OpenText, Acquia

Some other noteworthy vendor findings include:

  • Censhare, GX Software, Jahia and Oxcyon were not included in this year’s quadrant after making an appearance in year one. 
  • Salesforce made a huge leap from Challenger to Leader. We didn’t see that one coming where Salesforce has traditionally not offered a native CMS, but Gartner MQ authors say it filled that void: Community Cloud’s native web CMS capability, which Gartner reports has long remained a considerable feature gap for Salesforce, is new and "mostly unproven." Salesforce also has a CMS Connect feature for third-party web CMS integrations. 
  • IBM (ability to execute) and Adobe (completeness of vision) are still the leaders in the two major categories in the quadrant.

Related Article: Delivering Digital Experience: 4 Platform Essentials

Web CMS Takes Center Stage?

Gartner’s nod to Salesforce is another sign that web content management remains a staple for organizations' marketing technology and digital experience stacks. Mark Frost, CEO at Sitecore, said in a press release this week that content management is the “centerpiece of a versatile DXP.” Naturally, Frost has his agenda since Sitecore offers a web CMS. 

But organizations are still pegging web CMS as priority. Almost a quarter of respondents (23.9 percent) in the Simpler Media Digital Customer Experience Survey cited digital experience/web CMS platforms as a digital customer experience investment priority. Analytics and dashboarding was No. 1 at 46 percent. Forrester analyst Ted Schadler called web CMS the backbone of digital experience delivery. 

Related Article: Your Modern DX Stack: Navigating Between Major Platforms and Greater Flexibility

What’s the IT-Business Connection for DXPs?

Another notable finding from Gartner’s research into DXPs last week? DXPs are the key technological driver behind customer experience initiatives, yet it’s often two different people buying a DXP and overseeing the CX strategy. Is this a problem? “It’s the classical IT and business disconnect that happens in some cases, where CX strategy is driven in a siloed manner,” Guseva said. “It can be a problem when IT buys one DXP, and business buys a completely different DXP to solve the same problem. Or there are multiple DXPs solving the same use case.” 

Guseva said in some cases, it may make sense to buy one DXP for employee experience and a different DXP for B2B experiences if there’s a gap in functionality to address both use cases. Ultimately, the buying perspective must be organization wide and centralized, where multiple stakeholders are in communication and collaboration with each other across strategy, company direction, customer experience, product selection, requirements gathering and implementation. “Due to high velocity in this space plan for the next three to five-plus years, not just for today,” Guseva said.