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The holiday parties are over. The festive decorations are down. Time to get back to work. For the practitioners on our CMSWire Reader Advisory Board, that means helping create digital workplaces and digital experiences for their companies.

It’s no easy task. According to Elcom’s “Understanding The Digital Workplace” report last month, practitioners are facing challenges such as an aging workforce, information overload and the never-ending need for speed. Same goes for trying to capture customer and prospect attention digitally. Qualtrics discussed top customer experience challenges, citing low response rates, too much qualitative data, data stuck in the C-Suite and inaccurate feedback.

We caught up with members of our CMSWire Reader Advisory Board to discuss high-impact technologies, their challenges as practitioners and a peek into some of their big projects this coming year. The one common theme, whether they deliver experiences for employees or customers, is about providing content that reflects the voice of the customer.

Where AI Meets Great UI

Stacey Blissett-Saavedra

Stacey Blissett-Saavedra, CIO of the New York City Commission on Human Rights, cited a few significant challenges as she tackles the new year. Among them are budget, implementation time, relevancy and company adoption. She’s looking closely into the evolution of "ethical technology" and would like to see artificial intelligence (AI) meeting great UI. “Easy-to-use technology that meets a user’s needs,” she said, “means more successful technology.”

Blissett-Saavedra is expecting high-impact digital workplace technologies to emerge in the areas of AI, cloud, data visualization and security among others.

Related Article: 9 Trends That Disrupted the Digital Workplace in 2018

Focusing on Quality Content, Metadata for the Intranet

Jed Cawthorne
Jed Cawthorne, senior product manager, search excellence, at TD Bank, said the focus for 2019 is improving employee experience by revamping his company’s digital workplace. “On the intranet we will have a continued focus on improving content quality, with a specific lens on metadata,” Cawthorne said. “We want to improve content findability by improving the quality of existing metadata, while developing an enterprise taxonomy for categorizing content.” 

Cawthorne’s teams will be deploying a new search capability and setting up a search “Center of Excellence,” which is naturally linked to its metadata work.

Further, 2019 will be a year for “ramping up” deployment of Microsoft Office 365 and taking Microsoft Teams from a pilot audience to a wider audience, Cawthorne said. “At the same time,” he added, “we will be investigating whether to take the majority of our intranet/digital workplace to the cloud.”

Related Article: Slack or Microsoft Teams Well, That Depends ...

Overcoming Barriers to Data Management 

Megan Horton

Many organizations this year will continue to tackle the challenge of creating digital customer experiences with limited resources. Megan Horton, director, digital branding and strategy at Oklahoma State University, will be among the practitioners coping with this very challenge. “In higher ed,” she said, “we don’t have limitless resources to optimize DX.”

Another challenge involves structural limitations. Depending on the reporting structure of your organization, Horton said, “digital transformation can be arduous.” Siloed customer data is also an ongoing struggle, she added, and “absolutely" leveraging existing data. “We live in a world that pipes data from every direction,” Horton said. “It has no limits. I think you would be hard pressed to find a company that is truly mining and utilizing all of its data points sufficiently.”

Horton said she’s looking at social and voice search as high-impact technologies this year. Keeping her busy is the launch of Oklahoma State University’s new website and design system. “The new site is a complete overhaul of our primary web properties and is architected around a 'customer first' mentality,” Horton said. “The new design system will allow our web developers to create sites that are user-focused and in an agile fashion.” 

Related Article: Hyper-Relevant Experiences Are Only as Good as Your Data

Contending With Culture Changes, Digestible Data

Nathalie Latourelle

Nathalie Latourelle, digital experience lead at the National Bank of Canada, said her teams are focusing on client experience, client satisfaction and voice of customer. Her challenges include:

  • Culture changes: Breaking silos and redefining marketing roles in order to create and deliver the right content, at the right place and time to the right person at the lowest possible cost while making sure they address customer needs at all times and create a relationship that engages the customer with the bank’s brand.
  • Leveraging digestible data: Gathering data that helps understand the customer state of mind, needs and context. Facilitating presentation and analysis with AI to all marketing and products teams leading them to possible insights.
  • Customer mindset: Does content strategy support brand engagement and what's the ROI? What are the requirements and costs for continuous conversation with the customer? Is there a limit to personalization?

“While making use of technologies to address today’s challenges,” Latourelle said, “we must choose them carefully to ensure that we can build forward in the next phases that will include more and more contextual data and dynamic ecosystems.”

According to Latourelle, digital customer experience needs at least three elements to break silos: Web content management (WCM), digital asset management (DAM), including a video management solution, and CRM software.

Other issues she sees as needing attention in DX software arena include:

  • The place of a DCX portal
  • Omnichannel content delivery (e.g. Content-as-a-Service, or CaaS)
  • The real need of marketing automation tools
  • Social media services.

Related Article: Where Testing Fits in Your Omnichannel Experiences

Equipping Employees With Modern Apps

Brad Grissom

For Brad Grissom, senior advisor, digital workplace solutions at Southwest Airlines, 2019 will be about executing on strategy. “We did a lot in 2018 to align direction and get our foundation set,” Grissom said. “There were a lot of different groups involved and what we found is that we have a lot going on."

Grissom wants to see the organization execute in lock step so that “we don’t trip up on delivering what our employees need.” He said, “a big component will be managing the amount of change in a way that doesn’t overwhelm, yet provides just the right amount of training required. We have big plans so it will be a constant balancing act.”

A big portion of the team’s execution plan will be focused on equipping employees with more modern apps and platforms for communication and collaboration as well as a modern, mobile app store experience, Grissom said.

Related Article: How Do We Measure the Value of the Digital Workplace?

Editor's Note: We caught up with Grissom late last year when he was still employed at Southwest Airlines. He has since taken a job as a customer success manager at Microsoft.

Content Strategy Informed by Customer Insight 

Chris Plamann, who leads the solutions marketing function at United Rentals, said that as a marketing practitioner, 2019 won’t be much different in at least one way. “Customer experience should always be top of mind, and I don’t think 2019 will be the exception to that rule,” Plamann said. “Understanding how we can provide an optimal experience for our customers — and other visitors to the sites — based on their specific needs will be a focal point.”

Plamann said he’s seeing an increase in the percentage of customers interacting with his organization’s brand online. Whether that’s at the top of the funnel or closer to point of sale, digital touch points within the broader customer experience take on increased importance, he said. “We want to understand how to deliver maximum value in each interaction. For an industry like industrial rental equipment, we are seeing an uptick in transactional business online that will accelerate," Plamann added. "So there’s a lot to focus on to make sure customers have aligned experiences across our channels.”

How his organization provides a strong value proposition to its customers and a content strategy development within some of its specialty businesses are top-of-mind goals, Plamann said. “Obviously, content should always be informed by a deep understanding of the needs of the customer and industry in general,” he said. “So research, data management and analysis are really prerequisites here. VOC [or voice of customer] will continue to play a significant role.”

Plamann wants to implement tools and functionality that assist his organization’s customers in their online interactions with its brand. They’ll be looking at technologies to aggregate and then manage data in a single source of truth system. “With a relatively wide-range of businesses serving multiple industries,” he said, “we need to be in touch with what constitutes value for multiple personas.”