0-100: Realizing a composable DXP with Sitecore
by Dave Michela
Knowing your problem will accelerate your solution
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to adopting composable marketing technology (MarTech). It’s about first understanding the digital problem you need to solve, then choosing the right tools and timing.
- Currently driving value/ROI
- Existing platform-as-a-service (PaaS) MarTech footprint
- Interested in maturing the end-to-end customer experience (CX)
- MarTech includes both PaaS and software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions
- Truly integrated CX across end-to-end journey
- SaaS leverages the full capabilities of the cloud, beyond storage and hosting, including elastic scaling of highly available resources.
Today we’re focused on how you plan your path to your composable future. TL; DR: You do you. There is no one road to composable – it’s about first understanding the digital problem(s) you need to solve, and then choosing the right tools and right timing for your solution(s).
Defining the digital problem – some MarTech history
Marketers shouldn’t have to care about technology as much as they do, but here we are. Let’s go back in time to better understand the choices digital leaders have today:
In the late 90s, new digital technology emerged on the scene called content management system or CMS. For the first time, marketers had technology to structure their content and present it in a web context.
Over time, CMS providers evolved to deliver something called DXP (digital experience platform). Why? Because the web was no longer just about corporate brochure sites. You needed email. And campaign landing pages. And A/B testing. And personalization. And while tools were available to create and manage all of those experiences, getting them to connect with one another was really, really hard, time consuming and expensive. DXP came along to put all of those capabilities into a single, monolithic solution so you could buy one piece of software to do everything. (In theory, at least.)
Fast forward to today: technology is finally getting out of the way of the business. Software is lightweight and much easier to integrate than back in the day, so it’s no longer necessary to have a single monolith powering all your digital capabilities. That’s composable, and that’s where we are now.
Defining the digital problem – the business POV
You lead or support a digital business. How are you supposed to understand and keep up with these technology changes? Start with “why.” Focus first on the digital outcome you need to deliver, which will lead you to your technology solution.
Example 1: You work for a consumer products company that sells via retailers/etailers like Amazon and Target. But since the pandemic started, you, like other consumer goods companies, are considering options to sell directly to your target audiences. In other words, you’re looking at your first foray into direct ecommerce and need a way to manage transactions in addition to getting the right product in front of the right consumer at the right time.
Example 2: You are a B2B services company with an extensive portfolio of businesses serving a wide variety of verticals. Your catalog of capabilities is broad and deep, and your website is a critical touchpoint for sharing those capabilities and generating leads. In other words, you’re a content-intensive business needing streamlined operations and personalized journeys.
Two simple examples, two significantly different digital problems. This is what composable technology like Sitecore’s is about. In example 1, it’s enabling commerce capabilities with a product like Sitecore’s OrderCloud®. Onboarding ecommerce is not a small undertaking, and may require substantial focus from your team. (More on that below.) Once you’ve begun to master direct commerce, it will be time to look at personalized product discovery and recommendations, something Sitecore’s Discover solution does extremely well.
In example 2, the near-term focus is on streamlining content operations to ensure you’re bringing relevant, compelling stories to your addressable markets. So Sitecore’s Content Hub Digital Asset Management (DAM), Content Marketing Platform (CMP) and/or Marketing Resource Management (MRM) capabilities could be silver bullets. With your content operations tightened up, you could look at Sitecore Personalize and/or Customer Data Platform (CDP) to deliver those 1:1 experiences that cement your value proposition.
In short: the difference between then and now is that you have the flexibility to pick and choose the technologies that best solve the problem in front of you; once you’ve done that, you can move on to the next problem. And you can do that at whatever pace your organization can absorb. So here’s how to get started:
Solving the digital problem: a process outline
1. Start with why: What is the outcome you need to deliver? Are you trying to increase digital revenue? Drive down digital cost? Accelerate path to acquisition? Introduce direct commerce capability? If you need to solve more than one of those problems, start thinking about them in priority order in terms of (a) where you’ll drive the most business value in the near term and (b) what you think the business is best prepared to take on in the near term. Can you take on more than one of these challenges at once? Maybe. But at Horizontal we’ve found that the fastest path to maturation is knocking them down one at a time (usually but not always).
2. Now think of your current technology and data capabilities in terms of solving that problem. Do you have a commerce engine that you haven’t turned on or don’t know how to use? Does your current DXP come with personalization capabilities that you’ve never implemented? Or do you need all-new tech to drive your outcome? If you have tech in-house already and just haven’t used it, you might want to first think about why that hasn’t happened yet. You might uncover other challenges: maybe you don’t have the right skill sets, or executive buy-in is lacking.
3. Assess your organization’s readiness. Onboarding D2C ecommerce, for example, is essentially starting a new business and requires far more planning than just enabling some tech. Adding personalization to your digital user experiences is something you can walk up to in a series of stages, testing and learning along the way.
4. Now you need to align your stakeholders across business, technology and other influential groups, which could include legal/compliance, infosec and/or sourcing/procurement. Are you aligned on the business case and associated KPIs? Have ROI metrics been established to support the investment? Is everyone in agreement on the stages involved in onboarding the new capability? Do you have a plan for organizing your team around the new capability?
5. Now you can develop your scoring criteria, which are essentially the requirements the technology must fulfill in order to address the problem you’ve defined. We strongly encourage you to consider a partner like Horizontal to lead a thorough and unbiased scoring, evaluation and selection process that takes into account the needs of business, technology and compliance stakeholders.
6. With technology selected and procured, we often recommend that your implementation approach account for that test-and-learn approach mentioned above: consider targeting a subset of your audiences or use cases, rather than trying to do everything at once. A classic and common example: we ask clients why they haven’t taken steps to personalize their digital experiences, and we often hear that they’re waiting for their data to be completely cleaned, or all of their touchpoints to be completely redesigned. In other words, they’re waiting for perfection, which is the enemy of good. Just. Get. Started. Somewhere. Starting with simpler, less comprehensive use cases gives you the flexibility to deliver value in increments, which supports the business case for ongoing investment in innovation.
Finally, and most importantly: don’t lose sight of the people factor. Digital transformation without proper change management will fail. Onboarding new capabilities as you mature often necessitates training, upskilling and in some cases even reorganizing your team. Horizontal’s experience-forward approach to digital isn’t just about your audiences of end users, it’s about the people doing the work too.
Want to learn more? Check out our whitepaper, “Orchestrating your path to composable."
Composable DXP Whitepaper
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Composable Sitecore DXP Q&A (On-Demand)
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