5 years ago a lot of organizations consolidated their diverse and diffuse online environments into one CMS platform. These consolidated platforms opened up new opportunities for organizations to grow online and realize their online goals. Since 2010 a lot has changed in the online domain. Digital Marketing is becoming an essential part of organizations and so are the activities supporting Digital Marketing. Analytics, Personalization, Gamification, Social Media optimization, Consumer & Customer Identity and Profiling. All these capabilities carry the promise of more sales and customer intimacy. But how do we as IT deliver this promise?
Since 2010 the traditional Gartner & Forrester top CMS’ have evolved into Digital Experience Platforms. Expanding the capabilities of their CMS platforms into full Digital Marketing Suites. But do they live up to the promise? They do, for a fair part. They fill most capabilities just fine. However, they don’t excel in every single one of these capabilities. If your organization wants to excel in Digital Marketing and we as IT want to provide excellent tooling to fill these requirements, Digital Experience Suites are just not going to cut it. We will need to find out which Digital Marketing capabilities have the focus of our organizations and provide best-of-breed tooling for the job.
Having your current CMS vendor over for a coffee and a pitch on the new product version’s Digital Marketing capabilities is easy to arrange. Planning an upgrade project from your current version to the new version is pretty straight forward and usually well supported by your vendor. And finding an implementation partner to assist you in the upgrade project is like finding a needle in a needle stack. Just send your RfP out and the best agencies in the world will line up for you.
So what’s the big deal then? Where’s the catch?
Well the thing with needles is, you have to use them exactly right or you’ll get stung.
Usually in these cases, you’ve prepared a business case for the upgrade project. And to get the business case approved, you’ve passed on the promises of the vendors to your organization’s stakeholders. You’ve set expectations and now you’re relying on your software vendor to meet these expectations.
And this is where I often see things go wrong. Our marketing divisions don’t want their Digital Marketing capabilities filled “just fine”. Every marketing division wants to excel.
The easiest example for all of us is Google Analytics. Every organization I’ve come across uses it. And most of the time the teams working with Google Analytics really understand its capabilities and strengths. Google is by far a leader in this market. They’re truly best of breed.
However most of these organizations are also running on a Digital Marketing Platform of which analytics is a core feature. Still they decide to go with Google Analytics. Just because it’s better at its job. But how about personalization? Gamification? Consumer & Customer Identity and Profiling? Most likely you’ll be looking for alternatives for your Digital Marketing Suite there too.
So why choose a Digital Marketing Suite in the first place? Getting all kinds of capabilities before even knowing when and how you want to enable these capabilities for your organization.
This is where it starts to get interesting. How do you switch from a Best of Suite to Best of Breed?
Best of Breed means looking at the IT capabilities your platform really needs, based on real organization goals & marketing strategies, and picking the best software and tooling to provide these capabilities.
Let’s look at a use-case of an Enterprise organization in Fast Moving Consumer Goods
The enterprise is in stage 3 of our online maturity model and has the ambition to move to stage 4 next year.
The current IT capabilities required for the online platform of this organization are:
• Content Management
• Contact forms
• Campaign Management
• Location Finder
• Email Marketing
In 2012 the organization has implemented a CMS from a leading enterprise CMS vendor to consolidate the websites of their 15 brands into one online platform.
The Contact Forms, Campaign Management and Email Marketing functionalities are all custom build components using part of the CMS core features and functionalities such as customer identity and email integration. Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager are being used for online analytics.
Releases are painful and take long. Testing is a real issue. And changes in one brand site, mean a release for all brand sites, including testing.
Due to these issues, the release frequency is once a month. There is also a high degree of vendor lock-in. Every single change, for any of the brand sites, can only be done by the digital agency managing the whole CMS platform. The combination of these factors leads to very high maintenance costs, even for small changes.
To top it off the IT department is not 100% happy with the quality delivered by the agency supporting the platform.
Recently the marketing department has requested the capability to form a 360-degree view of its customers. The marketing department also wants to improve the brands online presence by providing more personalization based on consumer behavior insights.
The IT department wants to lower release complexity and increase release frequency. Remove vendor lock-in for the platform as a whole. And lower costs of changes and new brand or campaign sites.
The current CMS vendor has already pitched their new Digital Experience Platform. And although upgrading to a new version of the current CMS adds the required functionality, the IT department is well aware that its issues will probably not go away. They might even become bigger as the monolith platform will only grow bigger.
Recognize this scenario? This is a typical scenario where I would suggest to move to a Best of Breed architecture instead of upgrading your CMS to a Digital Marketing Suite.
The public cloud vendors make a move to a Best of Breed architecture a lot easier to achieve then ever before. The Platform as a Service cloud, API Management, Service Bus and Queuing, Code Deploy, Infrastructure Automation, all these ready to go cloud building blocks will help you with your implementation. All you need is a strategy and migration plan to glue them all together.
Ironically, due to the enormous simplification of all the components in your new architecture (they’re no longer a part of a bigger software suite, which can only be run by specialist developers) and the well fitted infrastructure architecture building blocks the cloud provides, the technical side of the migration is no longer your biggest challenge.
It’s people and processes. Especially stakeholder management.
You’re moving data from servers in your datacenter to services in the cloud. Your legal and risk departments will want to have a say in this. You’re connecting internal services through a Message Broker to services which run in the public cloud. Your internal IT guys will have a strong opinion on how (not) to realize this.
But most important of all are your implementation partners. Your cloud management partner should really understand the cloud. All its facets, details, nuts, bolts and cranks. Only then can they build a platform in the cloud leveraging all of the clouds benefits.
After building a cutting edge platform as a service cloud platform with your cloud partner, your next challenge is on-boarding your software development partners. Of course you have a whole new set of opportunities and choices of vendors, partners and technology stack, but they all have to adapt to your new platform. You have to set the guidelines. Key factor is good on-boarding documentation and guidelines.
Choose an automation platform for your whole environment, define the format of delivery of new code to your platform, and provide an API to connect to.
Completing a migration to a Best of Breed architecture your organization will achieve higher release frequency, lower time to market for changes and sites, lower maintenance costs. Even removing vendor lock-in by horizontally and vertically splitting frontend sites and backend functionalities and introducing vendor and product flexibility when finding THE BEST solutions for the organization’s required IT capabilities.