Will Digital Customer Experience Software Platforms Rule in 2014?

Two  or three years ago, software buyers in the market for new and improved tools for managing website content and cross-channel digital customer experiences had a typical request: “Help me replace my legacy web content management system with a new web content management system.” It was out with the old, legacy, hard to use system, and in with a new solution that perhaps had a few new capabilities, but which still looked and felt like… a web content management system.

As we approach 2014, that WCM buyer is asking for a whole lot more. Enter the digital experience platform – an emerging software category poised for takeoff as enterprises seek to differentiate through better digital customer experiences.

Forrester has defined the digital customer experience platform and 14 specific tools and capabilities in our TechRadar report for application development and delivery pros.

We took the research further in another recent report, a Market Overview report covering digital customer experience delivery platforms. This reports describes 17 representative software vendors and their offerings as they try to tackle this robust market with a diversity of capabilities; each has a different approach. Our research has identified players with heritage in four vendor categories: web content management (e.g. Acquia and Adobe), eCommerce (e.g. Demandware, Digital River), marketing solutions (e.g. Hubspot, Razorfish), and enterprise business software providers (IBM and Oracle).

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A Plea For 2014: Focus On Getting The Basics Right When It Comes To Dealing With Your Customers

Reflecting on 2013 (as one does on the last the day of the year …), I’m struck by how much I seem to be living in two parallel universes: a promised land of appropriately targeted marketing, personalized offerings, courteous and efficient customer service, timely and accurate information – you get the picture; and the real world, in which the gap between the promise and what’s being delivered seems, if anything, to be widening.

Admittedly, my research focus on business intelligence, analytics and big data no doubt heightens my awareness, as I’m forever looking for signs that the technologies that are available have actually been deployed. Sadly, a lot of the time I find that even companies with flagship projects involving advanced analytics manage to undo much of the good work by falling down on something very basic, such as getting my name right, or knowing which products I’ve actually purchased.

In case my point needs proving, I’ll start by taking a light-hearted look at a few examples of what I’m talking about, before suggesting a few New Year’s resolutions to all those companies whose claims about customer-centricity and superior service are being contradicted by reality:

  • The major UK retailer which keeps addressing me as “Mr”, has repeatedly assured me that the matter has been addressed, and which resorts to offering me flowers when I point out – again – that all my mailings are still addressed to “Mr Bennett”. Almost enough to give me an identity crisis.
  • The global bank whose customer I’ve been since 1997, but which I’ve been unable to convince for a number of years now that there is only one Martha Bennett. Definitely enough to give me an identity crisis!
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Asian Banks Are Embracing Cloud Computing Faster Than You Think

As research for my upcoming report on cloud adoption among banks in Asia Pacific (AP), I’ve spent the past several months interviewing senior IT and business decision makers at banks and other financial institutions across the region. I’ve also met with banking regulators and spoken with cloud providers with a strong AP presence. Look for the full report early in the new year. In the meantime, I wanted to share some key findings.

  • Cloud adoption is among the top priorities for most banks in the region. In fact, contrary to popular belief, I’d categorize cloud adoption as nearly mainstream among banks in many parts of Asia Pacific. But adoption drivers vary based on the cloud approach. Private cloud initiatives, for instance, centered on data center transformation to drive improved operational efficiency and cost savings. Public cloud initiatives typically focus on expanding mobile banking capabilities and other customer-facing systems of engagement — the key to customer retention and overall growth.
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The Future Of Digital Experience Technologies

Delivering great multichannel digital experiences isn't as easy as plugging in new software and calling it a day. Digital customer experience success comes from combining many elements: a big-picture vision, short- and long-term strategic planning, shifts in roles and responsibilities, and intelligent technology adoption and delivery. For application development and delivery (AD&D) pros and their business peers, the digital customer experience technology market matters because digital experience matters — both to organizations and to their customers. As your organization marches toward digital experience delivery, you must place technologies in their proper context.

In our recent TechRadar for Digital Experience Technologies, we advise AD&D pros to consider the following when thinking about planning their digital experience technologies:

  • It will be an integration--not a suite--story.  Many vendors promise a comprehensive customer experience management technology suite. But supporting customer experience is a broad discipline that includes everything from your contact center technologies to your marketing suites to the technologies that power your website. Right now, no one vendor has every single component — despite what they may claim. And even if they did, the vast majority of Forrester clients we speak with don't have the resources to rip and replace their existing investments, nor do they have the desire to be married to one vendor. Firms will instead look to best of breed vendors that are able to easily integrate with other solutions.
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The Forrester Wave™: Enterprise Business Intelligence Platforms, Q4 2013

The majority of large organizations have either already shifted away from using BI as just another back-office process and toward competing on BI-enabled information or are in the process of doing so. Businesses can no longer compete just on the cost, margins, or quality of their products and services in an increasingly commoditized global economy. Two kinds of companies will ultimately be more successful, prosperous, and profitable: 1) those with richer, more accurate information about their customers and products than their competitors and 2) those that have the same quality of information as their competitors but get it sooner. Forrester's Forrsights Strategy Spotlight: Business Intelligence And Big Data, Q4 2012 (we are currently fielding a 2014 update, stay tuned for the results) survey showed that enterprises that invest more in BI have higher growth.

The software industry recognized this trend decades ago, resulting in a market swarming with startups that appeared and (very often) found success faster than large vendors could acquire them. The market is still jam-packed and includes multiple dynamics such as (see more details here):

  • All ERP and software stack vendors offer leading BI platforms
  •  . . . but there's also plenty of room for independent BI vendors
  •  Departmental desktop BI tools aimed at business users are scaling up
  •  Enterprise BI platform vendors are going after self-service use cases.
  •  Cloud offers options to organizations that would rather not deal with BI stack complexity.
  •  Hadoop is breathing new life into open source BI.
  •  The line between BI software and services is blurring
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How To Have The BI Cake And Eat It Too: A (Or The) BI Prediction For 2014

Rather than going with the usual, ubiquitous, and often (yawn) repetitive “top 10 BI predictions” for the next year, we thought we’d try something different. After all, didn’t the cult movie Highlander prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that “in the end there will be only one”? And didn’t the Lord Of The Rings saga convince us that we need one prediction “to rule them all”? The proposed top BI prediction for 2014 rests on the following indisputable facts:
  • Business and IT are not aligned. Business and IT stakeholders still have a huge BI disconnect (after all these years — what a shocker!). This is not surprising. Business users mostly care about their requirements, which are driven by their roles and responsibilities, daily tasks, internal processes, and dealings with customers (who have neither patience nor interest in enterprises’ internal rules, policies, and processes). These requirements often trump IT goals and objectives to manage risk and security and be frugal and budget minded by standardizing, consolidating, and rationalizing platforms. Alas, these goals and objective often take business and IT in different directions.
  • Requirements are often lost in translation. Business and IT speak different languages. Business speaks in terms of customer satisfaction, improved top and bottom lines, whereas IT speaks in metrics (on a good day), star schemas, facts, and dimensions. Another consideration is that it’s human nature to say what we think others want to hear (yes, we all want our yearly bonus) versus what we really mean. My father, a retired psychiatrist, always taught me to pay less attention to what people say and pay more attention to what people actually do — quite handy and wise fatherly advice that often helps navigate corporate politics.
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New European Data Privacy Laws: Another Twist In The Tale

Many organizations will have been relieved to find that the implementation of the update to existing European data privacy laws, the EU Data Protection Regulation, has been postponed. Adoption of the Regulation is now scheduled for 2015, which means it’ll be 2017 (possibly end of) before it’s actually applicable.

At least, that’s what it looks like. In typical fashion, the official document released after the European Council meeting in Brussels on Oct 25th is the result of much political horse-trading, and avoids specificity on any matters where agreement is lacking. As a result, one has to rely on a variety of third party sources in order to piece the story together. In a nutshell, a number of countries felt that the process for finalizing the EU Data Protection Regulation should be slowed down. The UK and Germany in particular argued that further consideration was required, albeit not for the same reasons: on the British side, concerns were more on the potential adverse impact on business of very stringent rules, whereas Germany wants to ensure that all required safeguards are in place.

Those who are rejoicing over the postponement shouldn’t pop the champagne corks yet, though. While the extra time is no doubt welcome, headlines such as “Victory for tech giants on EU data laws” are premature: nothing is finalized, and there is still the chance that the final version is rather more restrictive than many would hope.

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Make Hackathons a Win-Win

Occasionally I like to yield my "bully pulpit" to folks on our team that I collaborate with on joint research projects - and today is just such an occasion. Over the past few months I've been working on research with Vivian Brown on the in's and out's of public and private hackathons. It was interesting when we started this research - we got more than a few puzzled looks and questions like "why would developers want to spend their own personal time writing code?" and "hackathons might be great for start-ups and Valley companies, but will they play in Peoria?".  My own personal response to these questions was to refer folks back to a stream of research I wrote in 2010 on building high-performance development teams. In my opinion a well-run hackathon is the developer equivalent of a musicians' jam session. At their core the best developers are makers - creatives who are intrinsically motivated to create and get a charge out of learning something new or building out someone else's inspiration. It's one expression of a building wave of "Social Development" that is changing the way development works, and how firms relate to developers and vice versa.

But enough rambling. I'll turn things over to Viv. Right before Thanksgiving, Salesforce hosted a well publicized "Million Dollar Hackathon" - and the results were a bit mixed. Viv's thoughts on it below:

Make Hackathons a Win-Win

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Hindsight Is 20/20: Understanding The Rise Of Digital Customer Experience Platform

Smell that? That’s the smell of digital customer experience delivery technologies converging. Just kidding . . . but closer to the truth, you might be going deaf from the sheer volume of M&A and branding announcements over the past few years. Along with normal versioning announcements, 2013 held two key branding changes. Q1 witnessed Adobe’s shedding of the CQ moniker to adopt “Adobe Experience Manager” and cement its place among the expanding Adobe Marketing Cloud, and Q4 just witnessed salesforce.com’s debut of its “Salesforce1” customer platform.

If you somehow tuned out all of the marketing/sensory overload, I’ll prove this to you another way. No peeking yet . . . OK, open your eyes! (see graphic).


 

Represented visually, it’s clear that M&A activity in the marketing automation space never even paused after Oracle purchased eloqua last holiday season: Salesforce bought ExactTarget in June, Adobe bought Neolane in July, and Oracle came back for seconds with its Compendium Software grab in October. Commerce continues its three-year hot streak: SAP grabbed hybris in June and Sitecore bought Commerce Server in November. Mobile and social haven’t completely lost their mojo either, as SDL picked up bemoko to further it’s mobile/omnichannel street cred and IBM hoovered up Xtify, a mobile messaging platform, in October.

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Which Vendor Will Deliver Your Digital Customer Experience Platform? Here Are 17 Candidates

Choosing digital customer experience solutions isn’t easy for application development and delivery (AD&D) pros, or for their counterparts in the business. Tech pros used to respond to digital business needs by acquiring, say, a web content management or eCommerce system. They may have integrated other software tools to deliver extended capabilities. And it was good.

Fast forward to 2013, and the range of tools to support robust multichannel digital experience is wide and deep. Many different vendors are responding. A new Forrester report cites a number of their offerings as examples of emerging digital customer experience delivery platforms.

In our report, “Market Overview: Digital Customer Experience Delivery Platforms,” my colleague Mark Grannan and I offer Forrester’s view on this emerging market, the 14 tools and capabilities most needed for on-site experience delivery, and 17 example vendors who play in this space.

In our research, we discover some vendors provide more capabilities; some have fewer. Some build or buy most of their capabilities; others focus on integrating best of breed tools. All represent a range of companies attacking this market by answering a multitude of needs by IT and business customers all seeking to better address their customers through digital channels.

For this report, we identified four market segments plus representative vendors, including:

  • Web content management-centric platform vendors, such as Acquia, Adobe, Bridgeline Digital, Ektron, HP Autonomy, OpenText, SDL, Sitecore.
  • eCommerce-centric platforms, which expand upon their transactional foundations, such as Demandware, Digital River, and hybris (an SAP company).
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