Ernest Dichter might have a lot to say about tech leaders attracted to portfolios over platforms. He’s the one who showed Betty Crocker that making the customer crack an egg made them feel like they were baking something homemade instead of just rehydrating Space Lunch.
It feels like this kind of “homemade” thinking gets conflated with the “build what makes you differentiated” mantra and ultimately leads to buying an unintegrated “box of rocks.”
This year, The Forrester Wave™: Digital Experience Platforms, Q3 2021, showed that investors appear to have worked through their five stages of grief and finally accepted that it’s impossible to refactor old on-premises software for the cloud. The only practical playbook anymore is to buy cloud-native companies.
Five things became clear to me while conducting the research:
Who else gets praise when they buy something? The point of buying is to put it to use. So, why are vendors still announcing they bought a company before they put that company to use? I saw a very small number of acquisition announcements that were able to say they’d already integrated their target and that customers can immediately benefit. This raises the bar for everyone now.
Everybody embraces “modern technology,” but many vendors take liberties with its definition (most commonly to align with what they currently offer). The MACH Alliance vendors offer a concise definition and zealously enforce it. They’re the bouncers controlling the velvet rope at the entrance of the Coolest Tech in Town Club. They boldly proclaim to carry the flag of a new order in enterprise experience tech. And the wind is at their backs. They’re starting fresh — without the anchor of legacy products and customers. They’re not corporate monoliths. They’re more akin to corporate two-pizza teams operating as a loosely coupled ecosystem that can be integrated.
The debate over the MACH Alliance’s policies is vigorous, especially when only companies can be MACH Alliance certified. Why? Because vendors’ products need to conform to the criteria. The MACH Alliance stamp simplifies things for tech buyers and complicates things for vendors. What else can everybody agree on? That taking friction out of a buyer’s journey is a good thing.
Say the above three words while imagining Steve Ballmer chanting “developers.” Stitching solutions together with code is the same as it ever was — integrating products with custom code. What differentiates the leaders is a triad: 1) architectural loose coupling with APIs and events; 2) a framework of shared objects, data, and intelligence; and 3) strategic ISV partnerships for the innumerable parts of a composed solution. Any one of those is necessary but not sufficient to achieve composability. Alone they only give you the ability to integrate, which — again — from a historical perspective is nothing new.
This is another source of buyer friction. A “yes” at a product level isn’t a “yes” at the platform level. I encountered this firsthand. Some vendors answered a “Do you support it?” question in the aggregate. For example, on the list of platform certifications, I’d see HIPAA — when it applies to only one of several individual products in a company’s platform. Or I’d see, “We run on Amazon Web Services, which is ISO 27001” — which isn’t meaningful to buyers of digital experience platforms (DXPs) because security certificates are required by, but not inherited by, higher layers of the stack. A “yes” in a dubiously defined context gives the feeling of reading an inflated CV.
Not all integrations are equal. A DXP that integrates journey orchestration into a single pane of glass is good and helpful. A DXP that offers content up to another vendor’s journey orchestration tool is just doing what’s expected of any service that can be orchestrated. Buyers of DXPs need to pay close attention (i.e., endure friction) when vendors say they integrate with something they don’t offer themselves.
Selecting the right vendor(s) for your DXP is complex and can be complicated.
The original article by Joe Cicman, senior analyst for digital transformation at Forrester, is here.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CDOTrends. Image credit: iStockphoto/ipopba