A small excerpted quote below from Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management July 2017:
"WCM vendors typically choose not to step up to the challenge of facilitating, at least in part, the digital transformations required by their customers in order to realize their aspirations across the full breadth of possibility. Most WCM vendors still expect the partner community to fill this void — and this represents a caution to all buyers planning, or already engaged in, a selection process. All too often, prospect organizations place the necessary focus on technology, but underprioritize the role of people and processes. They underestimate the importance of these factors in building the success of the solution in which the WCM software plays a central role.
The evolution of the WCM market will be determined in part by vendors that both fuel and support this new world of WCM. Leaders in this year's Magic Quadrant have all made contributions in this regard. The true winners in this market, however, will be not only the vendors who raise such expectations; they will be those who can inspire organizations with a clear and compelling vision, guide customers forward with demonstrable and repeatable best practices, and enable them to execute incrementally, iteratively and effectively on that vision."
I could not have put it better myself, and there are a couple of really important topics for discussion embedded in that excerpt.
I’m frequently experiencing the scenario of “we’ve picked the technology, now we’re just looking for an implementation partner”. Often this is simply putting the cart before the horse, prioritising a technology purchase over the importance of people and process. It’s not that we always must have the right to make or advise on the technology decisions, although we do believe we can help. It is more that we believe that the technology decision, and very often the vendor selection, should be more driven by the people and process thinking. Simply put, we believe you’re buying into a philosophy when you select a vendor, as much as (if not more) you are procuring features. It follows that, if people and process are more important (and I think they often times are), then you should pick the people (implementation partner, or agency) you want to work with first, rather than filtering (aka limiting) your available talent pool first by their vendor relationships. Those great people that you then find will not only be the right ones to work with, but can help you find the right great WCM vendor people you also need to work with, guided not just by features, but by strategy. It’s how they think, not just what they do that matters.
Secondly, almost trickled away as the last line is the commentary of “repeatable best practices, and enable them to execute incrementally, iteratively and effectively on that vision.". There’s two huge pieces of wisdom in that remark alone: (1) repeatable (2) incrementally, iteratively.
Much has been written about digital transformation, and I hope we all agree that it’s about much, much more than just DevOps and Agile. However, it is still at least somewhat about those things. Being smart about your DevOps should include automation – which is not least about making things repeatable. If "insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results", then surely it’s incredibly sane to be doing the same thing over and over and expecting predictable results?
You are unlikely to have time, budget, stakeholder patience, or even really, really know all of your requirements, and have the world stand still and wait for you to build everything in one good old big bang. So get bought in to incremental and iterative achievement. It should then be obvious that you want to be choosing vendors and partners that are expert at doing things incrementally and iteratively. It’s not only known as Agile, but I expect you can see the obvious here. These days everyone has some Agile creds and chat, but don’t just take their word for it, this is an important enough requirement that you should be paying serious attention to evidence.
[update 22 Jan 2018]
Revisiting and updating this blog in the light of the recently released Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms January 2018, not least because (in the words of this report):
“Most organizations focus their initial DXP investments on marketing-centric customer experience efforts. This is because of the clear benefits of customer engagement, the increased influence of digital marketing leaders in digital business, the highly competitive nature of customer-facing initiatives, and a relatively straightforward value proposition.
DXP vendors with WCM roots have asserted early leadership by winning many deals in competition with vendors with backgrounds in portal, commerce and other platforms. WCM leaders have successfully appealed to business influencers by applying emerging technology relatively quickly.”
Thus, we can see (agreeing with Gartner) that there’s a great deal of cross-over between the WCM MQ and the DXP MQ. Many of the successful DXP players are WCM players first and foremost. However, Gartner also note:
“Exploit the full complement of DXP capabilities, including context awareness, personalization, content management, analytics and optimization, to improve user engagement and satisfaction across digital channels.
DXPs are designed to support complex, multifaceted digital presences. Therefore, avoid using them for simple initiatives (such as a single website for a single audience), unless these form the initial phase of a long-term multichannel, multi-audience strategy.
Use DXPs to empower business users, such as digital marketers, customer service leaders and corporate communications personnel, to assemble and manage digital experiences in their business's interests. IT organizations that fail to "hand over the keys" will be unable to meet business demand.
Expand teams with content, design, analytics, records management and other expertise. A DXP's broad functional range calls for a broad range of skills.”
Our take on this is that it’s essentially a veiled warning about avoiding buyer’s remorse in the DXP market. What I mean by that is that DXPs promise a great deal, and there’s no denying the great capabilities available. There is also no denying the investment required – not least in organisational change – to really reap the benefit of those capabilities. There’s also the caution not to over-buy: to purchase a DXP and have DXP-level transformational expectations for a simple WCM project. A DXP is just not necessary for a single website/single channel initiative, and to try to use it that way is to introduce needless complexity and cost that you will likely not see the full benefits of. This could easily lead you to question the value of the DXP product, when the fault lies elsewhere.
Thus, my commentary on the DXP MQ is very complimentary to my thoughts on the previous WCM MQ – in short, it’s not all about the tech.
Be clear about the business ambitions, be clear about your willingness to adapt as an organisation to leverage the benefits of advanced digital capabilities in a new competitive landscape, be clear about the target group of users in your organisation who are going to work with this platform (hint: it’s not your IT team), and be clear on who you are looking for to work with in these endeavours – vendors and partners who you get, and who get you.
Ultimately my advice boils down to this: pick your implementation partner before you pick your technology, and let your partner help you. They’ve likely hands-on experience with more than one of the platforms that you are considering and can advise you.
I said implementation partner, but what I really mean is transformation partner. Truly upskilling, enabling, and changing your business requires far more, and different skill than just x number of certified product developers. The implementation is not your real challenge, and often a poor transformational outcome is blamed on a poor product implementation which is no such thing. Instead, what probably happened is that the product implementation project simply lacked a transformational agenda, and vision. This relegates it to an expensive technology refresh at best, and a total miss of your target at worst.
Frame your project in terms of the transformational outcome you seek, choose a partner with credible experience in delivering those outcomes, and then work with them to select the technology in support of those goals. You might still buy the same tech, but I suggest you will achieve a radically different, and better outcome.