You are probably sick of hearing the team “digital transformation.” There’s a reason for that. Over the next three years, IDC predicts that digital transformation investment spending will approach $7.4 trillion. So naturally, it’s top of mind, and not only for “leading brands” but for any organization with a digital presence.
But there’s a big problem. Our current approach to digital transformation is fundamentally wrong. Here’s what happens. In order to accelerate our digital transformation, we invest in technology. This means either buying technology solutions or building technology in-house to custom fit our business requirements. The good news is that when we invest in these solutions, they generally solve the problem they were designed for. Marketing and sales leaders are under extreme pressure to demonstrate results fast, and they see buying the latest technology as the magic solution that will fix their problems. A marketing automation solution can help you send more targeted emails. A CMS will help you create content online. A CRM will help you manage your customer database. An analytics tool will help you gain insight and analyze data (and so on and so forth).
The bad news is that every time an organization adds new technology to their stack, they create a far larger problem than the ones these individual solutions seek to solve. Critically, this is an issue that negatively impacts your customers. Instead of focusing on the customer journey and customer experience, too often teams are narrowly focused on their own individual metrics — their increasing email open rates or page views, reducing bounce rate or cart abandonment. The list goes on and on. Yet this technology is designed to solve the metrics problem, not the customer problem. It lacks a centralized vision for how these results form a unified customer experience.
The result is what we call “the silos” problem. These silos block transformation and slow digital acceleration in three primary areas: content creation, data collection and insight and organizational efficiency. When teams and tools are siloed, the result is a confusing and disjointed digital experience for your customers. Let’s look at how each of these digital experience silos have come to be, the challenges they bring to your business and why a new approach is required to succeed in today’s evolving digital landscape.
1. The Content Silo: Locking Content into Systems
The full buyer's journey is moving online, increasing the demand on organizations to create engaging content. Yet most organizations are working with difficult to use systems and multiple platforms, which results in siloed content. Your marketing team may use one tool to build content for an event microsite, while IT creates content for your primary website elsewhere. Your social media team may draft tweets in one system, while your blog content lives in a different place within your CMS and your sales enablement content is housed in a separate platform.
In this model, getting content out the door requires a lot of back and forth between multiple teams and departments, and often, IT is square in the middle. These technical teams are drowning in sites and content, bogged down with maintenance or simple update requests. The lack of content accessibility between teams also results in unnecessary duplication of efforts and a lack of oversight for your brand messaging. But it doesn’t end there. Most content management systems aren’t equipped to create and publish content on emerging channels, meaning this problem is multiplied by the amount of channels where you engage with consumers (web, app, email, social, digital signs, voice, portals, etc).
Content silos put the burden on your IT teams to manage every update and new request — from launching a microsite to changing font sizes on a landing page. When these teams are spending the bulk of their time trying to control the explosion of content and sites that’s pushed out, they can’t focus on delivering new, innovative digital capabilities that will have greater value for both the business and the customer.
2. The Data Silo: An Eclipsed View of the Customer
As more channels emerge, there is more opportunity to engage with consumers. Today, we are collecting more data than we ever have before. But the data we collect isn’t integrated. Often it may be stored in a CRM tool, analytics tools, data lake, automation tool or any other legacy system. But as we talked about earlier, marketers need to create campaigns and hit their metrics. So the result is a lot of activation without insight. The answer is always, “let’s do more” whether it be another email campaign, buying more ads, running another social program, etc.
When data is viewed only through the lens of channel-specific interactions, businesses lack the essential insight into a customer’s previous history with their brand and miss out on the total value they represent. I’ll use myself as an example. Like many of you, my shopping habits have moved from a mix of in-store and online browsing and purchasing to entirely digital over the past several months.
If a brand only views channel-specific data without a way to link my previous in store purchases to my online ordering, marketers won’t understand the full context of my relationship with their brand or how my behavior has shifted. As a result, they are likely to mis-target me with irrelevant information, deliver generic impersonal experiences. We can all recall a time when we received 10 emails from a brand in a single day. In fact, it happened to me today...twice. Data silos mean that you don’t have insight into your customers. You can’t understand who they are or predict what they are likely to do next. Now multiply that issue across millions of customers and it becomes obvious why breaking down data silos is critical to a brand’s bottom line in a digital-first economy.
Data silos don’t only impact the customer, they also slow down your internal teams. Hard to use systems and dispersed data makes accessing customer data a frustratingly slow process. If a marketer needs a report from a CRM or data lake, it can take days or even weeks to access the information for global enterprises to run a single report on their own data because they need to outsource the process, either to an agency or vendor — or to different data science, operations, or IT teams in the organization. That lag between gathering the information and putting it into action is a huge disadvantage in today’s fast-paced world where customers expect brands to recognize them across any medium and meet their needs in real time.
Yet even when they do gain access to data, there is often a level of distrust in the data, an understanding that it’s not “clean” and isn’t dedeuped or stitched together, especially in a data lake. Just storing terabytes of contact information in a data lake doesn’t generate results if that data can’t be activated by teams to inform their future strategy and predict customer behavior.
3. Organizational Silos: Multiplying Challenges at Scales
The content and data silos are big enough problems. But when you add scale to the equation, everything becomes even more challenging. Both the content and data silos become more complex as the size and reach of the organization grows. For global enterprises managing multiple brands, product lines and regional campaigns, it can feel impossible to establish a centralized process to oversee all of these moving pieces without slowing down progress to conduct multiple rounds of stakeholder reviews. Technology that can’t adapt quickly to new initiatives or fails to offer a set of accessible standards or templates to follow leads to marketing and IT bottlenecks.
This complexity clashes with the need for marketing to move fast and may lead to them operating outside of the centralized workflow. When teams can’t get what they need, they turn to other shadow technologies or push out site updates that lack brand consistency or reflect outdated messaging. While this may work as a short-term solution in the moment, these random acts cause much more damage to the business in the long run.
Not only does inconsistency hurt your brand reputation with your customers, but relying on other systems wastes the investments your CIO has made in your current digital transformation and puts your brand at risk of hefty security and compliance penalties. Workflows and permissions are put in place to guard against data breaches and security attacks, so by ignoring these to move faster, many businesses find themselves hit with legal consequences, loss of customer trust and a damaged brand reputation that can set their organization back years.
Open is the Only Way Forward
So faced with all of these problems, what’s the solution? It’s time for a shift in how we approach digital transformation. We can’t continue to make the same investments in closed stacks and systems, ignoring the customer experience to hit our internal metrics. So how do organizations approach digital transformation that accounts both for short-term goals while establishing a resilient, future-proof framework? The only way forward — to compete and to win in a complex digital ecosystem — is to embrace an open approach to digital.
Open means many things. For Acquia, our foundation is built on open source, which we fundamentally believe is the best way to build software due to the constantly evolving technology built by a world class community. But open means much more than that. It means building on an open architecture that supports any frameworks like React and Angular for your business to build applications. It means an open approach to integrations, providing support for any API type, REST, JSON, GraphQL to integrate with any system bought or built. Lastly, open means taking the core principles of open source — collaboration, shareability and accessibility, and infusing them throughout every aspect of your digital experience operations.
Now, we’ve set the stage for why these silos are such epic obstacles to overcome and why they’ve thwarted practically every current industry in their efforts to achieve digital transformation. We’ve also decided to have a little fun and name the problems that the content, data and organizational silos represent. Content: The Quicksand Problem, Data: The Labyrinth Problem and Organizational: the Hydra Problem.
In our next series of blogs, we’ll provide you with the tools to escape the Quicksand, find your path out of the Labyrinth and tame the Hydra once and for all. In your journey to digital experience freedom, you are not alone.
For more on Acquia’s vision for a better, open digital experience, get our e-book: The DXP Vision: Open Content and Unified Data.