blue open and closed windows

Why Your Digital Experience Platform Needs to be Open

In my last article, I outlined what a Digital Experience Platform (DXP) is and how DXPs help organizations deliver memorable customer experiences. If you’re interested in exploring a DXP for your organization, this might be the most important question to address: Do you need an open DXP?

The answer will determine the platform you can build today and how that platform will stand up to the constant pressure of innovation and disruption.

Closed vs. Open DXPs

As a refresher, here’s how we define Closed vs. Open DXPs:

Closed DXPs value the benefits of tightly-coupled components and provide every one of those components through a single platform to power the experience. An example of a closed DXP is the Adobe Experience Cloud

Open DXPs are platforms that bring together “best-of-breed” products from multiple vendors. For organizations who already own multiple digital experience products, an Open DXP can help all of them work together more effectively. 

The primary benefit of a Closed DXP is that much of the integration work is done for you by the vendor. Seasoned marketing leaders often tell you war stories from past projects where their teams became mired in complex efforts to integrate a myriad number of different solutions from multiple vendors. They have felt real pain, and the premise of buying everything from one vendor is appealing.

However, and this is a big one — a closed DXP provider will claim if pressed, that they are open and can integrate with all the products you already own. But it is the intention of the platform that matters more. The intention shapes how those integrations will work and how much the partner ecosystem of system integrations and agencies embrace an open versus a closed approach.

At Acquia, we believe in open everything. We help our customers bring together all the products they already use and make them work better. We do that by leveraging the open-source projects Drupal and Mautic as the connective tissue of digital experience. Drupal and Mautic work together to orchestrate the delivery of experiences across every customer channel, from websites and email to digital screens and chatbots. To do this, the Acquia DXP needs to integrate with other products in the digital experience ecosystem, from Salesforce to Google to even competitive products like those from Adobe. 

5 Benefits of an Open DXP Approach

If you nod your heads to these benefits, an Open DXP is the right choice for you.

1. Ready to adapt to any future

Warren Buffett frequently reminds audiences in interviews and speeches that he can’t speculate about future stock prices because the future is unknowable. Spoiler alert: If Warren Buffett can’t speculate about the future, neither can you. 

If you select a DXP because you believe you can predict the tools, techniques and approaches that are going to be effective 18 months from now, you are in for a challenging future.

Because an open DXP is built API-first and embraces the concept of integrating with third-party tools, it is far easier to integrate some future, unknown tool into the framework than it is in a tightly-coupled DXP that makes assumptions about the technology stack. An open DXP is the only way to be future-ready for an unknown future.

2. Best-of-breed solutions

Does anyone remember these TVs with a built-in DVD player? Let’s take it back further: If you stayed at a crappy hotel between 2005 and 2010, you probably encountered a television with the ancient technology known as a VCR slot. Inevitably both of these products had two fatal flaws. The TV with a built-in DVD or VCR was lacking in the features you came to expect in a dedicated DVD and VHS player. And secondly, your investment in the TV/DVD combo became a liability as soon as you switched to watching Blu-rays, or eventually Netflix. 

Tv on VHS player

The point is — it’s hard to predict the future and to be exceptional at two or more things. The same applies to tightly-coupled solutions that attempt to provide a comprehensive solution for a wide variety of disparate use cases, including website content management, personalization, analytics, marketing automation and business intelligence. This is where an open DXP shines because you can truly pick and choose the best solutions for your use cases and assemble those into a single, cohesive platform and still get the same benefits of using a single platform to execute digitally.

3. High developer velocity

Developer velocity is often reported by marketing teams as the number one challenge to achieving their digital marketing goals. One of the major reasons for low developer velocity on digital experiences is that the front end experience layers of most leading content management systems are built around a theming approach that is more than 15 years old.

Enter the JAMstack (Javascript, APIs, markup), which made a huge splash in the marketing site theming community in 2018. The JAMstack approach replaces the entire front end layer of a CMS with a modern stack of technologies designed for high developer velocity. It takes an entirely new approach, uses new tools and is an overall faster stack. The JAMstack disruption has just started, and there are still real drawbacks to the approach, but these will be overcome with time — and code. The driving force behind its adoption won’t go away because it will continue to be a coveted competitive edge for an organization—high developer velocity.

We’ve designed Acquia to be API-first and headless at the core, so the JAMstack is supported by default, out-of-the-box, without any additional effort.

4. Microservices architecture

Talk to any technology leader in your organization and they will tell you that one of their major initiatives is moving various technology platforms to a microservices architecture. Put simply, a microservices architecture stitches together disparate services designed for narrow use cases into comprehensive solutions. Think of the Amazon AWS approach writ large, to every part of an organization's technology. The major benefits of a microservices architecture are being able to better organize your technology solutions to your business capabilities, improving productivity and achieving better scalability.

The core approach of an open DXP—providing a platform where disparate services can be woven together into a single, compelling platform—is a microservices architecture itself that will perfectly fit with your broader organization’s microservices goals.

5. The right commerce platform 

Adding commerce capability to an existing digital experience is an increasingly common need. The challenge of a DXP solution with a tightly-coupled commerce solution built-in is that we are in the middle of a massive disruption in commerce platforms that are upending the traditional players and giving massive first-mover advantages to organizations that are aware of the changes.

Open DXPs embrace the idea that the platform should meet your requirements, not that your requirements should be compromised to fit the rigid platform. This means that an organization using an open DXP can take advantage of the commerce platform that best matches its use case, not the commerce platform that is tightly coupled into the platform.

Acquia as the “Foundational” Platform for Open DXP

We think that Digital Experience Platforms must be open. Of course, every DXP vendor will claim they are open and will integrate with whatever you need them to. But being open is so fundamental to Acquia that it’s a part of our company DNA. Our co-founder Dries created Drupal, one of the largest open source projects. We recently acquired Mautic, the only open source marketing cloud. We offer hundreds of pre-built connectors so our customers can make their existing investments work better together. Developers can build whatever they need using modern APIs and development tools.

Acquia can serve as a platform that delivers both core capabilities like web content management and marketing automation while embracing integration with all the products you already own and may decide to buy in the future. 

With the Acquia DXP, you can finally experience digital freedom.

Tom Wentworth

Former SVP Product Marketing Acquia