DXP Catalyst Consulting

Selecting the Right Technology

Navigating the Complex Landscape of Digital Platform Selection

In today’s fiercely competitive digital landscape, organizations are frequently confronted with the challenge of selecting new technologies that align seamlessly with their evolving goals. The diverse scenarios that prompt these decisions vary, each presenting unique challenges and opportunities. In this exploration, we delve into the complexities of selecting the right technology, examining key scenarios and, for one of them, propose a comprehensive approach for a successful transformation journey.

Scenarios Driving Platform Selection

Organizations find themselves at the crossroads of technology adoption for various reasons. Here are some common scenarios we come across that often necessitate the selection of new platforms.

VP of Marketing Revolutionizing Digital Customer Experience

  • Objectives:  Enhancing user experience, boosting conversions, increasing revenue through personalized interactions.
  • Challenge:  Ensuring the existing digital ecosystem supports the envisioned experience.

Enterprise Growth and Platform Consolidation

  • Objective:  Standardizing mar-tech stacks for improved collaboration and organizational efficiency.
  • Challenge:  Consolidating platforms, a common need post-acquisitions, to achieve cost savings.

CPG Company’s Digital Commerce Venture (Focus Scenario)

  • Objective:  Multi-brand company transitioning to a Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) model, introducing digital commerce capabilities, personalized experiences, and data-driven insights.
  • Challenges: Fragmented data, limited functionality or manual processes, no common processes/workflows.

Getting Started

Diving into CPG Company’s Digital Commerce Venture

In the initial phase of the CPG company’s digital commerce venture, the usual starting point might involve a comprehensive marketing technology (mar-tech) gap analysis across the organization’s digital ecosystem. However, to streamline the focus on technology selection, let’s pivot to a juncture where the VP of Digital has already garnered insights in the mar-tech stacks across the organization’s 6 brands.  

For illustrative purposes and to reduce unnecessary complexity, let’s assume this company only operates in North America and isn’t a global entity where there are significant differences in the systems landscape across regions.

Results of Internal MarTech Gap Analysis

The situation reveals a absence of digital commerce capabilities, with brands operating on disparate levels – one reliant on an outdated portal for limited B2B functionalities, others entangled in manual processes. A pivotal moment arises as the primary brand charts a course towards D2C investment, requiring the infusion of digital commerce capabilities to power the transactional functionality behind a new storefront experience. The chosen commerce platform must cater to both B2B and B2C selling models.

The leading brand has ventured into D2C with test programs, housing some customer data in a data lake. However, they’re unable to construct a comprehensive 360-degree view of customers and, overall, have inadequate customer segmentation. The upcoming year indicates some ambitious endeavors – personalized experiences for D2C customers and a redesign/replatforming for the B2B portal of another brand.

Beyond commerce, a need emerges for a personalization solution and a Customer Data Platform (CDP). The VP of Digital has stressed the urgency for an enterprise-grade solution, setting the foundation for immediate objectives while aligning with the organization’s overarching digital strategy over the next 5 years.  

The leading brand has already invested in a modern, headless CMS and their are already plans at the enterprise level to expand usage of this across other brands and for a redesign of the corporate site.  We’ll look into consolidating other used CMS platforms as part of our assessment, but we can assume that this brand’s headless CMS solution will be the enterprise web CMS moving forward.

The approach encapsulates the organization’s commitment to not only meet current digital demands, but architect a future-ready, transformative digital ecosystem.


Budget and In-House vs Consultant

Ensuring the necessary funding for this transformative effort is a critical component to success. Acknowledging the intricacies of budget allocation, for this article’s purpose, we presume the organization’s commitment to invest. The complexities of funding distribution are assumed to be resolved through a strategic blend of global and brand-specific resources. The budget, a cornerstone of this transformation, is positioned to fuel the organization’s trajectory to a digitally empowered future.

To expedite their journey, the organization opts for the guidance of a consultant, aware of nuanced choices in commerce, CDP, and personalization solutions and to reduce risk of making the wrong investments. I have to do some self-promotion here, so of course, the consultant will be DXP Catalyst Consulting.  


Client Project Team

Driving this initiative is the VP of Digital, the project sponsor, leading a collaborative force comprising an enterprise/global IT team, brands represented by multi-disciplinary teams (each with 1-2 key points of contact), and business solution architects as intermediaries. That’s a pretty ideal team for such an initiative. These decisions can’t made in siloes and needs to involve everyone to some degree.


The following approach to selecting technology is our recommended strategy. We use our Digital Blueprint Design as a template, a scalable model that works for simple cases (small-medium sized company with 1-2 capability areas in scope) to complex cases (enterprise organization with multiple brands/business units/divisions, 3-4 capability areas in scope including commerce, intricate architecture, and complex existing processes).

Digital Platform Requirements Gathering: Crafting the Blueprint

To embark on this journey, gathering requirements is necessary. The approach involves a minimum of 2 workshops – one involving primarily IT stakeholders and another involving a multi-disciplinary team on the business side (including brand/division/business unit leadership across the enterprise). A follow-up session validates requirements, capturing whether they are must-haves or nice-to-haves. This results in a comprehensive package listing platform requirements, in this case, across digital commerce, personalization, and CDP. Beyond functional requirements, IT-centric non-functional requirements like scalability and interoperability are considered. Integrations, a crucial aspect, are also part of the requirements – for example, whether the commerce platform can seamlessly integrate with the existing web CMS. We also recommend capturing a range of investment costs that the organization have planned for technology/platforms.

Business Readiness Assessment: Aligning People and Processes

As part of this transformative effort, the Business Readiness Assessment (BRA) focuses on navigating the terrain of people and processes. For an initiative like this, we’d recommend executing this in parallel to other phases of the tech selection process.  Anything involving introducing new capabilities like digital commerce or changing existing processes/workflows needs to be addressed and planned early. The assessment we’d follow here given this scenario encompasses a multifaceted approach, focusing on organizational cultural, MarTech processes, stakeholder insights, and change readiness. 


Workshop on Organizational Culture: Nurturing a Digital-Ready Environment

Conducting a workshop is the initial step to gauge the organizational culture. This involves understanding the perspectives and expectations of key stakeholders regarding the forthcoming digital changes. Given the novelty of D2C and the enhancement of B2B commerce, capturing the current cultural landscape is crucial. Are teams open to innovation? How adaptable is the culture a digital-first approach?


MarTech Process Mapping: Streamlining Processes for Commerce Evolution and Beyond

MarTech process mapping involves delving into the existing processes related to marketing technology within the organization. To be clear, this is also factoring in commerce related processes and workflows. We specifically investigate how teams currently interact with existing processes. This includes understanding current workflows, identifying pain points, recognizing areas that need adjustments, and new processes/workflows that may be required based on the introduction of commerce, personalization, and CDP solutions.


Stakeholder Interviews: Insights into Roles, Expectations, and Receptiveness

Gathering insights through stakeholder interviews is instrumental in understanding the roles, expectations, and overall receptiveness to digital changes. This step ensures that the aspirations and concerns of various stakeholders, ranging from leadership to frontline employees, are considered. For instance, understanding how the marketing team envisions utilizing personalization or how the IT department perceives the integration of a new commerce platform.


Change Readiness Assessment: Evaluating Organizational Preparedness

Evaluating the readiness of the organization for a digital experience transformation is pivotal. This assessment identifies areas where additional support may be required. Given the introduction of a completely new D2C model and the evolution of B2B commerce, it becomes essential to evaluate the organization’s preparedness for these substantial changes. This involves assessing factors like leadership alignment, change management capabilities, resources availability, and employee engagement.

Digital Platform Assessment: A Collaborative Exploration

The journey of selecting the right digital platforms for an organization is critical and complex, requiring a structured, yet flexible approach to ensure the best fit. The Digital Platform Assessment approach we recommend is a well designed process that combines methodical analysis with collaborative decision-making. Depending on a client’s timeframe or budget, we can do either a “self assessment” or a more collaborative, RFI-driven approach, the latter of which is what we’d recommend for this scenario.


Initial Analysis and Shortlist

In this scenario, we’ll be doing 3 platform assessments across each capability area – digital commerce, personalization, and CDP.  While we typically include DXPs (i.e. Adobe, Sitecore, Optimizely, etc.) that have solutions across each capability area, we also include leading independent platforms.  For example, Commercetools is a leading digital commerce platform but doesn’t have a broader portfolio of other capabilities like web CMS that would found in a DXP, but the platform may make sense to include when only evaluating commerce.  While we will look more holistically at the solution when arriving at recommendations, doing an assessment across each capability area can often times drive towards a better overall solution (i.e. best of breed).

We start by deriving a list of 8-10 platforms across each capability area and do some initial analysis to shortlist to 3-4 platforms in each before doing a deeper dive.  This is based on industry research and our expertise and experience across an extensive number of platforms in this space. Being experts across the entire landscape is what we do. 


RFI – A Foundation for Informed Decision Making

We find that a key part of the assessment process is the Request for Information (RFI) – a strategic tool designed to gather insights from potential platform vendors.  If it’s a simple scenario (small company with 1-2 DXP capability areas in scope and budget is a factor), then it can be omitted but is strongly recommended here. The creation of an RFI package is a collaborative effort that demands the involvement of diverse stakeholders, including IT professionals, business stakeholders, brand representatives, and business solution architects.  This multi-disciplinary team ensures that the RFI encompasses a wide variety of considerations from requirements and digital scenarios to vendor evaluation criteria.    


Crafting Digital Scenarios:  Bringing Requirements to Life

A distinctive feature of our process is the development of digital scenarios, tailored to reflect the unique needs and challenges of the business. These scenarios go beyond mere technical specs, they embody the real-world applications of the platforms, delineating how they can enhance customer experiences, streamline operations, and drive growth.

By including personas (in this context – types of users involved in the scenarios) and integrating key platform requirements, these scenarios enable vendors to demonstrate the practical value and adaptability of their solutions. This approach not only facilitates a deeper understanding of each platform’s capabilities but also aligns the assessment process with the organization’s strategic objectives.

We like this approach as it really involves brand representatives and key stakeholders.  For example, the largest brand in this scenario would almost certainly want a scenario based around D2C.  It’s a great way to keep everyone engaged and excited about what this new technology can potentially mean for their business.


Weighted Scorecard Approach:  A Balanced Evaluation Framework

We recommend taking a weighted scorecard approach to evaluating the potential platforms.  This framework incorporates a diverse range of criteria, including functional fit, non-functional fit, vendor profile, cost considerations, licensing models, and maintenance and support frameworks.

The collaborative tailoring of the scorecard is critical, ensuring that the evaluation matrix accurately reflects the priorities and concerns of all stakeholders. This tailored approach fosters a sense of ownership and alignment among the stakeholders, enhancing the credibility and acceptability of the assessment outcome. 

We create a scorecard for each capability area specifying initial weight percentages across each criteria category (i.e. functional fit).  Under each criteria are individual considerations.  Like on a digital commerce scorecard, under Functional Fit, you might have a category for Cart & Checkout with a capability like “multi-payment option support”, which then has it’s own weight coefficient.  For example, Functional Fit might be 50% of the overall score, with a Cart & Checkout category with multi-payment option support being 2% of the Functional Fit component of the score. 

After putting together the initial scorecard based on input captured while creating the RFIs, we review across the business.  For enterprise organizations with multiple divisions/brands/business units, each can have their own scorecards with unique weight coefficients given that some considerations may be more important to one part of the business than another.


Interactive Vendor Demos:  A Platform for Engaged Assessment

Armed with the digital scenarios, requirements, and summary of the evaluation criteria, vendors are invited to conduct demos that showcase their solutions in action, in addition to responding to the RFI(s). These sessions are not just presentations, but interactive explorations, allowing stakeholders to engage with the platforms, ask questions, and gauge the responsiveness of the vendors.

Stakeholders utilize the tailored scorecards to assess each demo, applying a consistent and comprehensive evaluation framework. This structured, yet interactive process ensures a thorough and unbiased assessment of each platform’s ability to meet the organization’s needs.


Collaborative Decision-Making:  Finalizing the Platform Assessment

As consultants armed with extensive knowledge of the digital platforms and client’s ecosystem and goals, we do our own assessment, factoring in client evaluations.  We look more holistically at the solution from a tech, architecture, and infrastructure perspective as well as factoring in considerations from the business readiness assessment (think people/process). 

The culmination of the assessment process is a collaborative decision-making session, where stakeholders review the rankings derived from the scorecard evaluations. This stage is characterized by open discussions, deliberation, and consensus-building, with a clear understanding of how the platforms aligns with the organization’s digital transformation goals.  While in most cases, we’ve reached a general consensus fairly quickly, there can be some difference of opinions that occur across brands/divisions/business units as well as IT and business stakeholders.  While this isn’t always the easiest to sort out, we work closely with the project sponsor and key representatives to gain consensus if disagreements arise. 

The transparency of the process and active involvement of stakeholders from various facets of the organization ensure that the final decision is well-informed and broadly supported. This collaborative exploration not only identifies the most suitable platforms but also sets the stage for their successful integration and adoption. 
Charting the Course for Digital Excellence
The Digital Platform Assessment process, with its blend of methodical evaluation and collaborative engagements, lays a solid foundation for selecting the platforms that will drive the organization’s digital transformation. By prioritizing alignment with business goals, engaging a broad spectrum of stakeholders, and employing a structured, yet flexible approach, the organization positions itself to make informed decisions. 

Creating an Action Plan: Navigating the Road Ahead

Recommendations are valuable, but an actionable plan is indispensable. This typically involves an enterprise solution architecture design based on recommendations and a multi-year digital experience tech roadmap.

Shaping the Future - Enterprise Solution Architecture Design

The next critical phase involves shaping the future through Enterprise Solution Architecture Design. This step is a process that goes beyond just selecting individual platforms; it’s about creating a cohesive and future-ready architecture that aligns with the organization’s vision. Let’s delve into the intricacies of this process:


Crafting the Future-State Solution Architecture Diagram

We first start by producing a comprehensive future-state solution architecture diagram. The visual representation serves as a blueprint for the digital landscape the organization aspires to achieve. It encapsulates the integration points that form the backbone of the seamlessly interconnected digital ecosystem.

Each recommended platform finds its designed place in the architecture, carefully mapped to its specific function within the organization’s overarching goals. Whether it’s the newly selected commerce platform, the personalization solution, or the CDP, each component is positioned to maximize its contribution to the envisioned digital experience.


Navigating Platform Consolidation and Sunsetting

An important consideration in shaping the architecture is the approach to platform consolidation and sunsetting, if applicable. With insights gathered from the Digital Platform Assessment, we identify redundancies, inefficiencies, and obsolete technologies within the digital ecosystem. The architecture design becomes a strategic exercise in streamlining operations, eliminating duplications, and optimizing resources.

The process of consolidation involves merging the strengths of the various platforms in a unified whole. This not only enhances operational efficiency, but lays the foundation for a more agile and responsive digital infrastructure. The obsolete platforms face sunsetting – a deliberate phasing out to make room for the new and innovative solutions that align with the organization’s evolving needs. For example in this case, the business unit with the antiquated customer portal, based on a platform offering limited B2B commerce functionality, would be sunset.  We’d also factor in sunsetting the additional web CMS platforms that will ultimately be replaced by the already existing enterprise web CMS solution.


Tailoring Architecture to Divisional or Regional Dynamics

While the creation is a single architecture at a global, enterprise level is the norm, the real-world complexity of large organizations often necessitates adaptations based on divisional or business unit differences. In instances where significant variations exist across divisions or business units, the architecture design becomes a nuanced exercise in tailoring.

Considerations for these adaptations include the unique requirements, workflows, and technologies inherent to specific divisions or regions (i.e. Americas, EMEA, APAC). The goal is to strike a balance between maintaining a standardized, cohesive architecture and accommodating the distinct needs of individual segments. This tailored approach ensures that the journey is not a one-size-fits-all, but a customized solution that resonates with the intricacies of each facet of the organization.


Forward-Thinking Flexibility

One of the key attributes of a well-crafted future-state solution architecture is forward-thinking flexibility. It is designed not only to meet the current needs but to adapt and evolve in tandem with the dynamic digital landscape. This flexibility allows the organization to integrate new technologies, respond to emerging trends, and scale operations without major upheavals.

The architecture becomes a living entity, continuously evolving and aligning with the organization’s strategic objectives. Regular assessments and updates ensure that it remains agile and capable of accommodating ever-changing demands

Charting the Course: Digital Experience Tech Roadmap Design

The development of a digital experience tech roadmap is a strategic blueprint that aligns technological investments with long-term business goals, ensuring that each step taken is a step toward realizing a cohesive digital vision. 

Digital Blueprint

At the core of the digital experience tech roadmap design is the ambition to create a comprehensive guide that navigates through the tech landscape, identifying milestones that are pivotal for the integration and implementation of key functionalities. Unlike an implementation-level roadmap, which may delve into the engineering specifics of modules/plugins for individual components, this roadmap casts a wider net. It aims to encapsulate the entirety of the digital ecosystem required to transformed a digital vision into reality.
Fusion of Requirements and Technicalities
The roadmap is a fusion of functional requirements – what the technology must do to meet business objectives – and technical considerations – how the technology will be integrated and supported within the existing infrastructure. This strategic document takes into account the various platforms, systems, and tools that will be needed over the roadmap’s timeline, ensuring that they not only fit together cohesively but also align with the company’s broader digital strategy.


Multi-Year Perspective (in most cases)

Taking a multi-year view allows the roadmap to act as a living document that evolves. It recognizes that the transformation is not a one-time project but a continuous journey of adaptation and improvement. By outlining key milestones, the roadmap provides a clear path for integrating and implementing essential functionalities while remaining flexible enough to accommodate shifts in technology trends, business priorities, and market dynamics.

In this scenario, we would work with the business to understand overall priorities, ongoing/upcoming projects enterprise wide and across each brand/division/business unit which factors in other variables like funding/budget.  This would be visualized in the roadmap.  For example, at one point does the D2C commerce implementation for the largest brand occur relative to another brand looking to redesign a B2B customer portal?  What can be leveraged and what efficiencies are there to factor in?  Are there pilot projects that occur for other capabilities like CDP and personalization?  What’s the personalization strategy and use cases?  Can you enable basic personalization while starting to collect customer data?  What’s your customer data strategy? Do you need to purchase commerce, personalization, and CDP solutions all at once? The roadmap helps address all of this.

Beyond the High-Level View

While the primary focus of the digital experience tech roadmap is to offer a high-level overview, it also acknowledges the importance of specific component views when necessary.  For instance, when detailing the deployment of a new commerce system, a separate more detailed implementation roadmap might be created. This supplementary document document would specify the tech details such as the necessary modules/plugins to implement a feature, ensuring that the teams involved have a clear understanding of the steps required for execution.  

Visualizing the Future

The ultimate goal of the digital experience tech roadmap is to paint a vivid picture of all components required to bring the digital vision to life. It charts the course from the current state to the desired state, detailing the technological evolution that will enable the organization to meet its digital experience goals. This roadmap not only services as a strategic guide for technology investments but also as a communication tool that aligns stakeholders across the organization, ensuring everyone is moving in the same direction towards achieving a shared vision.

By blending strategic foresight with detailed planning, this roadmap lays the groundwork for a future where technology and business objectives are aligned, driving growth, innovation, and competitive advantage in an ever-evolving digital landscape.

Conclusion - Paving the Way for Digital Excellence

In conclusion, the journey of selecting and implementing digital platforms is a multifaceted endeavor that requires careful planning, collaboration, and a forward-thinking approach.  The outlined scenarios, the comprehensive approach to Digital Platform Requirements Gathering, Business Readiness Assessment, and Digital Platform Assessment and Recommendation pave the way for successful digital transformation. The action plan, shaped by Enterprise Solution Architecture Design and a high-level Digital Experience Tech Roadmap, provides a clear trajectory for the organization’s digital evolution.  Strategic considerations ensure alignment with broader business goals, allowing organizations to embrace the transformative journey and lay the groundwork for a thriving digital future. As organizations navigate the digital frontier, the careful selection of digital platforms becomes the cornerstone of a successful transformation.

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