- Growing prevalence. DXPs are becoming more prevalent in the digital customer experience space, with 42% of organizations planning to introduce them in the next two years.
- Range of capabilities. DXPs offer customers a range of capabilities and choice through their composable platforms, allowing organizations to build and compose their ideal DXP with microservices, API-first, cloud-native and headless technology.
- Common use case. One of the most common use cases for DXP software is to deliver content across multiple channels and touchpoints, allowing for a consistent conversation with the customer.
- Breaking down walls. The biggest challenge for DXP teams is breaking down organizational walls and streamlining processes to leverage technological investments and achieve scalability at a global level.
- Too many options. The biggest challenge for marketing teams today is that they have so many options for how to address their customers and how to improve the experience that there are almost too many for them to keep track of.
- Exciting AI opportunities. Generative AI technology, such as ChatGPT, offers exciting opportunities for efficiency and automation in content creation and marketing, but ethical considerations and the risk of creating generic, spammy content must also be taken into account.
In recent years, organizations have increasingly turned to digital experience platforms (DXPs) to improve their online presence and engagement with customers.
In this episode of CX Decoded, we sat down with Sitecore’s Dave O’Flanagan, Optimizely’s Deane Barker and Contentstack’s Nick Barron to discuss DXPs and a shift to composable platforms and related concepts such as content management systems (CMS) and content marketing platforms (CMP). The participants Dave, Deane and Nick each gave examples of common use cases for DXPs and focused on the need for omnichannel capabilities that enable consistent messaging across various channels and touchpoints. They also emphasized the importance of being open and flexible with architecture to allow customers to plug and play different products depending on their business objectives.
Editors note: This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Rich Hein: Hello, Rich Hein, editor-in-chief of CMSWire with my colleague, Managing Editor Dom Nicastro. How’re you doing today, Dom?
Dom Nicastro: Good, Rich, good to be back with you on CX Decoded. Today, I’m gonna catch up with three vendors, from the digital customer experience software space, some of the heavy hitters out there. We’re super happy to do this, have a nice healthy dialogue, talk about what’s going on in the world of digital experience platforms, DXPs and everything around it.
Rich: That’s awesome, Dom, yeah, it’s been a minute since I’ve been on the podcast. It’s great to be back. And this is a big one. So I definitely wanted to be a part of it. You know, in our most recent CMSWire 2023 State of Digital Customer Experience report, 25% of respondents said that they use DXPs. But 42% say they’ll be introducing them in the next two years. That’s half, not exactly a small sampling. And 48% of orgs who report their tools working well have invested in DXPs versus only 8% who said tools needed work.
Sitecore, Optimizely and Contentstack Experts Share Insights on the DXP Market and Composable Platforms
Dom: Yeah, exactly. These are becoming more and more prevalent for sure. So Rich, let’s not waste any more time. Let’s get into the lineup, the all star lineup here: We got Sitecore’s Dave O’Flanagan, Optimizely’s Deane Barker and Contentstack’s Nick Barron. Gentlemen, it’s great to have you on. I’m gonna throw it over to Dave from Sitecore. First I’m gonna give each of you about two minutes, introduce yourself, talk about your company, and extol the virtues say anything you want about your platform. How often does a journalist give you that opportunity? Dave, you’re on the clock go?
Dave O’Flanagan: Thank you. So great to be here. And thanks for having me. My name is Dave O’Flanagan. I’m the chief product officer in Sitecore. I joined almost two years ago and when Sitecore acquired my business I was the CEO and co-founder of a business called Boxever. We provided enterprise CDP and personalization capabilities to large enterprises globally. So that was the start of a really exciting Sitecore transformation that we’ve been on over the last two years.
Most people would know Sitecore. We have a long and storied history in the DXP space. But over the last few years, we made a number of acquisitions to jumpstart or accelerate our path to the cloud. And so today, we’ve got the only fully composable SAS DXP in the market, where we’ve got end-to-end capabilities across content, experience and commerce.
We believe that the monolithic approach to the DXP has served the market really well over the over the past decade. But we’re really, really passionate about the fact that we’ve unbundled that capability now, and provided as a composable platform where it offers customers a huge amount of choice in terms of the products they want to implement and how they want to implement them.
So when customers are ready just to implement CMS, they can do that when they want to expand for capabilities in data or personalization or commerce, they can avail of them from us or other vendors, depending on what their strategy is going forward. So we’re really excited about the composable DXP and the choice and capabilities that it offers to customers globally.
Dom: Wow, great job, Dave. Kept it under two minutes. Didn’t have to ding you there. Great job. All right, up next, Deane from Optimizely. What do you got?
Deane Barker: Hey, everybody. My name is Deane Barker. I am the Global Director of Content Management at Optimizely. Optimizely, of course, is the company that was previously Episerver. We’ve been a player in the CMS and DXP space for probably 20 years. Recently, much like Sitecore, we’ve made several acquisitions in the space. We just expanded into content marketing platforms, we acquired a company called Welcome software last year, we now have a full featured a CMP platform to complement our CMS platform. We also have the entire full range of DXP options. We have a CDP content recommendations tool, we have a full ecommerce suite, we have a full stack of offerings. So that’s our end.
Dom: Well, sweet Deane, and I think you just set the record for most acronyms given in a one minute span on a podcast. That’s awesome.
Deane: I try. I try to raise the goal. It’s a dream I made it happen.
Deane: You know what, honestly, let’s do it for folks who might not maybe they’re joining us from a ground level type of world where they’re trying to learn, so let’s start with some acronym bingo. And you give me the answer, Dean: DXP.
Deane: Digital experience platform. CMS is at the heart of it, and it has a bunch of value added services around it.
Dom: Nice and CMS stands for …
Deane: Content management system. This is the system to manage your digital assets.
Dom: Nice. And then CMP.
Deane: CMP is a content marketing platform. This is the system where you do your content collaboration and your editorial scheduling. It’s everything you do prior to opening up your CMS.
Dom: Lovely, lovely. Alright, so let’s get into a little bit from Nick. So, Nick, Contentstack, you’re on the clock, two minutes, what do you got?
Nick Barron: It’s wonderful to be here, guys. My name’s Nick Barron. I’m the senior director of architecture here at Contentstack and have been in and out of the CMS game for the better part of the last two decades.
And a little bit about Contentstack. We started 10 years ago, really pioneering the headless CMS space. And today, the content experience platform as a category leader, empowering marketers and developers to deliver content experiences that are faster, easier and built out on their own terms.
Right. So we really helped set the industry agenda and standard for opening composable technology that’s microservices based API-first cloud, native SAS and headless. And a big part of that is also giving people kind of the choice over which cloud provider they’re going to be hosting on the content experience platform really addresses head on the challenges that both an enterprise business and technical users face when creating digital experiences, right.
So providing rich, meaningful and powerful content creation experiences for the marketer and the editor, as well as allowing the technologists the freedom and flexibility to really leverage any of the cutting edge and and leading technologies that are out there today. I mean, really, with the launch of our recent automation hub, combined with the one click marketplace, it’s really never been easier for brands to actually compose up the DXP of their dreams.
DXP Use Cases and Customer Needs
Dom: Great. All right, gentlemen, thank you for that. Now, we got that out of the way, we got the promos out of the way, the elevator pitch. Now we’re going to talk about what’s going on in the ground. What are you hearing from customers, industry trends, things you hear and advisory boards conferences? Looking forward to it.
So let’s go to topic one. Let’s like talk about DXP use cases to start off. So we’d love to hear about some of those prevalent use cases for DXPs. How are organizations using this technology? How are they integrating this technology into the larger marketing technology stack? We know that’s a huge challenge. And you know, what originally has brought these teams into market for a DXP? Like, what are they? What kind of problems do they come to you with? Let’s go with Nick on that one. Since you went last first time around.
Nick: It’s interesting coming up this with a bit of a different perspective, right. So being a composable first platform and headless technology provider, you’ve really kind of been watching the market interest in this idea of a DXP fluctuate over the last three, five years, there’s a subset of the market that are really true builders, and they don’t really want any more digital experience suites, right?
We’re looking to be sort of tied down to one kind of solution for different areas of their business. And we’re really seeing this need for these different teams to be able to build and compose up what they need, leveraging other MACH technologies, right, the microservices API, first cloud, native, headless, etc., really, to compile that into one kind of perfect DXP. From our perspective, that’s really the big use case that we see is this need to communicate in real time across a variety of channels and touchpoints.
And really following along as the end users and customers are, are sort of transient as they’re going around, right? And all of this really kind of just boils back to the the three key things, right? We want to make money, they want to save money, or they want to increase their customer loyalty.
Dom: Nice indeed, how about the use case for Optimizely, too, you know, how are these customers coming to you in the first place? So what’s their big need?
Deane: You know, I feel like it’s hard to talk about a use case for DXP because DXP can be all encompassing. Our system is composable, within our own product suite. So we have customers that come in looking for simply a CMS, we have a lot of customers come in and just looking for a CMP.
And and then the other end, we have customers that we engage with that are looking for content recommendations, or a CDP, but they eventually expand to use more of the suite. In all these pieces really work together and if you just have one of them, you’re sort of missing the point. There are absolutely some organizations that just want to manage content for their website. That was our bread and butter for many, many years. We certainly welcome those customers in, but it’s not long before they kind of saturate the utility of just managing the content for their website. And they want to take that next step. They want to optimize the delivery, they want to do experimentation.
And they want to do A/B testing, they want to kind of expand their experience footprint, beyond just generating content, I always say they want to move through the publish button, right? A lot of what happens is you hit “publish” to kind of throw content over the wall. And that’s how we did it for a long time.
Dom: Yeah, and I think Deane said something that really struck a chord because we’re hearing a lot of you know, hey, “web content management” is an outdated term. You know, many people are saying like “web CMS,” like people were saying, Why did you say “web CMS” in that article on CMSWire? It’s just CMS. Now it’s everything?
Well, we do it because it’s kind of it gets confused with CMS, Medicare, Medicaid. That’s kind of why we do it. But switching to Dave, from Sitecore, are you seeing that use case really expand? I mean, of course, some people have to have those core website, content management systems. I mean, I know that’s my life day to day. But you’ve seen that true expansion, where the use cases they’re wanting more out of the DXP than just that website performance.
Dave: Yeah, and you know what we’ve what we’ve got is a huge number of use cases deployed in the field. And everything from I guess where Sitecore started with some basic web content management. But we look at General Mills, a customer and they scale across all of their brands to deploy an enormous instance of Sitecore, that manages a huge number of content authors to be able to connect the dots across all of these brands and author and collaborate to deliver on the business objectives in a tool that makes sense for their business.
And I think we see the expansion of that. It’s really interesting. The DXP expansion was one of the reasons we moved to composable and kind of decomposed our core portfolio was that certain customers would have a large investment in Salesforce, for instance. And if they had that, they might want to use Salesforce CDP or personalization for Salesforce. And we wanted to make sure that, you know, our platform was open enough to allow them to leverage the investments that they’d already made and build the stack that they needed to build. So some of our customers, they want to expand with Sitecore.
And they leverage our personalization capabilities and CDP and commerce capabilities, and really go to kind of stretch the digital experience, not just in the digital world, which is, you know, web mobile, and kiosks and and those types of things. But also, even in the physical world where we can connect the dots in the contact center, and for some of our, our airline customers, even in the airplane, and the experience that’s delivered digitally is replicated physically and all connected through our CDP and personalization.
So we’re seeing some really interesting, exciting use cases and extensions of what would traditionally be the digital experience platform. But one one big trend, I guess we’re seeing in the market is this desire and ability to be more flexible and agile with your architecture, and allow customers to plug and play different products, not just from within the Sitecore stack, but also other stacks to achieve the business objectives that they might have depending on the needs and wants from a particular vendor. So it’s a really interesting and fluid space. I think at the moment in the DXP world.
Rich: Deane, you had mentioned that it’s difficult to nail down a use case. Could you offer like one of the more common use cases your organization sees?
Deane: So we do full stack marketing, I mean, marketing teams, everything from ideating, content, planning content, collaborating on content and publishing that content to a channel and then optimizing that content after it’s been published. So really full spectrum teams.
We have traditionally been web-centric. But that has changed just dramatically with the market recently. We do a lot of business with headless customers. It’s funny, you mentioned before the phrase web content management, my first book, I wrote the O’Reilly animal book, which was entitled “Web Content management.”
So I missed the headless trend in that book by about six months. And so I actually have my first book is called “Web Content Management,” which is kind of ironic now because we have so many customers repurposing their content into other things: mobile apps, and display advertising and print. And we have become a generalized content management platform with tools that optimize for specific channels, the web just being one of them.
Dom: Thank you. I’ll ask the same question for Nick and Dave, Nick, give us one super common use case like this is something a lot of organizations are doing with your software?
Nick: Yeah, I think the big one really is to kind of pile on to the previous answer is leveraging the omnichannel capabilities of delivering content across a variety of channels and touchpoints. We see that as one of the key drivers that really get somebody to lean into the composable approach, right?
Because you can then take that content, assets, images, etc. You can take all of this goodness from a digital perspective. And you can bring it to wherever the end user is. And I think that’s the big difference right from the WCMS days of yore right is that we’ve moved into this channel of choice mentality and the transient user expects to be able to have a consistent conversation, wherever they are, right?
Geographically, physically, or emotionally, right, whatever device they happen to be on at that moment. That’s where it’s important for the brand to be able to deliver that consistent messaging, whether that’s going to be at a gas station pump or in you know, an in game experience for online video games. It’s the way in which brands are now able to communicate almost in real time across all of these different endpoints really allows us to lean into the omnichannel story on a daily basis.
Dom: Yeah, the technologies are there, but you hope they can actually execute it too, right? You see examples of disconnection with experiences like the cell phone store doesn’t remember the conversation you had on Twitter, that kind of thing. So I think that’s when you have the customer experience issues that come into play, and the digital teams kind of executing on what the software can deliver. We see that a lot. Dave, how about you? Is there one super common overwhelming use case for Sitecore?
Dave: I think the super common one is as honestly, data driven, personalized web and mobile experiences, that is the bread and butter of DXP. But we’ve got some really interesting use cases, our intranet and many of our customers’ intranets are powered by Sitecore DXP software, and it’s in partnership with a company called DoZen and which is really cool.
So it’s looking at the employee experience. We just announced a partnership with Microsoft. And we have a demo that we’ve demoed at CES recently to show the DXP in the metaverse, so hopefully skeptical about about the metaverse and the future. But it was a cool demo where you walk into a virtual showroom. And the virtual showroom was powered by our DXP software.
And you can start to look at the Triumph motorcycle in 3D. And that is a 2D version as well. And all of the just like on the on the web or mobile, we had interaction data. We were able to transact. So you could purchase that with our commerce platform in the metaverse. You could talk to an agent there as well. So I think we’re seeing the experience being stretched into all manner of new mediums, which is pretty exciting.
Related Article: What’s Your Definition of a Digital Experience Platform?
DXP Personas: Who Owns These Tools?
Dom: Excellent. All right, like topic two, folks, let’s move on to DXP personas, I’m really, really curious. We do so much persona work, and CMSWire is trying to figure out who we’re talking to, what we’re writing about, and who cares about what. So in the DXP world, who’s claiming ownership of these tools, you know, you always wonder, right? Is it an IT thing? Is it a marketing thing? Who is that common customer that the top product people in your company would deal with most often? Let’s start with Deane on that one.
Deane: So online marketers for sure, although we are seeing the market shift a bit. Headless has kind of gotten more of a developer persona in, we’ve always catered to developers who have a strong developer community, but you’re seeing more and more people are coming in looking for headless and being driven by their IT department. A lot of headless CMS is not all but a lot of them are really developer plays developer-centric plays.
So we’re seeing quite a bit of influence there. But traditionally, the online marketer has been our core customer that and a content web manager, especially with our foray into CMP. We’re working with a lot of very, very content-centric teams. So these are people that are planning and generating the content, publishing the content and managing the marketing experience after publication.
Rich: So with that beat director level and above in marketing and head of it, CIO kind of people.
Deane: Probably one level below that Director of Marketing, not someone we would generally see interact directly with the system, except maybe on a dashboard and reporting basis. These are the actual people on the frontlines in the trenches doing the actual campaign work.
Dom: And Dave at Sitecore, let’s talk about the who of Sitecore, who’s the person you’re talking to the most?
Dave: I would say it’s almost split down the middle between business and builder. You know, I think Sitecore generally sells in at a quite a senior level in big organizations. But the users of the platform are the marketers and the practitioners.
That said, though, I certainly see a huge groundswell of change around the types of people who want to evaluate the products. And there’s definitely I think, with the advent of headless and MACH, it definitely feels like the technical side of the business is coming, looking for infrastructure and strategic architectures, to be able to deliver against the business needs.
So for us, I think any sales process or even any engagement with a customer, we got to be helping the customer, achieve their business goals in the tools and be able to create campaigns and content and deliver that. But very often, you know, we’re in there alongside some of the technical folks as well helping them integrate the platform into their architecture and get more value out of the products that they’ve acquired.
So it’s, it’s a mix, we have a concept called the Digital Dream Team at Sitecore is a senior marketing leader and the practitioner, and then it’s a senior digital or technology leader, and their developer. And, you know, they’re the kind of four personas or people that we try to cater for with with our products on proposition.
Dom: Good story idea there, Rich, right? Who’s your digital Dream Team? Who needs to be on that? And a lot of smaller companies, I would imagine it’s a party of one. Oh, who’s the digital that guy? Of course he does. Nick will give you an opportunity to talk about what’s going on at Contentstack for the person or the persons you’re talking to the most over there with the software.
Nick: As we fit in into the enterprise space as well, right? We find ourselves hitting that director and up kind of level and kind of split down the middle as well, right? You either have these marketing teams who were driving these powerful initiatives to sort of streamline their workflows and their process side of things, right to just get things done faster.
But then we also have these deep architecture conversations and relationships that build up where, when you’re composing your own DXP, with a variety of composable platforms and tools, those architectural decisions that that as we mentioned earlier, we start with the CMS right become wildly important.
So we see this balance between those two teams. And there’s a really interesting emergence of a third persona that’s gaining more and more traction, and lots of these innovation teams that have started popping up at your fortune 5000 companies that are tasked with going out and kind of building the architecture of the future in sort of a rapid POC, kind of super quick way of doing it, and getting a lot of that fun experimentation done.
So we see traction across all of those being one of the few headless CMS platforms, right, that’s really based more on the end user experience. Right. So who’s actually in the platform and being less of a developer first organization.
Related Article: Why Monolithic Digital Experience Platforms Still Trump Composable
Top DXP Challenges for Marketers: Integration and Complexity
Dom: Excellent. And with all that, now, knowing the use cases that personas, let’s talk about some of the challenges, right, some of the huge challenges that these teams are coming to because you’re talking to them, you’re hearing from them directly. Nick will just continue on with you or let you go first, you went last last time? And what would be top of mind significant challenge they’re facing right now, as we record this in early 2023.
Nick: Yeah, I think the and I always like to think of these things as opportunities, right? Not challenges, because every problem is just a solution in waiting, I can tell that’s my my nerd background kind of breaking through there a little bit. But um, I think the the biggest challenges really are breaking down the walls between different regions, LOBs different organizational units within these massive organizations and helping them streamline the processes that they have, right.
So when we look at it, it’s this combination of the the human process needs to be put into flux, the technology that powers all of that, obviously, is super critical to that. All of that is what really allows for the brand to do more with less budget or with fewer people and do that at a global scale.
So I think really, the challenge that most brands are facing is leveraging the technological investments that they’re making, or have already made in doing that at scale across these massive organizations, it’s just really hard to try to get all of these different people on the same page.
Rich: I mean, you think about the people who these tools are getting rolled out to, and the onslaught of digital tools and platforms that they have to log in every day. I mean, it’s really not surprising that that is a huge challenge. I mean, Dom and I’ve talked about it on the show before we use something like 30 or 40 platforms every day. So yeah, I think that’s a very common challenge.
Dom: Anything resonate in that statement from Nick, are you hearing different things from Optimizely?
Deane: No, I absolutely concur with Nick. I mean, the biggest problem that marketing teams have now is that they just have so many options for how to address their customers and how to improve the experience, that there’s just almost too many for them to keep track of. And as a vendor, what’s our job is to make it as approachable as possible, reduce as much complexity as possible. But there’s a base floor of complexity.
I mean, things that people are doing now are just complex from a logical domain level standpoint. And so, as a vendor, we try very hard to make it straightforward. What we are finding, and this may be a point of contention among the panelists, but the drive toward composability is introducing quite a few integration issues.
I mean, if you compose a suite out of multiple different vendors, you have to get them all working together, which we have seen as a problem with some of the people that are coming to us for solutions to that problem. But that is just a symptom of the larger trend, that there are so many different ways now to address the experience that a marketing team has to cover so many different bases. And I would say that’s the biggest challenge in facing digital marketing today.
Rich: Analysis paralysis. So many options out there.
Dom: That’s too bad, Rich, I really wanted Deane to just cut down everything Nick said and just get in to a big vendor fight.
Deane: No, sorry, Nick was spot on.
Dom: Oh man, Nick was spot on, man, they’re gonna use that as a promotion. Now Optimizely said Contentstack is is spot on. But Dave, you weigh in, you disagree with someone.
Dave: I actually kind of agree with the guys as well. This is like I do think that and it’s something in Sitecore. We’ve been thinking a lot about right. So we’ve been really on a big journey of transformation. And when we released our composable DXP we wanted to offer going to kind of solve two problems. We wanted to solve for the customer who wanted to go more granular and was happy maybe accepting a little bit more complexity but having the agility of multiple vendors maybe solving specific things that they needed in their stack.
But if customers want to go all in on Sitecore, we provide an integrated suite that has a unified editing interface, a unified experience management interface, analytics, CDP, all of that data. And capability is available through a single pane of glass. And I think that over time, customers are going to recompose some of the DXP. But you know, what that looks like is still TBD.
So we’re trying to flex and provide customers choice. But in the end, you know, what we’ve seen from some customers is that the integration overhead of going pure composable is a significant challenge that isn’t to be underestimated, because it’s easy, run the POC, you know, it’s easy, stand something up and get the site up. But then when you want to scale that across a few hundred, a few thousand content authors with data going in multiple geographies, and it becomes a very complex ecosystem that, you know, the TCP over time needs to be considered.
So it’s this balancing, I think, whether everything gets re bundled into a new monolith, I don’t think so. But I do think the flexibility offered by, you know, a pre integrated capability is something that is certainly valued by a lot of customers.
So it’s, the market will decide, you know, we used to call composable, best of breed. I think today, it’s a little bit different. But over time, I think customers are really looking for the ability to be more productive with the capabilities that they procure, whether that’s from a single vendor or multi vendor. And that’s on all of us to try solve that problem.
The Pros and Cons of Composable Solutions in the Move Toward Headless DXPs
Dom: Yeah, it’s funny, Dean and Dave, just the two Ds just answer the next question. So I’ll just pose this one for Nick. I mean, we’ve seen we’ve seen in our 2023, State of the Digital Customer Experience report by CMSWire, we’ve seen a substantial number of organizations who are looking towards a headless or a composable solution. So Nick, where do you come in on this and your customers in terms of that move to composable that move to headless? Wanting something like that? And kind of contrasting that with the traditional DXP? Like, what’s the use case there? What’s your thoughts on headless?
Nick: Yeah, that’s pretty core to my being at the moment, right? So being a composable, first platform, we of course, recognize all of these kinds of complexities and the different approaches that organizations need to take and that it can lead to this analysis, paralysis of you know, what other solutions do we pull into the, you know, the old moniker of best in breed, right? How do you navigate that path? And how do you build something and sustain? Right, that’s the key there.
And I think that’s what what Dave was hitting on is have these things, especially with the TCO being applied, it can get cumbersome over time. And that’s why you’re seeing a lot of platforms like Contentstack and others rollout. These complex marketplaces full of, you know, pre-integrated and supported integrations, right are things like automation hubs to really automate a lot of the automatable business workflow process that can slow people down, when you have those 40 some odd different applications you were talking about that a marketer asked us throughout their day. If we can help streamline those problems, right.
And that’s what we kind of do on a day to day, that’s really where we start to see success, and we see adoption, and then we see the friction just get reduced, right as these DXPs, whether it’s, you know, starting with something that’s pre-composed or composing it yourself, right, the nice thing with them is they all get more complex over time. So bringing a strategy from kind of day zero to the table of how are we going to do that? How are we going to maintain that? And how are we going to manage that moving forward? Really seems to help solve that worry in that future stress, you know, really trying to future proof as best you can a composable solution.
Related Article: 25 Best Free or Premium Headless Content Management Systems (CMS)
Have CMS Vendors Have Always Been Composable?
Rich: Thank you. I did have a quick follow up for Dave, I just was hoping you could elaborate a little bit on what you see as the differences between composable and best of breed.
Dave: Yeah, I think they’re one and the same. To be honest, I think it’s the new new thing. When we were implementing our CDP and personalization solution in organizations, you know, we were part of a stack we integrated with Sitecore, Adobe optimize the whoever else was in the stack, we implemented but we were very much part of a best of breed strategy where customers wanted to go with individual specialist vendors like us versus other vendors versus all in with a suite play.
And so there’s kind of two things. So in composable, sometimes in a best of breed Martech stack, it’s very much big, big pieces of software that live alongside each other. I think when we talk about composable DXP, I think it’s a little bit more granular is content recommendations, composable. From one vendor or another, it’s the presentation there can be composable, with one vendor or another. And I think you know, it’s certainly something that’s been on my mind since I joined Sitecore trying to understand how we can best play there.
And one of the things we’ve been really excited about over the last kind of six months or so it was, you know, we released a net new complete build from the ground up headless CMS, because we believe that there’s absolutely a need in the market for customers who want to build like that. And that’s in addition to our kind of core CMS platform that people would know that we’ve reached. We transition to the cloud.
But I do think that customers want to build in different ways and different customers have different strategies and composability in the DXP space is probably more focused on decomposing or unbundling what was traditionally part of the kind of website capability. The DXP was the CMS for some data management, put some personalization, maybe workflow and identity services.
And now what we’re seeing is identity services go to an old zero or Gigya. You know, maybe personalization goes to somebody else. And I think that’s perfectly OK. But I think you’ve got to know that if you do go down that route, that true multivendor composable route, there’s a lot of products you got to log into on a daily basis to get your job done. That’s something that I think we’re gonna see solved in the DXP space over the next while.
Dom: And Dean, why don’t you weigh in on this on this matter, too?
Deane: Well, I gotta say, I get a little frustrated, sometimes with vendors, laying claim to the mantle of composability. Composability is a big buzzword right now in the industry. But I don’t know that a time that my company in particular other companies wherever not composable, Composability depends on how you break the stack down. But our system, I mean, our CMS system, which would kind of our core root system, always worked with other platforms, when we we just acquired a CDP 18 months ago, but it’s not like people weren’t using CDPs, with our platform before, they were using all manner of different CDP’s. They’re using all manner of different CMPs all manner of different content recommendation tools. It’s a pejorative term now to call a vendor, a monolithic vendor. I always think that’s very unfair. I mean, if you look at Optimizely suite, and I’m gonna say probably Sitecore suite as well, those tools can be mixed and matched.
We have customers using our product, our products, any manner of our different combination of our products, with all sorts of different other products. And so the kind of label of composability versus monolithic, frustrates me a little bit because I think it can be used disingenuously?
The true meaning of ‘composability’ in DXPs
Dom: Well, I’m gonna have to play Chris Wallace here the presidential debate and ask Dave for a follow up to that response. He did poke Sitecore in that one. So, Dave, you get a response to what Dean just said.
Dave: I think we’ve acknowledged that the monolithic architecture in Sitecore has served its purpose. And for sure, partners can customize it really, really well to achieve goals and kind of decompose it. But the more it’s customized, the harder it is to upgrade. And I think composability does certainly lend itself to atomic units that are MACH. So they’re API first, they’re updated or configured via configuration rather than code based customization, which means that it can be more flexibly managed.
So I’ll give you a good example of what we’re doing in Sitecore. In terms of composability granularity, our front end authoring environment that we’ve just added. So we just released two big CMS products. One is our new headless CMS. The second was exempt cloud. So we repurposed and re architect our core content management system to be fully SaaS and cloud native. But as part of that journey, we developed a whole new front end authoring environment. So everything site management, page authoring, and component based development, but that authoring environment works with any CMS.
So we can connect to Optimizely the, if the API’s are there, we can connect to content stuff that the API’s are there. And for us, I think that’s a granularity in terms of composability that you wouldn’t have traditionally seen in a DXP. So maybe that’s an example of where, you know, CDPs, for sure, are a bigger, chunkier product that will integrate with different products alongside CMS or something else.
But we’re going a little bit more granular to offer a customer’s choice where, you know, maybe there are different ways to store manage content in their ecosystem. And we want to provide customers the ability to kind of create and orchestrate experiences in our platform, even if some of the content is stored in other databases and other systems.
Deane: Yeah, so I’ll concede that Dave, that goes back to the point that I made earlier that whether or not you’re monolithic, or composable, just depends on how granular you break the stack down. And what you’re saying. There’s the you’re breaking the CMS stack down into like editing environment, repository and delivery, which is absolutely a fair point. So if you do break that kind of CMS stack down, then sure you can introduce a new level of composability.
There, the biggest breakdown we’re seeing in the CMS stack, clearly over the last five to 10 years has been the separation of management from delivery. Yeah, but we always look at headless I mean, our saying ar Optimizely is that headless isn’t a product, it’s a feature. It’s a feature of a generalized content management experience. I mean, we even break that down, meaning we have customers that don’t use our templating subsystem.
We have a very, very clean isolatable double system of templating and server side rendering code. We have customers that don’t use it. They use our system with React, we just provide that option. So I still bristle a little bit at the monolithic versus composable dichotomy. I feel like its usage is a bit disingenuous in many cases.
Dom: All right? Well, I’m gonna bring in Nick on this mini debate here because you know, Nick content stack has composable written all over its marketing. So I’d like you to have a response to what Dean said about, you know, taking issue with the composability label.
Nick: Yeah, and I mean, coming from the kind of legacy CMS history, right, that’s where I kind of cut my teeth in the industry. I think a lot of that monolithic moniker right really applies less about the ease of integration and composing and, you know, having these extensibility points pre baked into the platform.
But I think a lot of it also comes into play with what is coming as a part of that precomposed solution that isn’t being leveraged. And I’m trying to poke at anybody here, right, because I know that everybody’s kind of decomposing that construct, right, where you’re now given a lot more choice over, you know, which personalization, I think personalization is a great illustrative point for composability. Because the different personalization vendors work in wildly different ways. They all serve incredibly distinct in different use cases from each other. And being able to have a platform that can compose with those, the front end and the actual digital experience, regardless of channel that somebody needs to experience, I think that’s the power of composable, right is being able to make those choices that serve whatever the need of your individual business is, because pre composing a bunch of that together fits a pretty broad range of brands and organizations. But it doesn’t necessarily cater to folks who have, you know, really niche use cases.
And again, I mean, even even back in the day, when I was managing Windows 98 servers, right, you could, you could compose those old dotnet platforms into each other, just by, you know, modifying the code. So I think the point is valid, right, you can really compose up any solution given enough time and resources. But when we think about a composable first platform, it really becomes the core sort of the hub and the Hub and Spoke approach, where all of those extension points are there, they’re easy to use, I think it was, Dave made the point of configuration over customization, right, I should be able to go in and change things in an interface, and not have to call the developer up every time, I want to have a different system impact in a different way.
Right. So I think a big part of composable, or at least what we’re seeing now is extending that capability, that core composing technology to users who don’t have a programming degree or computer science degree, and instead want to go and pick modules out of a publicly available repository from a variety of vendors. And for that purpose at that moment in time be able to execute with it.
Deane: Alright, as long as we’re talking about composability interoperability, I just want to ask how many people on the call have heard about this Osiris Alliance and their CDIS protocol? Okay, so mark is great, the MACH Alliance is great, but the MACH is about in business and philosophy, there’s a new organization called the Osiris Alliance instead of OsirisAlliance.org. And they’re actually promoting a protocol that they’re calling CDIS — composable data interchange standards. And this is the protocol that they hope will become the glue the language between all of our different content technology tools. And so I think when we talk about composability, we always talk about interoperability, and how to get things working together. But there really are no kind of boots on the ground trying to solve that problem for the industry as a whole. I think this is the first time I’ve seen that they are pushing an actual language and an actual protocol that they’re going to attempt to solve this problem of intercommunication between content technology tools. So if that interests you is worth checking out.
The Impact of Generative AI on Digital Experiences in 2023
Dom: Deane Barker with another story idea for CMSWire. All right, we do need to wrap up, what a discussion, it’s been healthy debate. Good case studies from what you guys have seen in the industry from customers. Thank you very much. Let’s wrap up with one question. And of course, we cannot talk about anything digital, unless we bring up ChatGPT. So here we go. And by the way, I’m going to put into chat GPT, who won the composability debate, and I’m gonna put this transcript right in there. And I’m gonna give you guys the results. You’re on the hook.
But let’s seriously talk sum it up succinctly with all that’s going on with the CRAZY evolution of AI in the last three or four months, and 2022 beginning of 2023. You know, how does that impact the users of your software? How do you see these advancements, integrating with your software, if at all? What are going to be the use cases anything that’s on your mind regarding ChatGPT generative AI and what major changes we’re going to see coming down the road with DXPs. We’ll go with Nick on this one.
Nick: Sure. I think it’s wild. It’s fun. It’s neat. It’s interesting. And I want to preface any answer with I feel like we’ve been asking the same question of AI for the last five or six years, and I feel like my answer has always been, oh, man, I can’t wait to see what happens in a year or two, because that’s where we’re gonna have these big breakthroughs. And it kind of feels like we’ve hit that inflection point with some of this content and human readable information that’s being generated, right.
And I think we’re one step away from where the real exciting part is, of having story generation become a thing, having some level of a historical record being able to be created and maintained through some level of autonomy. And I think that’s really neat. Obviously, there’s scary guardrails and things like that, that need to be applied and approached correctly from an ethical perspective.
But yeah, I mean, we’re constantly looking into innovations using some of these cutting edge technologies. And I really think it’s going to be a big boon to our industries, right? I mean, if we think about if we cut all of our DXPs, and CMSs down to the core, it’s technology that allows people to tell stories to other people. And by leveraging something that makes that easier and enriches it and exposes different cultures in different languages and just starts cutting down some barriers. I think that’s, that’s a really exciting future that we all have to look forward to.
Dom: Dave, what’s on the radar for generative AI for Sitecore.
Dave: It really offers amazing opportunities to all vendors like us, you know, I think, for a long time, that level of AI was probably unreachable, just requiring a huge amount of investment in terms of people and compute. And now it’s available via an API.
So like, we’ve seen this, this is just a proliferation of startups like well, one and two person startups that are all doing things like email, subject generation, or blog generation, or content, images, image generation. And all of these things are, they’re just amazing to see how much has happened in such a short period of time.
And I think we didn’t need something to replace the Web 3 and NFT hype. So that’s kind of jumped in to fill the gap. But I think for us, you know, when you think about marketing efficiency, and the ability for a marketer to sit down, and create content that’s SEO optimized that can connect with the audience that he or she is trying to speak to. I think this offers just crazy opportunities to get things done quicker and faster. And so I really think that this type of capability is going to be a core feature of most DXPs. Very, very soon, it’ll just be expected that you can auto optimize autogenerate create content really, really quickly.
I do hope, though, that we don’t end up with lots and lots of generic spam blogs and imagery, and that we can still create space and time for creative marketing. And maybe this is the opportunity to take some of the mundane stuff off their table so that they can focus on some of the more exciting inspirational marketing that really connects with end consumers.
Rich: I was saying much the same thing you guys are saying recently on CMSWire, we published an article on how marketing teams can use ChatGPT to do things like product descriptions, and a lot of the mundane things that are just time sucks for people in the office every day.
Dom: Yeah, how about transcribe this 9,000 word podcast, into like five takeaways. I mean, that’s something that human Dom Nicastro took, you know, a full workday to do. And ChatGPT does it in about three-to-five seconds.
So let’s finish up with Deane giving you the chance to talk about generative AI and potential integrations with Optimizely. I mean, we get to see the day where we say, ChatGPT, write a blog post in Optimizely for me.
Deane: Well, I mean, it’s not potential, we’ve actually implemented it twice. It’s an open beta now. In our CMP platform, our content marketing platform, you have two options for generative AI, we use stable diffusion for images generation. So you can add an image to some content, just type of prompt and it’ll give you four images you can pick from, you pick your dimensions and aspect ratio, but it’ll give you four to pick from, if you don’t like them, you can just regenerate four more and then choose the one you want insert that. And then the other one that we do is smart content.
So if you’re writing a document and you’re stuck on something, you can bring up a dialogue and enter a prompt and it will prompt you with five or six different snippets of what you’re trying to say we limit it to 75 words, we don’t intend for you to write entire blog posts with that it’s just to get you past a sticking point, here’s a paragraph or something. But we have two instances running in open beta now that will make general availability probably in the first half of this year.
Rich: Just a quick question, a follow up on that. I think everybody here is seeing the news around copyright issues, stable diffusion, these images that are be creating, how has your organization had to deal with that?
Dave: Way, way above my paygrade but I absolutely tell you it is discussed. We are waiting to see how that legal landscape plays out. So yeah, very much under discussion, something very much on our radar, but as for our specific legal plans, they’re absolutely out of my depth.
Rich: Thank you. There’s a lot to think through and yeah, it’s gonna have an impact.
Dom: Well, we’ve had A healthy discussion here long discussion. So we’re going to wrap it up. Thank you guys for joining us. I can’t thank you enough. It’s funny, Rich, you know, we usually say, well, the vendors, you know, you want to be careful, they might do a lot of promotions and stuff and all that. So we don’t really want. Well guess what we had three vendors on today. And you guys did a great job, just having a nice conversation and healthy dialogue, healthy debate. I can’t thank you enough for joining us. Appreciate it very much.
Rich: Thank you for joining us, and we wish each you the best in 2023 with your customers, and maybe we’ll see out there at a conference or two down the road. Thanks, everyone.
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