Choose the best path to your customer engagement platform

In the first article in this series, we talked about how a customer engagement platform (CEP) can simplify the digital marketing landscape to drive digital strategies. Based on my experience with global organizations that have deployed CEP, this second part of our series examines three approaches to the platform journey: 1) separate options, 2) loosely coupled and 3) a common platform. We’ll take a look at each of these approaches, explain why the journey to a customer engagement platform is an evolution, and emphasize the importance of collaboration across all the relevant teams.

Creating a capability-driven strategy

A company’s path to a CEP is progressive and must engage all parties—the business, agency and technology teams. First, the enterprise must identify the capabilities needed to provide the desired customer experiences across brands and business units. While larger and more focused brands and business units may be the key drivers of the capability process, collaboration across the entire organization is essential to ensuring effectiveness, adoption and business support. Let’s review each potential approach.

Separate options

Many organizations start by enabling the capability services needed by marketers. The separate options approach is characterized by brands or business units defining their own technology stacks and support models. Based on an older model where digital marketing activities were isolated at the brand level and leveraged few enterprise-level resources, it requires business unit marketers to rely on creative agencies for technology strategy and support.

While this approach is still used, it has some inherent inefficiencies. For example, costs are duplicated across brands and resources are typically dedicated by brand or stack. In addition, innovation is often stymied—especially for smaller brands—and global governance is difficult to establish and maintain. For the IT organization, this model introduces overlapping and often duplicated technologies with specific skills needed for each one, which makes this model very difficult to scale.

Loosely coupled

By standardizing on a common technology toolset, organizations can improve operational efficiency quickly using the loosely coupled approach. For example, IT-centric processes such as infrastructure and technical operations can be harmonized with internal expertise for faster support times and a structured response to performance and security needs. A standard toolset also introduces early opportunities to build reusable and sharable components, such as CRM integrations, that lead to improved development times and fewer support issues.

This approach to technology selection still gives brands, BUs and their creative agencies considerable flexibility for building experiences, but it does little to leverage maturity across the ecosystem. At first, many enterprises may see this phase as the end goal, but it should be viewed as an interim stage because the benefits and restrictions are roughly equal. Taking the next step into a common platform significantly accelerates the benefits.

Common platform

A few fortunate enterprises achieve a mature common platform approach. Rather than a suite of centrally managed and supported tools, the common platform serves as a single product, complete with a defined feature roadmap, product ownership, governance structure and release cycle. Sites are assembled from common platform components rather than developed from scratch. This means library-based templates, layouts and functional elements can be configured easily, and creative assets are designed using predefined wireframes.

With this approach, we’ve seen the development time for moderately complex sites drop from months to weeks or even days. Platform components and tools evolve to meet most business capability needs, and new features are prioritized in the product roadmap and released on a defined schedule.

Though focused on reusable tools and components, the structure for the common platform also accommodates the inevitable need for customization driven by business, brand and market needs. In the final article in this three-part series, we’ll examine the dramatic results companies can expect to see from their customer engagement platform.

Interested in learning more?  Download our POV paper, “Transform customer engagement with CEP,” to discover how a platform approach to digital marketing can optimize quality and speed and reduce costs for your organization.