Companies today hold all business functions to a mandate for innovation. Innovation should create business value (a better experience for employees, customers, and partners). It should create agility and speed. It should make business functions more easily adaptable, easier to change. And it should also lower the cost of the functions over time. The benefits are clear and obvious. But the truth is innovation is illusive and hard to get.
Companies undertaking digital transformation seek to improve customer, employee and partner experiences. They build digital platforms to deliver the desired experience. My observation from working with many companies undergoing this endeavor is they often overlook the key factor necessary building an effective digital platform.
It seems that the past decade or so of noise around Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) was well worth it. The technology has now reached a level of maturity and scale to be regarded as a reliable solution for both large- and small-scale companies. Leveraging it, enterprises can achieve faster and more secure solutions, while saving themselves the pain of managing, provisioning, or monitoring compute, storage, and network components. Developers can spend most of their time doing what they should be doing – developing, customizing, and testing their applications. Moreover, it helps improve application release time, which can help get early user feedback.
Let’s take a look at the specific benefits PaaS brings to the table in application support and development.
Within the standard application support activities of incident and problem management, enterprises typically achieve a 25-35 percent net effort reduction when supporting an application in a PaaS environment. PaaS vendors now perform activities such as database and middleware management, which reduces the number of tickets for their setup and management. PaaS platforms that come with their own application monitoring tools don’t even raise a ticket when there’s a lag in application response due to proactive monitoring and auto-healing mechanisms. Other activities, such as daily checks and log management, are also managed by the PaaS vendor. Thus, enterprises can save considerable effort by distancing themselves from routine tasks and focusing on more productive work.
Similarly, for application development activities, PaaS can help achieve 25-40 percent efficiencies. Activities such as drafting an operational model become easier with PaaS, as features such as deployment views, infrastructure views, and monitoring views are already built in the platform. Most PaaS solutions come with pre-defined plans and SLA guarantees, so non-functional requirements testing for infrastructure availability isn’t required. Further, PaaS can facilitate automation in executing test scripts, taking backups, applying schemas, etc.
What to consider when selecting a PaaS solution
At the same time, choosing a PaaS solution to achieve the desired benefits can be a tall order. First, enterprises need to evaluate if the platform supports the technologies, programming languages, and middleware stacks its development teams use.
Here are the other key things you need to consider when zeroing in on a PaaS solution:
- Data security considerations: Data residing policies for storing data in vendor-controlled or third-party cloud servers need to be compatible with your enterprise’s policies, e.g., GDPR compliance
- Integration capabilities of the PaaS solution: Not all the components of legacy IT systems are built for the cloud; thus, you must do thorough due diligence of your existing environment
- Application type: PaaS is more suitable for custom applications that are not System of Record (SOR) solutions. SOR solutions, such as ERP, are primarily data repository systems that do not require scalability or dynamism to be built in
- Vendor lock-in: You should consider application portability to alternative PaaS options to ensure smooth functioning in the event of migration. Typically, open source PaaS platforms offer low risk of vendor lock-in
- Security and compliance: You should also consider the regulatory impact and choose a PaaS provider whose systems are Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and HIPAA/HITECH compliant. And you need to make sure that stored/transferred data will follow an adequate data protection framework.
Considering PaaS’ potential business advantages, it’s difficult to overlook its value proposition. PaaS can make companies more agile and responsive to demand, scale up quickly, and avoid costly investments in infrastructure.
It also expedites application delivery by enabling developers to create and deliver software in a simple and automated fashion. However, it’s important to keep in mind that not all PaaS solutions are alike, and there’s no single PaaS for all customer needs. To realize the desired benefits from any PaaS solution, you must carefully dovetail your enterprise’s unique requirements with the offerings of the PaaS vendor.
Companies’ investments in digital platforms are becoming pervasive, thus moving businesses into a new era. They first moved from a functional orientation to a process orientation and are now fundamentally shifting to a platform orientation. Digital platforms are already changing companies, whether they recognize it or not. The implications of platform thinking are very deep. Data are the lifeblood of a digital platform. But the implications of what companies must do to be able to apply their data in a timely way is significant.
The IT modernization movement is moving beyond the initial euphoria around the potential of digital technologies. Companies taking steps to modernize their IT are recognizing that it’s a very substantial endeavor and will take years to accomplish. In committing to the long haul of the modernization journey, several situations are becoming apparent, causing companies to take a more mature, measured approach in how they evolve their technology.
Businesses have conducted change management programs for 20-30 years. Even so, change management programs are systematically ineffective in delivering results. Unfortunately, the ineffectiveness is much worse today.
That’s because companies are engaged in digital transformation, where the degree of change is much greater than in the past. What causes the ineffectiveness, and what is the remedy?
I marvelled at the passion demonstrated by the London Extinction Rebellion activists while I attempted to make my way to the Digital Agenda Power & Responsibility Summit at the British Library on 9 October.
During the Summit itself – while listening to presentations delivered by eminent speakers including Matt Warman MP, Minister for Digital and Broadband at DCMS; Sana Khareghani, Head of UK Government Office for AI; Russell Haworth, CEO, Nominet; Cheryl Stevens MBE, Deputy Director for Trust & Identity at DWP; Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, President, techUK; and Caroline Criado Perez OBE, award-winning author of Invisible Woman and activist – it struck me that consumer disillusionment with unethical applications of technology could lead to its own type of activism in the form of product and service boycotts.
In today’s increasingly competitive environment, enterprises need to package their offerings with superior and memorable experiences to remain relevant. They need to streamline their efforts to deliver a unified and seamless digital experience to stakeholders. While they’ve attempted to achieve this with point solutions such as CRM platforms, campaign management tools, and other experience management solutions, their disjointed and incompatible portfolios have often created more problems than solutions.
Enter the Digital Experience Platform (DXP)
In response to an obvious need, vendors including Adobe, IBM, Oracle, and Salesforce have created a digital experience platform or DXP. We define a DXP as a comprehensive suite of solutions enabling enterprises to deliver a content-rich, stakeholder-driven digital experience (DX), encompassing all digital touchpoints.
Its main function is to digitally enable the three pillars or modules of DX – content management, brand engagement, and digital e-commerce – so enterprises can create business value through a well-structured and unified experience.
The Digital Experience Platform (DXP)
- Content management: A DXP offers various services across the content management lifecycle, such as dynamic templates for designers, a library of frequently used content, and widgets and tools for reviewing and publishing content to multiple platforms, which help enterprises effectively and centrally manage the content they publish.
- Brand engagement: A DXP unlocks numerous aspects of brand engagement across functions including marketing, advertising, sales, and experience management. With capabilities like end-to-end campaign automation and drag-and-drop tools to design customer journey maps, a DXP enables experience-as-a-service for enterprises.
- Digital e-commerce: A DXP activates different facets of digital e-commerce with solutions like AI-enabled merchandising, visual merchandising, automated management and maintenance of product data, and central dashboards to manage all websites.
In addition, a DXP has tools to help deliver a data-driven experience across the customer experience value chain by enabling functions such as sales, marketing, merchandising, and content publishing via different modules.
Beyond the basics
Most of the DXPs in today’s market provide the same basic services. But the leading DXP providers also provide ancillary, value-add services on top. Some of the most popular are omnichannel services, API-integration, and tools for improved developer experience.
Per our recently released research report, BigTech Battle: Digital Experience Platforms (DXP) Assessment – Rise of the Digital Experience Platform, the leading players are adding more functionality to the DXP to enhance its features and functionality. For instance, they are helping make the development process less technical with the help of services such as What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWIG) interfaces, drag and drop functionality, and templates to create new experiences. This significantly reduces the creative team’s dependency on the technical team and improves the overall efficiency of the experience delivered. The top providers also have tools for end-to-end omnichannel customer journey mapping and enable the use of “win scores” to prioritize sales opportunities and probability metrics to measure the experience delivered.
These players are also using technology to enhance the functionality of the different solutions they offer, such as AI for content creation, event-based automation (cart abandonment), and advanced analytics solutions.
Simply put, a DXP is a more efficient way for an enterprise to manage its DX. In today’s increasingly competitive market, enterprises need to leverage a platform-based approach to deliver a compelling and sticky experience.
For more insight on the DXP market and a detailed analysis of current vendors, please read our report: BigTech Battle: Digital Experience Platforms (DXP) Assessment – Rise of the Digital Experience Platform.
It’s getting harder and harder to do business with third parties because of complications arising from security, data privacy, GDPR, and other regulations. The complications are running headlong into the need to be agile and operate at high velocity. To do that, companies need to be able to move quickly and make things simple. But these regulatory requirements are making that complicated; they take time, thus creating real friction in trying to conduct transactions. This is particularly the case with trying to do business with third-party services. The consequences create a formidable barrier in trying to select the best providers/vendors.
The story we tell ourselves as executives is that we make decisions based on facts, on data. We want our organizations to be data-driven organizations with decisions based on “institutional conviction.” In reality, making well-informed decisions and getting others to support those decisions is a factor of how deep and well supported the convictions are and leaders’ ability to persuade others of those convictions. However, without data and facts, people typically believe the executives’ underlying assumptions are wrong or incomplete.