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Jim Howard Posted by Jim Howard February 18, 2015

Balancing customer experience

3 Keys to Balancing CX Excellence Across Your Organization

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about centralization versus decentralization when it comes to managing and delivering great web experiences. This discussion has importance for enterprise marketing folks, but also for the IT experts and agency creatives who support them.

Forrester analyst Anjali Yakkundi has stated that, when it comes to measuring the digital experience maturity of your organization, maturity comes when some organizational elements are centralized and others are decentralized. Yakkundi’s concepts apply to the structure of teams tasked with creating digital experiences, but also to platforms and technology and technology teams supporting the folks creating digital experiences. 

I don’t believe for a minute that the marketing department is the only one out there creating digital experiences for customers, so this idea of centralized vs. decentralized extends beyond marketing when talking about technology (including web content management systems). Yakkundi concludes that purely centralized and purely decentralized approaches to digital marketing are both hallmarks of immature organizations. Let’s examine why…

A purely centralized control model leads to bottlenecks.

Organizations that take a centralized approach create bottlenecks to delivering great customer experiences by having a single project implementation team create every digital experience the organization delivers. In this model the central marketing organization may work with a single agency-of-record and rely on internal IT for technical support.

Centralized Control ModeForrester’s Yakkundi believes that if you expect your team at New York headquarters to be great at digital experiences for every market, brand and company you own or acquire, you are doomed to disappointment. Even if the organization has, let’s say, only 10-15 different experiences to create, it becomes very difficult for this centralized team to innovate and get all projects completed with high quality in a reasonable timeframe.

Let’s assume that a number of different digital agencies have been retained to help design and create these dozen experiences. Now these development teams must wait on the project management team to roll them out.

Agency developers are requesting to drop new code into the centralized platform and make modifications to the centralized database, all while the centralized implementation team is too distracted worrying about system reliability and performance and upgrades, etc. Add to these dozen experiences or so a steady flow of incoming requests for regional websites, brand microsites and  foreign language sites – and you can see that while the centralized model might control costs and compliance, it simply doesn’t scale very well.

Over time, these continuous bottlenecks at headquarters only create resentment in the field. The centralized team gets bigger and more bureaucratic to support its own model, experiences aren’t localized, and the regions start to look for ways to work around the problem. They start to implement their own stuff. It’s not unusual here at Crownpeak for us to encounter prospect organizations with more than a dozen installations of a legacy CMS, division after division, as a result of failed attempts by business units to “self-decentralize” by specific region or functional team.

A purely decentralized control model leads to chaos.

Over-centralization is not a mature approach, but pure decentralization is a model no more evolved. Organizations that are too decentralized deliver customer experiences that vary widely in cost and quality. Many digital marketers favor this model because their projects can go live fast if every local team around the organization and across the globe is allowed to pick their own agency partner and design their own digital experiences. But unfortunately this need for speed often sacrifices integration – both marketing and technical.

Decentralized modelTechnical integration is sacrificed when divisions, units or regions implement a new content management system for every project, fail to connect with customer data stores, or can’t populate new leads in the CRM system. Marketing integration is sacrificed when the organization’s digital assets are not shared across projects, expertise is outsourced to the agency, or data is lost in an agency switch. With too much decentralization, costs spiral out of control. The quality of digital experience delivery starts to vary widely. Costs are unknown but are very high.  And compliance? Forget it.

It’s not unusual at Crownpeak for us to encounter prospect organizations with dozens and sometimes hundreds of different content management systems implemented and hosted as one-offs across business units, divisions or regions.

3 keys to getting the balance right.

This dichotomy speaks directly to what the IT organization needs to own and what they need to cede to all the folks charged with creating customer experiences. Selecting the right web experience management platform is key to getting this balance of centralized versus decentralized right. A good WEM system is used not just by marketing, but by divisional/regional IT, the systems integration firm and the customer support team within a business unit. Anybody charged with creating a digital experience should be able to do it very quickly and simply on a common platform.

Organizations with a high level of digital experience maturity receive the benefits of centralization as well as the benefits of enablement. They succeed by focusing on 3 key operational imperatives:

  1. Centralization of cost, compliance and core WEM platform

    Simply put, mature digital marketers centralize what should be centralized. They develop and implement around a unified web experience management platform. This allows distributed marketing teams to share models, frameworks content and digital assets. This core content management platform should be integrated with backend marketing automation, data providers and CRM systems. The central IT organization is still able to control system security, performance, compliance and support functions. This structure can be centralized under a chief digital officer, or even the CIO.
  2. Decentralization of digital experience solution creation

    Mature digital marketers decentralize what should be decentralized. They grant brand/market/solution teams within divisions, regions or business units the autonomy to design and plan their own projects. These development teams are free to select their own digital agency partners for implementation. They roll out new customer experiences on their own schedules, according to their unique local requirements. Content and data is well integrated and shared throughout the organization to deliver personalized customer experiences. They can leave the worries about scalability or security to the IT experts, and instead focus on very rapid time-to market.
    Centralized Vs Decentralized Model
  3. Central teams enable local autonomy

    This perfect balance of centralization with decentralization allows each type of customer experience team to focus on what it does best. The corporate team focuses on enabling a unified and continually innovative web experience management platform. They are constantly making available new digital marketing tools, new data sets, new integrations and new functional capabilities to the rest of the organization. This organizational efficiency frees the regional, divisional, functional, agency or brand teams to employ their specific market knowledge to rapidly roll out higher quality experiences for their specific customers. Compliance-driven workflows allow marketers, agencies and IT support to better collaborate – sharing designs, assets and costs in a more fluid fashion.  New web and mobile applications can call the central repository directly, sharing content and design elements.

Bottom line: Organizations that centralize their web experience management platform but decentralize the creation of digital experiences have reached a higher level of digital marketing maturity. The entire organization benefits from improved collaboration, agency management, technology integration and cost management.

If you’ve read this far, hopefully I don’t need to tell you that Crownpeak is a unified, cloud-based web experience management platform purpose-built to help your organization strike this perfect balance. We do this technically by relying on a low-code development environment, separation of environments to enable many different teams to implement in parallel, elastic computing architecture and global deployment of web experiences.