Digital Experience Platform
Posted by J.J. Gorsuch January 09, 2018

What is a DXP and Will It Replace Traditional WCMs?

Industry insiders tend to come up with new terms to describe trends in their fields and later they become jargon that is only understood by a limited audience. In the financial sector, you’ll hear “efficient frontier”, “imputed interest”, and “law of large numbers” among a myriad of other terms. “Admitted assets”, “IRIS”, and “Stop Loss” are prevalent in the insurance sector. And in marketing and advertising, “above the fold”, “retargeting”, and “conversion pixel” are great examples of industry lingo.

Well, the marketing technology and commercial applications world is no different! So, what is a DXP, or a Digital Experience Platform?

A bit of history

(feel free to skip to the next session for those bored by the history): The term CMS (Content Management System) first appeared a few decades ago to describe software that was designed to help manage content through the variety of states and versions that most website publishing workflows require. Fairly quickly, it became evident that not all content formats were created equal and that specialized CMS’s were required to accommodate different types of scenarios.

Most notably, there was a bit of schism between “Enterprise Content Management” (ECM) which tended to focus on scenarios within an enterprise (like managing the lifecycle of content), and “Web Content Management” systems (WCMs), which primarily focused on scenarios associated with the broader universe of users outside of an enterprise. To be sure, there are many, many more types of content management platforms in the world and there are plenty of areas of overlap and comparison between ECM and WCM, but those are the principle categorization terms that took root in this industry.

So, what is a DXP?

In 2014, Forrester noted a convergence of a variety of different types of technologies, systems, and functions used by companies “in the pursuit of unified, contextual digital experiences”. They noted these platforms tended to be built on either eCommerce systems or WCM systems. Functions like Digital Asset Management (DAM), Personalization, Testing & Targeting, Portals, Consumer Analytics, and Site Search (and others) were increasingly being integrated or built as sub-systems or features, rather than as stand-alone off-the-shelf products. So, they coined the term “Digital Experience Platform” (DXP) to account for the entirety of a solution that had been integrated in a piecemeal way.

Meanwhile (and even as early as 2012), Gartner began describing a similar concept in the “emerging Customer Engagement Hub”. Their view differs to some extent from Forrester’s in that they contend the CX Hub or CE Hub is not a purchasable platform but more of a reference architecture. This reference architecture could include everything required for acquiring, activating, servicing, retaining, and reselling customers across the entirety of their journey, from prospect to customer to former-customer. The implication is that you cannot (or at least should not) buy all the technologies for building your customer experience technology stack from one vendor.

Now, Gartner is on the brink of releasing its first Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms (DXP), though their definition significantly varies from Forrester’s with respect to scope. Their definition of a DXP is an “integrated software foundation for engaging users across all digital touchpoints.” The important distinction is that the DXP for Gartner is more of a System of Engagement across the user lifecycle while the CE Hub is the weaving together of Systems of Engagement with Systems of Record and Systems of Understanding.

Will DXP Replace WCM?

Short answer: It already has.

Although the jargony lexicon of DXP has yet to come into widespread use, people are in fact moving at breakneck speeds towards the integrated architectures needed to operate large enterprises at the speed of ever-evolving customer expectations. And technology providers are working hard to help our customers with more functionality aimed at building, managing, and delivering the richest digital experience possible.

In fact, Crownpeak’s mission of “revolutionizing the digital experience for all” aligns with both of these definitions of DXP and our vision of the DXP is somewhere between Gartner’s and Forrester’s. Like Gartner, we believe the scope of a DXP will primarily be a platform for building Systems of Engagement and then integrating and interoperating those to Systems of Record or Systems of Understanding to improve engagement in a contextually aware way.

Like Forrester, we believe there are emerging digital experience challenge areas (like IoT, Social Media, Web-Scale InfoSec, Conversational Interactions, and Digital Experience Governance as well as many others) that are important for a DXP to address, as these areas become important to users’ expectations of digital experiences. Crownpeak also believes that the only way a DXP (no matter how you define it) can evolve fast enough to keep up with the evolving needs of the digital experience creator and the consumer expectations driving them, is to be a native Software as a Service (multi-tenant, evergreen versioning, highly secure, highly scalable, easily integrated).

So…Although we still sometimes refer to ourselves as a WCM provider to ensure that we’re speaking in a language those outside our industry understand, our own history of product innovation mirrors one path in the convergence described by Forrester back in 2014. In line with that, we rebranded our flagship product from Crownpeak Web Content Management to Crownpeak Digital Experience Management a few years ago, to reflect that it goes well beyond a traditional WCM system. And now, the DXP is here and we expect it to be increasingly referenced, so make sure you add it to your jargon lexicon!

To learn more about DXPs, download a complimentary copy of the new first ever Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms, and learn why Crownpeak was named a Visionary.