How to strike the right balance in your choice of DXP
By Bertrand Maugain, Co-CEO, Ibexa
To build a coherent and unified experience across all customer journeys, you need a digital experience platform. But what kind? One of Gartner’s DXP “leaders” or a self-built solution?
Rather than regard this as a classic ‘build or buy’ dilemma, this article will help you weigh up your options as to whether you should ‘build more than you buy’ or ‘buy more than you build’ .
The paradox of the DXP market
Digital transformation is about breaking silos, forcing companies to integrate – both technologically and organizationally – all parts of their business. On the technology side, the complexity and the costs of integrations have created two important forces that are ever present in today’s DXP market:
The consolidation of software vendors from the CMS, e-commerce, and martech space to deliver all-in-one DXPs.
Many CMS-leading vendors such as Adobe, Sitecore, Acquia, and Optimizely (known as Episerver until recently) have gone down this route. Typically, they are costly. They tend to be either monolithic or, as the result of acquisitions, an imperfectly integrated collection of different software tools. Either way, they usually need a fair amount of customization which slows down time-to-market and business agility.
The MACH (microservices API-first cloud native headless) trend, where more specialized vendors deliver better interoperability for faster and less expensive integrations. The value here is clear: you can select only the components you need for your business, and quickly integrate them with the help of front-end developers. This is less unified than an off-the-shelf platform but can be very powerful and useful from an agility perspective.
The MACH or headless category needs more granularity because providers in this space are to a greater or lesser extent packaging their capabilities. Some are low level with very technical components, while others have already added some business coherence that can be seen as business components.
The graphic above is a picture of the current situation as well as a prediction (the arrows) of how the market will evolve. Of course, we are simplifying to understand the bigger picture, but you find the coexistence of the following players:
All in-one DXPs - Often the leading DXP giants of our industry with a broad scope of features and capabilities, but which are often slower to implement and very costly.
If it ticks all the boxes and your business processes are not too complex, this can be a good solution.
Examples: Adobe AEM, Optimizely, Sitecore.
Modular DXPs – These are not based on a monolithic architecture, but on the assembly of decoupled components that can be used independently (or not). Often, the modular DXP does not cover the full spectrum of functionalities; they may lack e-commerce, analytics, or CDP depending on their positioning.
These are often a good fit for companies that want to grow with a solution without necessarily having the developing power to hand.
Examples: Ibexa, Acquia, Liferay.
Business components (PBCs) - This is the space where well-known headless players operate. They address a business need in a very efficient way such as a headless CMS, PIM or DAM.
Examples: Contentful, Akineo, Commerce Tools.
Small-scope technical components - There are many vendors in this space in accordance with the SaaS nature of our industry. They are often very niche and can in many ways be regarded as the early-stage versions of the business components solutions. They have great APIs and enable fast development and innovation as well as a very focused approach.
Examples: Niche technical products and services.
Composed or decomposed?
So, what is the right route for businesses planning to digitalize their customer-facing activities?
• Either they take a composable approach where selected components get integrated in a nice front-end experience;
• Or they select a ‘pre-integrated’ set of modules from a DXP vendor.
These are key considerations and are heavily discussed in our industry, by vendors and buyers alike. Obviously, a lot depends on the size of your business, your level of ambition in line with your budget, the systems and teams already in place, as well as your ability to develop that ‘perfect’ DXP.
It’s helpful to look at this question from the perspective of vendor lock-in. Why? Because lock-in is incompatible with business agility, which is the whole point of digital transformation.
At Ibexa, open source is part of our DNA. The question of lock-in plays to our strengths because open technology dramatically reduces lock-in to a given piece of software. In the continuum of composed/de-composed DXPs, where does the most significant lock-in come from? Where is the highest risk of accumulating technical debt?
On the headless side, you need to either build your own front-end team of developers or hire top-notch agencies to develop and, more importantly, maintain an experience layer that gets more and more sophisticated. This maintenance could get very complex, and you may become exposed if some key developers in-house or at your agency take their skills elsewhere.
On the DXP vendor side, you are obviously dependent on their software suites and roadmaps. You use the extensive features which means that changing your digital strategy or adapting to new market situations may be difficult.
The convergence of the DXP market
Companies need to assess where they position themselves in the power balance between vendors and service providers, and this interplay between the two is driving convergence of DXPs. While monolithic vendors are decomposing their existing stacks, headless players are consolidating and preparing potential acquisitions.
B2B businesses need to get this right. All too often, we see customers over-relying on either a vendor (and roadmap) or integrators (and other service providers) who over-customize a solution.
If you strike a good balance, you can rely on one or few vendor(s) and work with a competent implementation partner who has the knack of building great experiences on top of the DXP without reinventing the wheel at every single request – and this is what we help Ibexa DXP customers to achieve.
If you want to discuss your requirements for an advanced, composable digital experience platform please do contact us