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What's All The Fuss About DXPs And Why Should I Care?

What's a DXP: It's an opportunity for innovation to integrate.

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A lot of you work on very complex sites. It doesn't matter the size of the client. The wonderful thing about WordPress is that it's like a Swiss army knife, it can be almost anything you want it to be. In conversations I've had with folks we've categorized about nine separate areas where WordPress really does well. Everything from its original use as a blog, all the way to what we do in the enterprise, and everywhere in-between.

It's so interesting to see what everybody does. It's been a tool for 16 years and is still changing. That is why I think it's important for folks to understand why there's such a fuss around DXP's (Digital Experience Platforms).

Let's start with: What's a DXP?

What is a DXP? True DXP circle chart.

Open Source Options from CMS to DXP

If you want a good marketing site there's nothing faster, cheaper, and more versatile than a WordPress site. But it can be a fragmented experience. So what's wrong with CMS? Well, 25 years of iterations and all the history of going from the rise of Open Source, around 2000 - 2003, it's gotten to be very busy, loud, and thick with competition. So specifically, what ended up happening is somebody said, "All right, what's next? What's going to happen after the CMS?"

We now focus on the guest who comes to the website and we are trying to bring together, not only the content that's being put into the system, but for the first time we're talking about conditional content. We're talking about personalization. We're talking about things like progressive profiling. We can actually start customizing the experience of that guest user. And when people talk about DXP, they're talking about that guest user.

The main goal is to get the different products to integrate and the code we write to work so that it feels more fluid.
– Karim Marucchi

Takeaways from WordSesh EMEA:

  • In January of 2018 Gartner redefined something new. It's called a DXP and there's been a lot of people saying, "I don't understand what that means". And, "Is this a buzz word", "What's a DXP"?
  • DXP defined by Gartner is, "a well-integrated and cohesive set of technologies designed to enable the composition, management, delivery and optimization of contextualized digital experiences across multi experience customer journeys".
  • The digital experience platform (DXP) is supposed to keep the experience to one interaction. It looks and feels like one system.
  • We're trying to make the end user feel like they're having one experience as they transition from one instance to the other. With everything from WooCommerce to Shopify, and others, we're able to actually tie those much more closely together.
  • The marketing jargon around DXP is about unifying the experience of the website guests, not just the website editor or owner.
  • Today in the current DXP structure, there is no true Open Source project.
  • There are a lot of projects out there that call themselves an Open Source project, but in reality what they are is one service agency, or a group of service agencies, who are using the Open Source moniker to lock in clients.

WordSesh EMEA Presentation: What's All The Fuss About DXPs & Why Should I Care?

Photos From The Talk

Video Transcription

Karim Thank you, Brian. Wow. What a pleasure to be here. What an incredible set of content so far. It's been a wonderful day to hear a lot of those talks today and the ones that I could catch because of the time zones were absolutely amazing. I can't wait to see some of them recorded. So WordSesh of May 2019, welcome. Thank you for joining me today.

I am very happy to be here today and talk to the WordPress and open source community about what the fuss has been about around DXPs and what that means for this community, and hopefully all of you that are watching this. So real quick, for those of you who don't know me, I have the honor of leading one of the premier brands around WordPress, Crowd Favorite. Crowd Favorite is an international team that started originally in 2007 founded by Alex King in Denver, who was one of the original contributors to WordPress along with Matt Mullenweg and others.

And he was one of the first people who really looked at scaling WordPress first with publishers, blogs, and then into business. I had the pleasure of running into him when I first got into the WordPress community, and we did a little bit of work together. And the next thing you know, we started working together on a full-time basis. And today I have the, as I said, the honor of running a team that does some incredible complex work for top brands around the world and the enterprise.

And that's specifically why I wanted to talk to this group today about what's been going on, first of all, at the enterprise level with some of these DXPs and what that means for the rest of the community, and how it can help you in your business.

So let's get right to it real quick. A lot of you work already on very complex sites. It doesn't matter the size of the client. The wonderful thing about WordPress is that it's almost a Swiss army knife. It can be almost anything you want it to be. In some of the conversations I've had with folks, I think we've categorized about nine separate areas where WordPress really does well. Everything from literally its original use as a blog all the way to what we do in the enterprise, and everywhere in-between.

So it's just so interesting to see what everybody does. And it's been a tool that's been now 16-years-old and we're seeing what's going on in all the changes even that we've seen this week in the announcements with Automatic and Acquia, what's going on in this industry. So I think it's important for folks to understand why there's been such a fuss around this. So let's quickly take a look.

So in January of 2018, Gartner Research proclaimed from one day or the next, long live the digital experience platform. And they gave it this very complex set of words, which are marketing fluff to me. I read that and I just say to myself, "What does that mean? How do I translate that?" So what we've tried to do is break it down and back up, and see where we get.

So let's first think about where this came from. And where this came from was the top 10,000 installs of CMS platforms. Now, I know here in the community, we hear a lot about the 34% number of WordPress on the internet. But when we look at the top 10K sites that are on a CMS platform and take out all the other categories that are not on a CMS, you end up with almost 55%. That's a huge number.

So you're thinking of yourself, "My God, for top brands and for the enterprise, we're dominating." Here's the problem. We're dominating because that's total installs. But if you go to top brand X or Y, their main site is on one of these other platforms. It might be on Drupal, it might be on Adobe, it might be on Sitecore. WordPress is used across a majority of second tier sites. And that's been where it's really grown over the last 15, 20 years as, I'm sorry, over the last 15 and 20 months specifically with that middle tier.

And that's been something that a lot of the hosting companies and a lot of the mid-tier level service providers I've really been focused on because if you want to do a good branding site, a good marketing site, there's nothing faster, cheaper, and more versatile than spitting up a WordPress site, and then you can iterate from there.

So that's been a really good point, but what happens to that upper top percent of what we're looking at here in these 10K numbers. You can see how it's a fragmented experience. And what's been interesting about it is they're all CMSs, right? Up until Gartner made this proclamation of a DXP. So what's wrong with it, CMS? Well, 25 years of iterations and all the history of going from the first vignette, a proprietary content management system that I actually remember working on in the mid 90s.

And then the rise of open source right around 2000, 2003 and then all the things that have happened since then, it's been 25 years and it's gotten to be a very busy, loud, thick with competition area around CMS. So specifically, what ended up happening is somebody said, "All right, what's next? What's going to happen after the CMS?"

So to answer what's next and what's going to happen after the CMS, before we actually get to what they came up with. Again, looking at these top 10K of installs across the internet, we have what the enterprise experiences or how they're looking at their web properties today. So on property, they're taking content management systems. They're taking automated marketing, MarTech. They're taking less legacy enterprise systems and sometimes they're eight or nine systems that are far flung and they're cobbled together.

And sometimes, for instance, I had the pleasure of helping the Walt Disney Company decide on a 10-year plan on using an open source architecture WordPress to completely replace across their entire enterprise, an aging proprietary customized CMS called GoPublish that they had been sort of holding together with duct tape for over 10 years.

And finally they made this commitment to, to WordPress to the point, where we worked on some very customized websites. Even for Disney consumer products where WordPress was not only just the front-end layer of what they were showing, but also it actually dug in to the ERP software dug into the licensing.

It really presented, not only a website but an intranet and an extranet for certain aspects. So you could create online applications using WordPress as a framework. And a lot of you already do this. So hats off to all those very complex sites. But we see that they also have this other area that's off property on the enterprise that is social media and e-commerce and SaaS. And sometimes they're trying to bring those in. Sometimes they're standalone systems that just talked to each other. But this is sort of the environment that most big brands in the enterprise are dealing with.

So DXP in plain English is trying to integrate all of that. Now we use the concept of a digital experience in talking about the website guest. So we are talking about the guest who comes to the website and we are trying to bring together, not only the content that's being put into the system, but for the first time we're talking about conditional content. We're talking about personalization, we're talking about things like progressive profiling when people are coming to a website so that they can actually start really customizing that experience of that guest user. And out there when people talk about DXP, they're constantly talking about that guest user. But I want you guys to think about something.

Over the years, we've worked on some very complex websites at Crowd Favorite and WordPress sites. And as they get more complex, even the backend WP Admin, think about all the hours in any website that you build for a client that you have to do training or you have to have a training solution for how complex some of these get, no matter how good the products that we're integrating.

Because sometimes it's a good product, sometimes you're doing some custom code, no matter how great some of our favorite products for forms or page builders or block editors, no matter how great they are, they're separate products. So the workflow in the backend has been very disjointed and as sites get more complex, that experience is disjointed. So mirroring back to the site user, site users would have this experience where they would go to a marketing site and then when they wanted to go to a store, they can click on store and it might have the same colors, but it definitely felt different.

And then they go to another aspect of the website or an intranet or extranet and they click and it's slightly different again. And slightly different again. The digital experience platform is supposed to keep one interaction. It's all one system, or at least it looks and feels like one system, thank goodness for API and all the integrations that we can do today with SaaS.

But really we're trying to make that the end user feel like they're having one experience as they transition from one instance to the other. Now with everything from WooCommerce to the tight integrations to Shopify and BigCommerce and others these days, we're starting to be able to actually tie those much more closely together. But for a lot of those SaaS systems, it's starting to be a more unified experience for the end user.

But in the backend of WordPress, you're still just grabbing stuff through an API and then you have to log into another SaaS to actually manage your content. So we're still working on what that means for a DXP for us and in this community, and in in the maker community. But it is very interesting to see how all the talk out there, all the marketing jargon that you're seeing around DXP is about unifying the experience of the website guests, not just the website editor or owner.

So it's something that we, we really want to talk about a lot more in the community. You'll see why I mentioned that in a little bit. So I've tried to explain a little bit of what is behind the concept of the digital experience. You're taking this aspect of content management, this aspect of automated marketing. Some folks in smaller businesses and medium businesses would use a HubSpot or Marketo or some of these other systems out there, and they would sort of integrate certain pieces or keep them as separate pieces.

Some of our brethren here in the WordPress community would still use HubSpot for landing pages and another site was on WordPress. Now those things are starting to integrate so you can actually work on those together. But let's keep all this in mind as we go through the next couple of slides, because if it's a good background for some of the things that we're going to cover.

All right? Great. Okay. So what does this market look like and why am I sitting here talking about the enterprise? If the enterprises is a top small percentage of the WordPress communities target. As we said, the WordPress community does all sorts of things, but the last Gartner Report was actually in February of 2019 so it should be one out shortly at the beginning of the year, but there's been two reports so far and there's been some changes on the CMS report. But I want you to notice something. As you look at this slide.

I want you to notice that none of these companies are actually open source or claimed to be open source besides Acquia. We all know there's a difference between Acquia and Drupal, just like there's a difference between Automatic and WordPress, but there are companies in here that as of today, for instance, it says IBM, well, IBM just sold off what was their digital experience to a company like they did the laptops in many years past.  And you see companies like Crownpeak, I actually know the original founders of Crownpeak. I literally worked with them at USWeb in the 90s when they quit to start Crownpeak. Back in the days when Microsoft still had ASP and was starting to go to .net. It was one of the first hosted proprietary content management systems and it's good to see them in here. But we have IBM that was really just trying to pull different pieces of software together into one interface. We have Crownpeak that's been there since day one. We have Acquia, we have things that are like Adobe experience manager and Sitecore, which are these giant proprietary systems.

All of these companies, except for maybe Acquia being closed source and proprietary, are focused on the clients' experience. Not only the website guests, but also the owner of the site, the editor of the site and larger companies, the editing teams, being able to content teams, being able to use a site on a task-based rule rather than trying to hunt around based on features. Again, if you think about what happens in WordPress today, we look at a lot of features. When we're looking for our form builder or we're looking for our page builder there's a lot of hunting going on and it's not really a unified experience yet.

So that's one aspect of this market, all very big players. It costs a lot of money right now and that's why you've heard the big marketing terms that they're just trying to, they're trying to attract folks who are very in the know about what's next and what's big, and what's trendy in marketing. Because they're trying to get that top end of the market.

But we're going to try and bring it down towards what it means for the future of the WordPress community and what the opportunities might be. To understand what the opportunities might be, we're going to have to talk about licensing for a second because we looked at this slide here, we saw that we had some issues with, there's one company that really calls itself open source. There's a couple of others that talk about open source projects realistically, but what does that end up looking like?

Today in the current DXP structure, there is no true open source project. If you look at the structures today, you literally have four different possible solutions, no matter which one you're looking at, whether it's on Gartner's list or one of the ones out there that's not necessarily on Gartner's list yet today. Some of the up and coming ones that we've all heard about in the open source community, they all fall into four categories.

They're either a full SaaS platform, so not open source at all. You just log in and take care of your business and that's it. We have complete proprietary software that can be installed on premises on your own servers or via SaaS and those are the Sitecores and the AMEs type of things. Then we have open source with high vendor lock in. This is sort of a new category that's coming out. There's a lot of companies coming out and there's some rumors and some folks in the open source community. I'm not in the Drupal community as much as I'd like, but I've seen whispers in the Drupal community of worries that that Acquia and Drupal are starting to part ways a little bit where it makes complete sense for Acquia to give more SaaS services in their hosting that aren't necessarily available in the core package.

The question just becomes then because there at the head of the project, does that mean that they are making decisions on whether those SaaS features are going to be in the core open source project? The reason people are having this worry is because of what happened to the Magento community. For those of you who remember Magento version one that had a beautiful open source platform, and how they almost self-cannibalized that up and coming community of open source.

There's a lot of worry around what's going to happen with open source that's trying to lock folks in with SaaS features or some features that would have a higher high barrier to entry for churn. Churn meaning once they're in to go and re-platform or to go and say, "I want to go to the same platform but somewhere else that doesn't have these services. It's going to be a high cost of development piece. Somebody has to build that for me."

So we're keeping an eye on this particular instance. But the fifth instance is one that's been around forever and in fact, Crownpeak I talked about a moment ago was actually born out of an agency, but it immediately became a product company. There's a lot of, at last count that I looked on the internet, I stopped counting at 50. There's a lot of projects out there that call themselves an open source project, but in reality what they are is one service agency or group of service agencies who are using the open source moniker to start to lock in clients, either with SaaS pieces or pieces that rely on the services of that one professional service agency or professional service body, so to speak.

And that to me means that you have a product that has an install base of whoever that one company could sell to and you have a support base of whoever that company employs, and possibly the other install clients. So you get sort of this fake feeling of, well, it's open source, but there's so many little pieces that are sort of locked in or it's such a small community that we don't have the scale that we have on WordPress today to be able to say, "Hey, this is an open source WordPress, and if you want agency A to work on it or agency B or Freelancer C." Everybody can work on it because there's nothing proprietary on there or there's nothing that's on somebody as a server that you can't get at.

So these are the four objects that are out there right now as far as the licensing that we've seen. And that's both worrying, but at the same time, there's a lot of opportunity, right? There are a lot of examples out there of content management systems and web technologies. You're seeing some of them on the screen that are dead or dying, or didn't really take off because of certain aspects of having a small audience or in the case of Flash, it just all of a sudden a decision somebody else made it went a different direction or cold fusion. Adobe just said from one day to the next, "No thanks, we're closing it up." So we really have to be careful of as professionals and as companies, whether you're at an agency or you are on top of an internal project building your web presence for your company. You have to be careful about what you're investing in and you have to look down the road of what's going to happen.

So there's opportunities because if we look at the past of what's been going on and now all these moments of change or influx of big words like DXP; digital experience platform and the recent investments we just saw with Acquia and with Automatic and others, it's not going to be any longer.

There's no correlation between what somebody wants on a small micro WordPress site where they've bought a theme and asked somebody to configure it for them to the giant for Disney or what's going on with Alexis at the moment. There's just some beautiful things that actually all tie those things together, so let's see what that means and what is the opportunity, right?

So far from everything I've said, you're sort of scratching your head and saying, "Well, it sounds like the only thing we're talking is these top brands," right? What does that mean at the moment? Where are we going with this stuff? Well, what that means for us is that we have an opportunity to create truly that fifth platform, that fifth type of license in doing what we've all been doing in the open source community and then with WordPress for a while.

What we've been trying to work on at Crowd Favorite with other agencies and with other product companies is we've been thinking around how to start integrating all these pieces that we're going to talk about into a framework with enterprise standards, that is still truly open, and you still truly can pick whatever vendor you want. And you still truly can decide if you like a product A or product B as the right plugin to base your customization for your client on.

So there's a lot of us out there who are talking about in working on it, and more to come on that later. But let's dive into what those are and what they look like, right? So today's assumption about DXPs for these major brands look a little bit like this, right? So if you're looking at the marketing materials at Sitecore or at Adobe Experience Manager, they're basically saying, "WordPress is great for search engine optimization. It's great for that technically." But then there's all these other features.

If you look at this slide where they're saying, "Hey, we do this natively and in the box, out of the box you turn it on and it just works." But come on guys, if you actually read this list, we all know of code that we've written products that we can leverage some great products out there that actually do all of this stuff so we can actually line item and by line item actually compete with all of these things.

And we have done that. Crowd Favorite isn't the only one. There's a bunch of professional service providers that actually are working with the enterprise with WordPress these days. And these features are completely doable at a fraction of the cost of Sitecore, AEM. And again, you're asking what does that have to do with me if I don't work on it enterprise, but I promise you we will get there.

If you look at the automated marketing aspect of it, so we've gone from, from content management to the automated marketing side of things, people would say, "Hey, let's go to HubSpot. Let's go to Marketo." Marketo was just acquired by Adobe I believe, but they'd say, "Look at these things out of the box. We have all these features, yet WordPress just has a blog. All these other features come out of the box for these other SaaS pieces or platforms."

Well, again, I think every single person who's watching this could probably raise their hand and come up with an example of an integration to WordPress that either directly inside WordPress, through a standalone plugin or through a SaaS piece or through a partnership piece, an API piece for drip campaigns and other things that you can actually do all of this stuff. So we already can do this. And the good news is, for instance, at Crowd Favorite, literally since before the term DXP came out, we were delivering these things for our enterprise clients.

So it's out there and it's not something that's not WordPress, it's just we haven't brought it into the WordPress community yet. So you're saying there yourself, "All right, so again, why should I care?" I've kept you guys on the hook for this entire presentation so far without really answering that question and here's why you should care. Here we go.

Because you guys are already delivering all of these features. You might not have it in one perfect, neat little package, but I know folks at agencies and freelancers, and people who are working on their own products and websites who are actually doing all of these features already in WordPress today. We already have a DXP in WordPress. We just haven't brought together the pieces and the right marketing tone, the right communications yet.

And in the enterprise space, there's a group of products and service companies that we're working on that right now and hopefully more to come on that soon. But even outside of the enterprise, if you look at this list of topics, you can see right away that these topics, these features are things that each one of you have delivered for the client, no matter the size. Not all the time, all of them.

Not all the time or majority of them, but I can bet you've all done that. I showed this one particular slide at a WPEngine event, and all the folks who were there at the WPEngine event, who are from agencies in the WordPress community came up and said, "My gosh, we didn't realize we're already delivering these things. We just thought it was another marketing buzzword." So no matter the size of your client, if they're not somebody who cares about marketing buzzwords, you don't need to name DXP. But now you have a functionary framework to understand that you already are delivering these things.

So if they start hearing on the news, "Well, I heard that some websites can do a conditional content." You can do that now in WordPress. I've heard some websites could do all sorts of customizations and personalization and landing pages. You can do that. We all know products that do that at the moment. So it's a matter of being able to understand what's going on and being able to translate it to what your vertical is, no matter what the size of the client is or what you're working on.

And here's why. It's a matter of what's happening up in the enterprise is trickling down over time to affect the rest of the community. Problems with scale that we solved years ago, problems with integration with other systems, and then the rest API and now Gutenberg. All these things came from problems that were originally from clients and projects that had a bigger budget. And what they do up there and the money they spend on R&D really does change what comes down, and what comes downstream.

So what I really would like folks to have a conversation about, and while we're not going to do it live right after this talk, Brian has the way for you guys to just submit your questions. I would really like to start a conversation about what are the advantages to the WordPress community, right? Because again, let me dig in for you guys. WordPress is a Swiss army knife. It can be so many different things. It just depends on what your vertical is, the market that you serve. So there's so many things in this bullet list that you guys are looking at that could be refined.

There's an opportunity for innovation to integrate. There's an opportunity for all of us to innovate and integrate how our guests on the websites we create and make our having this unified experience. And that they're not feeling that they're going to different disjointed websites or data's coming in from strange places, right? There's that opportunity, which is the natural evolution of what should be a digital experience, but let's get past that.

The WordPress ecosystem is unique because it has a mix of products and services that other projects don't have. I love this community because we have not only service agencies who compete against each other, yet we'll share code like Inspired and Crowd Favorite, but there's also the opportunity where I know of form builders who sit down and compete with each other but sit down and talk out problems. The page builders, the folks who are working on Gutenberg and the different new Gutenberg solutions that are coming out at the moment.

If we think about trying to unify that experience between us, the makers for our editors or content producers. Just like we've all spent however many years you're in this business trying to make it easier for site guests and site visitors. We have an opportunity to really push WordPress to be a very powerful tool. Now, how do we do that? Part of the conversation that I'm curious of folks are going to have comments and questions and other things. How do we do that?

I'm really hoping that we can look at it the same way that for instance, Unix has been looked at in the last few years, many years actually. Originally, UNIX was one thing and then there was Linux, and then there were flavors of Linux for those of you who are more technical. In the recent past now with the Fedora project, they're doing what are called spins. And spins are customizations that are not only UX, but light functionality that are very vertical. So we can still have a core WordPress project that is a Swiss army knife and nobody has to do anything dramatic or go to look for another project, or go start their own project.

We can get another 16 years or longer generational set of years on developing this project. If we start thinking of segmenting the types of users, like those of you who were making websites, talk about user stories and personas, let's make personas for WordPress usage. What about having spins or flavors of WordPress? That's something that we started doing with some of our clients at Crowd Favorite over the last couple of years and trying to start to, to make that that interface a little bit more easy. And I'm not just talking about UX and I'm not just talking about WP Admin.

I'm talking about trying to get the different products to integrate and the code we would write and customize for the clients, try and work that in so that it feels more fluid. So there's a giant opportunity for our product friends who aren't in services to start directly and building hooks in for each other. There's giant opportunities for service companies to come together and say, "Hey, these service companies work on this vertical. These service companies work on this vertical. What does this flavor look like? What does that flavor look like?" And it doesn't have to be different code. We're all familiar with the concept of the feature plugin.

That's just a hint, but there's all sorts of things coming down the road where people would love to share this type of stuff and we can decide what's good as just a plugin that can stay out there, and then we can decide what's good as part of our WordPress. I'm going to use a Swiss army knife concept again to say what should be in core, what should be outside of things. I'm just so excited to see what comes out of these conversations as we start seeing these verticalizations if possible.

DXP is just one of them. There's all sorts of agencies and products out there that specialize in different verticals, and I'd really love to get your questions, and talk about your statements. I'm sure I'm going to have lots of people who are going to openly disagree and have different POVs on this. And let's jump in. That's the beautiful part of this open source community.

So thank you again for hearing me out and coming to this talk. I look forward to your questions and comments, and getting back to you. And I'd really liked to thank WordSesh and their sponsors specifically for enabling this and getting it out there. And I hope all of you have a wonderful day, week, and the rest of the year. Cheers.

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