Since I started working in Digital Experience 10 years ago, I have been involved in fascinating projects across a variety of sectors, ranging from media, finance to government, retail and manufacturing. Even with such diverse requirements and scopes, I keep coming across the same recurrent problems, which affect the timeline, budget and long-term success of the project. To make life easier and to save you a lot of headaches, I have made my personal top 10 of most common issues in Digital Experience projects and how they can be avoided.
1. The organization of content is chaotic and delayed
All too often, the crucial aspect of content management - creation and import of texts and images into the DXM platform - is underestimated from an organization point of view. Different versions of documents are flying around via email, while the development and selection of graphical elements (such as images and videos) seems to be more time-intensive than expected. In a lot of cases, this will lead to delays in the go-live of web projects.
☑ Be prepared: Provide a structured approach to content creation, define clear deadlines, start the process early and include the necessary buffers in planning. Asking for support from your DXM implementation partner in the first stages of the project will help you get a head start.
2. The DXM platform doesn’t fit the business requirements
Today’s digital technology market is vast. Companies tend to select a platform based on reputation, budget, technical environments or schedules, instead of matching the needs of their business with the available features. In addition, research analysts such as Gartner and Forrester provide insights and guidance about the different possibilities and available features on leading platforms. However, even the highest regarded platform or the ones your competitors use does not necessarily fit into your team or processes.
☑ Clearly define the business requirements first. Make sure you have an overview on your digital strategy, goals and existing resources before starting to investigate the vendor-space. The solution needs to fit your business, not the other way round.
3. Developers with limited working knowledge of DXM platforms
The foundation of a platform is best set up by experienced architects and developers. Do you have in-house developers with advanced expertise in Java, .NET, PHP or other coding languages? Great news, but they might not have the needed know-how to build-up DXM projects and may fall short on meeting the project expectations or jeopardizing its success.
☑ Ensure your team has the required competences in the chosen technology. If needed, invest the necessary time and resources to fully train them and bring them up to speed on the system’s potentialities and best practices (the do's and don’ts).
4. Unrealistic expectations of a DXM platform
The possibilities of DXM platforms have become so expanded that they seem to be a solution for everything. Throughout the years, I've seen clients trying to deploy them as a central identity and access management system (with single sign-on - SSO), as a web service layer for other systems, or acting as a solution for other non-DXM issues.
☑ A DXM platform is a DXM platform. Foresee enough time for the overall architecture of your platform and its role within the IT infrastructure of your company. Some of your requirements might need to be fulfilled by other tools and systems.
5. The chicken and the pigs: organizational commitment issues
A well-known "chicken and the pig" fable used to be referenced to define two types of stakeholders within an agile team. Although the scrum analogy is no longer used, we are regularly confronted with two types of profiles: those who are totally dedicated to the project and fully accountable for its outcome, and those who are involved but don’t contribute to get things done.
☑ Ensure a strong team with decision-making rights, protect yourself from "chickens" that fit and blend in disagreements and decisions.
6. Over-optimistic go-live dates
Implementation processes in the world of DXM are relatively complex. From the design conception to systems integrations, through usability tests and content migration, each stage is a time-consuming job. While some teams might be more efficient under pressure, aggressive deadlines can lead to lack of quality, insufficient testing, skipped tasks, cost overruns and ultimately missed delivery dates.
☑ Make sure you understand the full scope of work and build the timeline collectively with the team that’s doing the work. Set an achievable go-live date and manage your timeline to successfully accomplish the set goals and objectives.
7. Insufficient attention for authors training
With customer experience at the heart of all DXM projects, teams can get so enraptured by personalization features and technology that they tend to forget the middle or back-end users’ basic needs. Content creators and webmasters are often stuck with intricate interfaces that mess up the authoring experience and fail to meet their most basic needs.
☑ Keep in mind that an optimized author experience is just as important as the visitor or user experience. Make sure to involve editorial teams from an early stage to secure intuitive interfaces and give them the necessary guidance and resources to get at full speed.
8. Multilingual websites and manual content entry
The creation and management of multilingual content is often taken too lightly. If you need to roll-out your website to a global audience, targeting customers around the world, going manual might kill you from start. From time constraints to the lack of content accuracy across languages, there’s too much room for error when localizing your website manually.
☑ If you need to publish content in different languages, take your time to careful planning, research and strategy. Consider vendors that are already familiar with translation tools and multilingual content. Platforms such as Drupal or Adobe Experience Manager allow the integration with add-ons for native translation tools, which can save you a lot of time and money.
9. Lack of resources for mid-term evaluation
The time you and your team need for evaluating wireframes, graphic designs and functional requirements are often misjudged. Moreover, testing and bug reporting are time consuming tasks throughout all development stages. Time and again, a project conclusion is delayed due to lack of team members’ bandwidth during testing and approval. Or even worse, the lack of time for proper testing ends-up undermining the final result.
☑ Your implementation partner should provide support during testing and approval stages, but you still need an internal accountable for final validation and approvals. Make sure to provide enough time in the planning stages for your team to check business requirements and monitor quality of the final product.
10. Complexity in technical integrations
Every integration of a DXM platform with other marketing tools and the overall organization’s IT landscape comes with specific challenges that can become risks if not tackled early (e.g. in terms of database merging, security, performance, etc.). But mapping them out with the required specs or dependencies can be a daunting project on its own, that impacts several teams and systems.
Gartner’s projection that CMOs will spend more on technology than CIOs only echoes the trend of ever-expanding marketing technology landscapes. However, 59% of IT professionals say their organizations are unprepared to meet the challenges arising from a growing tech stack.
☑ Growth brings complexity. Ensure you have an enterprise-level integration strategy in place to help you manage it, and that your technical teams have the necessary time allocated to prevent the risks involved. Tackling your project phase-by-step (making a limited number of integrations in the first phase) or planning proof-of-concepts to identify potential risks earlier can positively influence the overall planning (e.g. if extra development is required) and budget (e.g. purchase of third party tool or plug-in).
11. BONUS: The 'Out of the Box' staircase
The word 'out of the box' is used to indicate that certain functionalities and features are provided in the platform or product by default. However, keep in mind that your business requirements most probably do not match 100% with the standard capabilities of a DXM platform.
☑ Be prepared to make concessions (by adjusting business requirements) or to develop the necessary adjustments (customizations). A previous blog is fully dedicated to this topic: Making sense of out of the box solutions in digital experience management.