Forrester analysts Stephen Powers, Ron Rogowski, and I collaborated on this research.

Digital customer experience has become a key business differentiator, and application development and delivery (AD&D) leaders of front-office, web, mobile, and digital development must step up to support their firm's initiatives. A broad focus on digital customer experiences carries great risks for your firm: too much experimentation for not enough return; too much duplication and waste; and too little use of data to drive and measure business results. To overcome these risks, marketing, eBusiness, and AD&D pros must collaborate on a comprehensive strategy. Today, AD&D pros rarely help lead their firms' digital experience efforts; interactive marketing pros call the shots. Worse, interactive marketing pros see AD&D pros as obstacles to great results. To partner with marketing and business leaders in digital customer experience strategy, AD&D pros must transform their organizations, platforms, and processes. This research describes this opportunity for AD&D — and how to create an AD&D digital customer experience strategy that supports marketing and business counterparts, from vision to implementation to ongoing optimization.

Most firms still don't treat the design, creation, and execution of digital customer experiences as strategic but rather as a special category of marketing-led projects. Digital customer experience practices require a set of competencies that take tactical projects to the next level — requiring leaders of software development, web development and architecture, solution architecture, front-office applications, and project management offices (PMOs) to take on new obligations.

Even leading-edge consumer-brand companies struggle to get the full measure of benefits that a focus on the quality of digital experiences can provide:

"We're very siloed. Fiefdoms do their own things. Marketing doesn't see the value of IT and wants to outsource everything. On the other hand, marketing doesn't care about reuse and cost; it just wants to blow out content and put the onus on our agencies to figure out the personalizations. We have massive duplication of effort." (Digital experience strategist, large consumer packaged goods company)

Digital experience strategies require:

·         New platform investments to create experiences, engage customers, partners, and prospects with content in context, and measure reactions to experiences.

·         New talents and processes in visual design, software developers expert in HTML5, mobile platforms, and REST APIs, content and information architects, cross-touchpoint strategists, digital asset management specialists, and data scientists, to name a few.

If AD&D pros reorient their thinking to the fast application life cycles of digital customer experience, they will have an opportunity to play three potential roles in this brave new world:

1.       Provide back-end services for digital experience projects.

2.       Design, architect, and implement digital experience projects.

3.       Partner with marketing on digital customer experience strategy leadership.

Your opportunity: Help transform your firm's customer experience using powerful digital tools, technologies, architectures, and skills. To do this, you'll have to remake your AD&D teams and find the best ways to link the worlds of digital customer experience, architecture, and front-office and back-office business systems. As your enterprise's custom software solution delivery expert, digital customer experience applications are your next frontier. Yes, digital experience is a challenge to your role's relevance, but your firm also needs your expertise in order to own its digital experience future.

Forrester clients can read the full report at this link. As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions!