Forrester clients can access the full report here. The research is part of Forrester’s playbook (warning: pay wall) to advise application development and delivery (AD&D) leaders on strategies to deliver digital customer experiences. 

Digital customer experience is the next big opportunity for AD&D professionals. Business leaders responsible for marketing, sales, and support need advice and guidance from AD&D leaders as they select vendors and technologies. They need AD&D (working with colleagues in enterprise architecture) to establish the technical services and tools to deliver and optimize cross-channel customer experiences. And they need AD&D's expertise in project and program management and software quality assurance. To grasp this opportunity, the typical AD&D organization must transform to be quicker; master new technologies and relationships; and broker, as well as build, digital experience solutions. This research outlines how to create a strategy for this transformation, both for AD&D shops just beginning the digital experience journey and organizations already well down the path.

Key takeaways from this research:

  • AD&D should play a strategic role in digital experience delivery. Enterprises can outsource to consultants some, but not all, of the design and implementation work required for cross-channel digital customer experiences. Core services will remain strategic assets best managed by AD&D professionals. The question for AD&D leaders is how to gain a place at the table with their enterprise's business leaders.
  • AD&D transformation for digital experience delivery is a journey. AD&D organizations chartered to provide and manage core business applications will require new talents, application life cycles, development methods, metrics and incentives, technologies, and relationships with the business to contribute to digital customer experience delivery. Assume a five-year transformation, accomplished step by step.
  • Even established digital experience AD&D teams must transform. Even AD&D teams that are accomplished in digital experience delivery face gaps in visual design talents, technology, governance, data analysis, and optimization. These gaps are typically raised by the onrush of mobile customer touchpoints and demands for cross-channel experiences.

We reject the widely cited notion that corporate IT "dinosaurs" can't possibly help drive effective digital customer experiences. Digital experience delivery requires application development and delivery talents and disciplines (among others). Someone will fill these needs, and if digital customer experience is strategic for an enterprise, it is best for that enterprise to own these delivery capabilities rather than outsource them. AD&D leaders and pros are the logical stewards for three reasons:

  1. Access to enterprise systems is crucial to digital customer experience — and AD&D owns it. Digital customer experiences invariably obtain data from and submit transactions to inventory, order management, customer, pricing, and other back-office systems maintained by AD&D staff. Providing access to these systems is a natural extension of most AD&D missions today. Digital experience applications usually need application programming interfaces (APIs) to these internal applications and sometimes need new gateway software to manage high volumes of requests and submit transactions to data sources.
  2. Cross-channel demands a transition from outsourcing to right sourcing. Many of the digital experience leaders we've interviewed say their organizations now need to bring in house some of the expertise and services they formerly got from outside agencies. Right sourcing means assigning to AD&D (and other roles) the responsibility for managing core platforms, tools, and delivery processes for cross-channel projects. In this role, AD&D manages programs that contain design and/or development contributions from external agencies.
  3. Marketing leaders need AD&D's help. A sentiment we've heard often from marketing leaders: "We can't do this by ourselves, and neither can IT." The best way forward is for marketing and sales leaders to focus on their domains and rely on AD&D (with colleagues) to navigate technology product selections, technical road maps, integration needs, and creation of major technology services.

We recommend that organizations use the POST (people, objectives, strategy, and technology) technique to create their digital customer experience delivery strategies – starting with people and not selection of technology solutions and/or tools. The research describes the critical questions every strategy must address as well as advice on high-value activities to drive progress. For example, AD&D leaders can use a digital experience reference architecture (warning: pay wall) to drive consensus with customer strategy leaders about personnel, process, and technology investments.