This year’s Customer Experience Forum just wrapped up, and two days and 20 client meetings later I’m back at Forrester’s headquarters. I’ve had a moment to think about the questions clients asked me, and as an application development and delivery (AD&D) analyst, it was great to see that attendees were interested in bridging the customer experience strategy with their technology strategy and decision-making process.

When thinking about those issues, the top three questions I was asked during the forum included:

  • What vendor can help us support personal experiences? I got this question a lot, and each time I found myself repeating that moving to deeply contextual experiences isn’t solved by just one technology or one vendor. Many technologies (including those you may already have in place) support a contextual strategy, and they each work together to deliver a deeply contextual experience. These include (among others) tools like AB/multivariate testing; web content management; eCommerce platforms; recommendations engines; customer analytics; and site search. And when it comes to mobile apps, it’s not always a sourcing story as you’ll likely need to build applications that take contextual inputs into account (e.g. location).
  • How can we better bridge the IT/business divide via new roles and organizational structures? A number of clients I spoke with have started their own version of a hybrid IT and customer experience group. This was encouraging to hear since these tight-knit groups need to work closely together to deliver customer experiences can be highly effective. But there were a lot of questions about what kind of talent to hire. The thing that came up most often was hiring IT staff, particularly developers, that think customer first (instead of stability of security only), have an enabler mentality, have strong creative design and user experience skills, and are used to working on front-end (versus back-end) development.
  • What agencies should we source from and how much should we rely on external help? I heard a few times that end users aren’t sure how to use agencies well when it comes to their technical help. How can they still be agile when using third parties that need deadlines, scope, and are often offshoring development capabilities? There’s no easy answer to this question. Part of it will be bringing specific, prioritized projects back in-house and being smarter about outsourcing decisions. It may also be changing the mindset to thinking of agencies, and adding agile development as a criterion when hiring a third party.

If you were at this year’s forum, what kinds of questions and discussions did you hear? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. And if you missed this event, there’s always Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum West and Forrester’s Application Development and Delivery conference, both in October.