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Why we need a new way to look at CX technologies: The ExTech market

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Charlie Araujo, one of the stars in the CX market who continues to ascend, tells us not only what the experience technology market is, but how it benefits us.

25th Jul 2022
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This is a long time coming. Charlie Araujo is one of the smartest, and most visionary analysts I know. He not only has a clearcut idea of where the markets are, but where they are going, and in combination with his insights into human behaviour, his knowledge of technology and his alignment with the seismic generational power shift going on, he provides not just valuable insight but some practical thinking on how you and your company might approach these evolutionary alterations to the business world. Plus, if you take the time to meet him, (and you really really should), not only will you get invaluable advice, but you'll meet a genuinely nice human being. For those of you who do know him, you know what I mean. If you want to reach him, just go to his LinkedIn profile here.

Take it away Charlie!!

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Enterprise executives now rightfully recognise the digital experience as foundational to their success and future. And there is a vast ecosystem of technologies that support the delivery of these digital experiences.

But the way we are looking at them is dead wrong.

With all due respect to my fellow industry analysts, the approach of trying to carve out ever more narrow comparative categories is not only misguided, but it does a disservice to the enterprise leaders who are trying to make sense of it all.

And the stakes couldn’t be higher.

I believe the digital experience is now the driver of value creation in the enterprise and organisations must assemble a cohesive set of technologies that allow them to create and sustain them to compete in the market.

But the way we organise and look at this vast ecosystem makes that an arduous task.

That’s why I think we need a fresh way of looking at this market space. In fact, I believe that just as we group categories that are revolutionising finance as Fintech or marketing as MarTech, we should call those technologies that are helping enterprises revolutionise the delivery of the digital experience as ExTech.

Here’s why.

The digital experience value engine

As I began to formulate this idea of a different, experientially-focused way of looking at the market, I set out to find existing frameworks that defined experience creation and management and the technologies that support it.

Other than a few vendor-developed versions, there was little in the way of defined approaches to experience management that incorporated the need for technology to enable it.

While there are some great efforts around Return on Experience (“ROX” by PwC) and Experience Level Agreements (“XLAs” by XLACollab , among others), these primarily deal with the cultural and process side of the experience lifecycle, but do not address how an organisation brings together collections of technology to execute those defined experiences.

The problem is that we cannot ignore that virtually all customer, employee and ecosystem experiences are now either digital or digitally-enabled in some way. That means that we need to address the technological elephant in the room to plot a path to sustainability in the experience economy.

And not to be hyperbolic, but this has become a existential issue due to the critical nature of the digital experience in terms of enterprise value creation. This new concept of value creation is represented in what I call the Digital Experience Value Engine.

[Click to enlarge]

DXVE

While it’s a meaty subject in its own right, the gist of it is that as customers are making purchasing decisions based on their experience, it forces a continuous cycle of business model, operating model, and management model transformation. At the same time, while the customer experience is the value-driving touchpoint, the interconnection between it and the employee and ecosystem experience is critical as they inform and reinforce each other. All of this sits on top of traditional supply chains and service models and is surrounded and supported by this broad ecosystem of technologies I’m referring to as ExTech.

It becomes apparent, therefore, that we need a way to connect all of these parts together and recognise the foundational role that technology plays in the experience lifecycle.

Why ExTech is the critical perspective we’re missing

The challenge with addressing the role of technology in the digital experience in a cohesive fashion is that there is just so much of it, with new tech players and entirely new categories of technology being added every day.

Therefore, it would seem that creating a bunch of boxes and stuffing tech vendors into them would make sense. But it doesn’t work.

There is just too much crossover and the rapidly shifting experiential demands are causing a near-constant state of evolution in the market. As a result, we end up spending way too much time continually reshaping the boxes (and coming up with evermore ridiculous names and acronyms for them) rather than being focused on the experience the tech is meant to serve.

But at the same time, pretending that all of this tech is just one big pile of “digital transformation” doesn’t work either.

While it’s true that you cannot deliver an experience or execute digital transformation without addressing things like infrastructure or development models, merely making those investments will not move the experience needle on their own.

Instead, we need a way to create a dedicated focus on those technologies that are directly involved in the experiential delivery process and that address the need for crossover and integration between its various stages and actions.

That’s the opposite of the way that the analyst community mostly sees it now and, as a result, how most enterprises currently acquire and deploy these technologies. 

But if the experience is now the linchpin of value creation, these traditional perspectives aren’t going to cut it. We need a new way of seeing this ecosystem of technologies as a unified, collective market that can evolve as enterprises find their way in the experience economy.

The ExTech landscape

All of this leads us to the need for what I’m calling the ExTech Landscape.

It’s a view of the market not in a series of analyst-defined boxes, but rather seen through the prism of the stages of the experience management lifecycle, the actions necessary to progress through each of them, and the technologies that support it.

The goal is to create a “you are here” map for enterprise leaders who recognise the criticality of the digital experience and are building their own digital experience value engines (without calling it that, of course). It will help them identify a stage of the experience lifecycle that they need to address and be able to identify both technologies that can help them address it and to see those technologies in relation to other technologies, stages, and actions that may be connected to it.

It is these leaders, what I’m calling Digital Experience Officers (or DXOs, regardless of their functional title), that are ultimately responsible for connecting the dots and building their own ecosystem in a way that enables them to create, deliver, and sustain differentiated digital experiences that will help them win in the market.

They don’t need to do feature-by-feature comparisons (in most cases) or do bake-offs. What they need is a way to orchestrate a technical ecosystem with visibility and clarity. So the landscape isn’t about rating or rankings, it’s about exposing the relationships between these stages and actions, and the technologies that support them so that DXOs can solve the problems they need to tackle.

I’m going to share my current thinking of what this landscape looks like in a moment, but before I do a few notes and caveats.

First, it’s important to recognise that this is meant to be a market landscape of the technology companies serving the experience, so there are definitely elements of experience creation and management that aren’t represented because there is no dedicated technology to support them.

Second, the process of defining this landscape will be a bit like trying to describe the state of the ocean. You can do it, but it’s going to change in about three seconds. The very nature of the experience lifecycle and the tech that supports it means that it will be in a continual state of evolution. For this reason, I’ll be updating the ExTech Landscape on a quarterly basis to try to keep things as fresh as possible.

The third point is one I’ll cover in more detail in a moment, but the idea isn’t for me to “own” the idea of ExTech in any way. In fact, I believe that I am merely describing what is already happening on its own. As such, it will be provided freely to all who want it, and I’d like to invite you to help shape it as it evolves over time. Again, more on this in a moment.

Ok, with all the caveats out of the way, here is how I currently see the ExTech Landscape (without vendor names):

[Click to enlarge]

ExTech landscape

I’m realising that the process of defining this landscape will take some time, so I won’t be releasing the first version of the ExTech Landscape Report until late this year. But when I do, it will be interactive, identify the tech companies supporting each stage and action, and be accompanied by a free analysis of the current state and trends driving the ExTech market.

And, I’m sure you already see something that seems off. So, let me have it! Which brings us to the final page of this opening chapter in the ExTech story: an invitation.

Next steps & getting involved

As I mentioned, I believe the idea of the ExTech market is something that is already happening on its own. We are seeing an explosion of companies crossing over into adjacent spaces to try to help their clients better meet experiential demands. And we’re seeing those same companies reach out and connect into this ecosystem to make things work more smoothly and seamlessly for everyone.

My hope is that by giving it a name and a structure, we can create a frame of reference we can all share.

Which leads to my invitation. I would like to invite you to both use this framework and to help shape our shared understanding of the ExTech market as we move forward. Up for it?

If so, here’s how you can join in.

If you’re an enterprise executive, join the DXO Council. The Council is a free, non-commercial community and sort of ‘think tank’ of enterprise executives across the functional spectrum. Current members include enterprise CEOs, CTOs, CIOs, Chief Architects, and other business executives. While this on-the-ground community is just getting started, it will be providing high-level guidance and interacting among its members as we define the ExTech market.

If you’re a tech company and believe that you’re part of the ExTech market, say so. Use the language and adopt the term. More importantly, help shape and evolve the stages and actions of the framework by how you talk about the space — and commit to the digital experience in your messaging and go-to-market efforts.

And if you’re one of my fellow analysts, run with it. I’d love to see and debate your own take on the ExTech market. If we can somehow manage to stop fighting over category names and focus on helping enterprises build their value engine and the technology ecosystems that power them, our entire community of vendors, analysts, and enterprises will win.

Most importantly, no matter who you are, consider this the beginning of a conversation — not the final word on anything. Speak up, share your ideas, make this your own and help shape a future in which the experience is better for us all.

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