Industry Insights

DXP In the New Hybrid Workplace

New Habits are Hard to Break

The new trends for digital work and life set in place during 2020 look to be here to stay. Productivity increases and cost savings have prompted employers to rethink the workplace, while most workers appreciate the flexibility that remote work provides. 

At the same time, we have found new and creative ways to deliver products and services. With hopeful predictions of a return to a relative normal later in 2021, we will likely find widespread adoption of a hybrid workplace. Optimistically, we will pick and choose the best of all worlds. One thing is for certain; this new workplace will rely heavily on digital experiences and the digital experience platforms that make this possible.

Digital Experience Sets the Stage

Research and advisory company Gartner defines a digital experience platform (DXP) as “an integrated set of core technologies that support the composition, management, delivery, and optimization of contextualized digital experiences.” 

Let’s illustrate this definition with an example. Consider how you now use your mobile phone as a work tool. As mobile capabilities have evolved, your interaction with your mobile device can accurately be described as a digital experience. The platform that facilitated the evolution of your interaction with this device beyond voice communication to what is now a web, social media, email, work collaboration, and portal experience is a digital experience platform.

This example is simplified, of course. In truth, your mobile device represents just one means by which you consume content from a myriad of digital sources – DXPs and others. But it’s a salient example because, with the connectivity provided by smartphones, mobile work became not just possible but pervasive. 

As expectations changed, DXPs had to address the pervasiveness of mobile technology as part of our daily work. These devices impacted not just how we communicated but where and when we could be available. As personal devices became commonplace, security and reporting processes adjusted to exploit their presence. The way we execute a secure login or mark a task as completed usually assumes everyone’s access to a mobile device, and the processes are improved. If you’ve ever been forced to work a full day separated from your smartphone or tablet, you probably felt not just limited but even isolated.

It Takes Time to Become Dependent 

That dependence did not happen overnight. Each new technology promises a paradigm shift, but usually, the actual adoption happens in little steps and casual strides as early adopters evangelize the majority, and the laggards are dragged reluctantly into a new way of doing things. We are seeing this predictable pattern with IoT and smart speakers right now. This acceptance will only accelerate as other capabilities provided by AI, Edge Computing, and 5G become commonplace.

Push Comes to Shove — Digitally-Speaking

As said previously, we generally adopt technology in little steps and casual strides. But every now and then, we get a push from behind that causes us to spring forward, staggering to catch our balance but ultimately landing further ahead sooner than we imagined.

This is what we are experiencing now with the necessity of remote work. Prior to 2020, we were already moving in this direction. Outsourcing and the gig economy were already changing the fabric of work teams. Mobile applications and cloud-based storage were revolutionizing the way we assigned tasks, communicated, shared assets, and reported results. We were moving forward step by step. Then the global pandemic gave us a big shove.

This doesn’t seem temporary. All signs indicate a new way of working is in process. It probably will not be exactly what we expect, but it certainly won’t return to the way it was.

Maybe We Shouldn’t be Surprised

Even if you personally move back to a traditional office setting, trends indicate that some significant number of your coworkers will be working remotely at least some of the time. Today, even if it is not your preferred modality, many display a level of comfort with remote work they would not have expected a few years ago. Some recent studies confirm this. 

  • According to a 2020 Gartner Press Release,  “In fact, 74% of CFOs intend to increase remote work at their organization after the outbreak.” 
  • In a September–October 2020 remote workforce survey of 500 executives, Capgemini reported, “Around three in ten organizations expect more than 70% of their employees working remotely in the next two to three years.”
  • That same Capgemini survey reported, “Employee productivity grew at 63% of organizations during the third quarter of 2020 thanks to less commuting time, flexible work schedules and the adoption of effective virtual collaboration tools.”

Much of the data we see points to the positive acceptance of remote work and the evidence of increased productivity, but reality demands we recognize this came with challenges, and what follows is clearly not an exhaustive list:

Challenges for Workers

Homes were not designed to be workplaces, and for many, the conflicting priorities of home life and work-life create incredible stress. Furthermore, not everyone is wired for remote work, which the pandemic proved out. When working remotely, some workers experience symptoms of burnout due to a lack of physical barriers between work-life and home life. Others feel a sense of isolation that cannot be remedied with conference calls alone. For these reasons and many others, it is likely a hybrid model will prevail.

Challenges for Managers

Management challenges have emerged as well, as supervisors find they need to adopt new methods to empower and coach employees while supervising workers they can’t physically see on a daily basis.

Measurement seems to be the biggest cause for concern, but a benefit of a DXP-driven portal is one of easy productivity tracking with the right technology in place.

Surmountable Challenges

For workers, the hybrid workplace will provide flexibility for those who want it, while the applications that make “work from home” possible will streamline processes in the office. Intranets will naturally evolve into CMS-driven portals that connect backend systems and provide digital workspaces that workers can access from anywhere.

Employer benefits will include cost savings with smaller facilities to maintain, a larger pool of workers from which to hire, and continued higher employee productivity. Some management practices will have to be adjusted, but success will be measured by quantifiable objectives rather than hours in a cubicle. 

It won’t be painless, but given the benefits for both the employer and employee, there will be great motivation toward addressing these challenges. Likely a hybrid workplace model will be a common element of many creative solutions.

New Workspaces Will be Digital

It’s not difficult to imagine a connected work environment where every conference room must have teleconferencing capabilities and where digital portals take the place of physical workspaces. We will want this so that collaboration can be consistent, self-service can be accessible, and data collection can be automated and centralized, regardless of physical location. As we meet with others in this hybrid workspace, the traditional office will effectively become just another remote location.

Supporting this fluidity between home and office, business tools and applications will have to be secure, accessible, and agnostic to the work modality and the devices being used. Storage will be cloud-based and scalable. Processes, applications, and even workplaces (physical and virtual) will be modular. A modular strategy ensures that each of these can be constructed and reconstructed to best fit the current need.

A digital project with this level of resilience and flexibility is said to be “composable,” and composability, in this parlance, can be applied to business principles, architecture, content strategy, and digital experience.

The Composable Business

Although not new, the concept of composability as an approach to digital transformation seems to be getting more attention recently. Business solutions require technological innovation, but as is often the case, the technology is not the only thing needing to be transformed – people and processes are part of the equation in any digital transformation. This applies to the concept of composability as well.

The organizations that thrived in 2020 did so because they were digitally mature and anticipated disruption, even though they couldn’t know what form that disruption would take. Rather than drawing back investment and retreating into survival mode, these companies sought out opportunities in the midst of the storm.

Access to information and applications after a sudden leap to remote work made the difference between a business that could be nimble and adaptable and one that would struggle and might ultimately fail.

DXPs will Support Composability

A modern digital experience platform certainly helped many of the successful companies make that transition to remote work. Moving forward, we can expect innovation in digital experience to live front and center in the hybrid workplace. 

Recent communications offer helpful principles and guidelines for DXP developers and the businesses that depend on the technology.

In an October 2020 Keynote Address for Gartner, four principles of a composable business were described:

  • “More speed through discovery.” Reaction time is reduced if the need for change is discovered ahead of the disruption.
  • “Greater agility through modularity.” Modularization accelerates development through the utilization of reusable building blocks of code.
  • “Better leadership through orchestration.” Orchestration describes business initiatives where business functions are coordinated to derive desired outcomes.
  • “Resilience through autonomy.” Applying the same modular philosophy, autonomous business units allow for the most creative responses as they can perform singularly or in concert with other modular business units.

In other words, there is a primary technical application for these principles, but there is also an embedded business philosophy that provides continuity throughout any organization that applies them.

Composable business starts with three building blocks:

  • "Composable Thinking," which ensures creative thinking is never lost
  • "Composable Business Architecture," which ensures 'flexibility and resiliency'; and
  • "Composable Technologies,” which are the tools for today and tomorrow

Integration will Prevail with a Composable Strategy

The composable approach favors an integration strategy, allowing customers to choose the best options for such things as email and commerce as opposed to simply accepting the bundled offering of your vendor’s platform. With it, even such things as analytics, search, and personalization can be integrations.

There is much, much more to this strategy and more detail Gartner offers in this report that I cannot adequately summarize here. I recommend you read their entire report for yourself as you consider the practical applications that will be unique to your business.

For certain, you will be convinced the monolithic, single-unified approach to digital experience is no longer adequate to future-proof your business or to foster the agility and flexibility needed to compete in the increasingly digital marketplace.

Finally — To Get Started

The transformation to a modern DXP in this new world of work will be an iterative process achieved by degrees. If you are currently hindered by a monolithic platform, your first essential step is the adoption of a digital experience platform that offers a robust API together with headless capabilities, hundreds of integration options, and a mature support community.

Again, the process is step by step, but this just may be one of those times you have an opportunity to leap forward.

J.D. Little

J.D. Little

J.D. Little is a Senior CMS Market Strategist at Progress Software, a creative communicator, an educator, and an advocate for change. Beginning his career in traditional media technology, he has been helping business leaders navigate the waves of disruptive innovation for more than 25 years.

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