Vendor Spotlight: Widen Reviewed by Laura Myers
The story of Widen Enterprises is a lesson in adaptation. Since 1948, the company has kept up with the evolution of media in its many roles and delivery methods, to now be in the digital arena, offering a cloud-based DAM solution, among other things.
What peaked my interest most about their offerings, however, was their partnership and integration with Sitecore to develop what is being called the Widen Sitecore Connector, released in April of this year.
Ascedia, a digital marketing agency that shares their home state of Wisconsin with Widen, facilitated the integration. I was fortunate enough to speak with Brent Kaufman, Director of Client Strategy at Ascedia, to pick his brain about the connector as well as what it means for the market of customer experience management.
My first question was about Ascedia’s role in the creation of the Widen Sitecore Connector and how the original idea came about. It all started with a joint client of both Widen and Ascedia and the custom connector they had worked together to create in a special circumstance. Afterward, though, Widen noticed the circumstance wasn’t so special, rather, it was a market gap now glaringly obvious and one they wanted to do something about.
They approached Ascedia, and drew on their Sitecore certified development expertise to develop the licensed version, iron out an onboarding process and support SLA. Both companies have a strong stake in the utmost support of their clients, so Widen elected themselves as the first support tier, with Ascedia following up as the second. The service model offered is one of the true differentiating features from other integrations of its kind, echoing the friendly Midwest personas both companies share.
Overall, they allow marketers to harness the power of a DAM paired with Sitecore’s powerful personalization and automation capabilities, but with the launch of Sitecore XP 8.2 in September I was curious to hear how that may have affected the integration. This is what Brent had to say:
“The impact might be during implementation and setup, perhaps in the personalization design. It's adding a lot of efficiency and value for users to not have to be switching back and forth between systems, and spend brain power on which images are the right images and then bringing them in.”
Not having to worry as much about assets is one of the most appealing factors to me personally. The Connector uses automated overwrite protection to make sure whichever asset is the most current in the media library, will be the one that is published. I would still do a sweep to ensure the correct asset is in its place, but I am sure over time my trust in the automation would grow.
Also, as a marketer my choices are very data-driven, which I am sure is nothing unique. I was happy to see this addressed by allowing marketers the use of embed codes to collect data and analytics on reach, geolocation, views, downloads, social shares, average video plays and more. However, if I were debating a buy-in, I would definitely be looking for more information on this feature especially in terms of exactly how the coding would work. I don’t think teams should work in silos, but I would want to know how empowered I would be to work alone with this feature and what the time stamp would be on the involvement of the IT team.
Beyond that, I was also curious to hear Brent’s thoughts on how partnerships like this would affect the Customer Experience Market moving forward, as it seems to be a growing trend in the CMS industry. “In the digital space in general successful platform integrations have become increasingly important. For agency/consulting partners and the platforms themselves, smooth, proven integrations are critical to providing clients and prospect what they need and expect.”
He went on to explain how we will continue to see this appetite for automation and efficiency increase, and platforms may come to realize sooner than later that it may be best to integrate best-in-breed functionality rather than invest in what may be ‘band-aid’ solutions to keep up with what others are offering and satiate the need. It may be more work and time up-front but he thinks the payoff will start to roll in faster.
Another area Brent feels is crucial to the success of partnerships like this is in the marketing. More effort needs to go into the rollout to thoroughly and quickly caption the value proposition and highlight the benefits to clients and their organizations. Clients will, and should want to know, the clearly defined roles within the partnership so it is the job of the marketing teams to join forces to explain.
As things wrapped up with Brent, I asked a separate question regarding his predictions for our industry in 2017. With his wealth of knowledge and experience in the space, he had some very interesting things to say:
“We’re going to see more Cloud. I’m doing more research and reading on that, I think the cloud might have some benefits but I think we need to be careful as there might be some drawbacks. The another thing is data, that may be old news for 2017 but people are starting to really figure out how to dashboard what’s important to their organization from all the data that’s available”
All in all, my impression of Widen was one of a company that not only offers a DAM solution but is innovating ways to take their solution into new realms and offer a full-service, rounded out approach to solving the needs of their clients.
As for the CXM market, all signs are pointing to more and more integrations occurring between different organizations to match the increasing demand for higher and higher levels of customer experience. While I find it exciting, it could bring about a whole new thought process surrounding where one company ends and another begins, which is where the clearly defined roles I mentioned previously really need to come into play.
As always, CMS-Connected will keep our ear to the ground so we can share all of the breaking news of this kind and more, as it is churned out in the industry.