Darren Guarnaccia of Crownpeak on Simplifying CX
We're at an exciting time within WCM. What used to be the "suite wars" or "features arms race" has now shifted to a simplification in approach. Which makes perfect sense, once a trend takes hold it becomes commonplace and soon the exotic or different becomes more appealing. All the momentum of a pendulum in one direction then swings back the other way. This topic is what drove my recent conversation with Darren Guarnaccia, the new Chief Product Officer at Crownpeak.
Having a long history in the software space, when I heard he had recently joined the team over at Crownpeak I was excited to discuss what he was hoping to bring to the team given his more than 15 years in the space in various product and marketing roles. Below is our conversation on his new role, the change he hopes to drive within the platform strategy, his opinion on what the current needs of the WCM market are and the obstacles all this complexity has put in front of marketing and IT teams.
Having interviewed Crownpeak in July on the difference between Cloud and SaaS I knew they had a unique expertise on the topic and I was interested to find this was a defining characteristic for them in Darren’s eyes as well. "I have been doing web content management for about 15 years and over the last probably 10 years I've been feeling increasingly frustrated by the lack of web content management vendors getting into the cloud seriously.” He then added “Crownpeak, when they approached me, I saw that they had a SaaS offering that did silent upgrades and you weren't planning 6-month projects to just upgrade from point this to point that. That seemed like a real disruptor in the industry when every other vendor is calling themselves cloud but they're just living in a virtual machine in someone else's cloud like Amazon.”
Upgrades have long been a pain point for both customers and partners and the ease SaaS platforms bring to the matter is just one area of simplification we're seeing. In my previous interview with Crownpeak, it was all brought into perspective by using true SaaS platforms like Gmail, Facebook or Instagram as examples of the absence of the need to schedule or pay for upgrades. Upgrades within SaaS platforms should be so seamless, if you feel any friction to do with them at all, former CTO at Crownpeak Adrian Newby stated “you really haven’t achieved anything at all and you haven’t really got the benefits you were hoping for when you built the business case and sold the idea of moving to the Cloud to your boss.”
The Opportunity for Crownpeak to Simplify
The “arms race of features” Darren mentions and even partially takes the blame for in our interview created such complex systems few users can utilize these systems in their entirety, limiting the ROI they can achieve from their technology investment. We’re now seeing a scaling back of features and more attention being paid by vendors to ensuring they excel at their core competencies and all of their features work well together rather than just impress in number and not in ability as we've seen before.
Darren sees a potential for Crownpeak to change this perception: “What happens in every industry and what happened in the word processing market way back when, these products became so heavy, so complicated that no one was using more than like 5% of them and I think there's an opportunity in the market to simplify the products, to streamline the offerings so instead of chasing the shiny object and cramming one more feature in that no one is going to use, we’re going to focus in simplicity, we're going to focus on less complexity, more simple, still enterprise grade but really making the stuff usable, easy to use and really helping you get your job done in the jobs to be done kind of way.”
CX is About Earning the Right
The expectations of customer experience have no doubt drastically changed in the 15 years Darren has been in the space but the common theme that he sees now is very much the drive for every vendor to simplify the process of creating a great customer experience. I asked Darren, from his vantage point, where does he think the next significant CX shift will take place?
As far as the roles of AI and machine learning, he thinks they’re more of a distraction while we’re still in the early stages of their potential but he views voice as the channel that will get most interesting shortly. The event however that he sees having the most impact, is the entrance of more pervasive and stringent privacy laws like the GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act. These have created a CX economy that is more about earning the right to engage with customers, versus the expectation of open engagement across the board no matter the method. "Customers can say no now so we as brands, as enterprises, we have to find ways to get them to say yes and so that's an earning the right kind of moment and I think customer experience is going to evolve into how do I earn that right? What do I do that's good for you as a customer that will earn the right for you to say yes?"
The key here will be content and the removal of friction all driven by the desire to simplify a customer’s life through various channels and technologies “Again, almost the simplification to the customer experience, can I take friction out of your experience, can I do things that you want, can I help you achieve your jobs to be done as a customer in a way that is less friction, higher value and ultimately it's about doing what's right by the customer to earn trust. All of those things is the big shift and if voice helps us with that, great. If AI helps us with that, awesome but I don’t think it's about the technology, I think it's about you know, solving the customer problem and what they're trying to do.”
The 3 Complexities Holding CX Back
Unfortunately, amidst all the technology at our fingertips, the basics of useful customer connection and engagement can get lost so it's advisable for brands to understand and address the complexities that are standing in their way. In our interview, Darren breaks down three common complexities brands can start with.
First, there is a technology complexity which from his explanation on how to solve it, has to do with a difficulty for organizations to effectively use the technology they have on hand: “you can solve that through automating certain tasks, through integrations and making things easier to deploy and making things happen faster, being able to iterate more and quickly.”
Next, he mentions process complexity which can be evident in some of the more significant technologies that have grown through acquisitions more than grassroots development and these disparate applications not always coming together as a whole: "Most of these technologies have been sort of grown up in their sort of silo and then either Adobe bought a bunch of stuff or Oracle bought a bunch of stuff but they haven't really integrated it. So there's a lot of pain and misery in trying to stitch this stuff together in a process-centric way."
Finally, we have regulatory complexity, which isn’t new however many are feeling the heat now more than ever. As Darren mentioned above, there is much more involved now in managing customer experience efforts in the face of new rules around compliance but along those same lines comes web accessibility laws and best practices. For more on that, check out my interview with Crownpeak’s VP of Marketing, Stewart Maurer.
The complexities that marketing and IT teams are facing when it comes to delivering on customer experience aren’t all going to go away, but tackling them systematically will help. Also knowing the shift in how WCM vendors are developing their platforms to be more streamlined and less complex is a huge step in the right direction.
I am hopeful as the pendulum swings over to a more simplistic approach it will stay there a while. I’d hate to think in 3-5 years that idea will get tired and we will see a shift back to a laundry list of features. I think what’s more likely is the list of features will become a list of technologies as best-of-breed becomes more prevalent.