The Role Of IT In The Experience Era

How the CIO will determine if a company is an experience business.

Great experiences are universal. They’re the common foundation that modern companies must provide in order to thrive.

People buy experiences. Not products. 

They care about how you make them feel. They buy music that makes them feel 21 again. Or a car that makes them feel safe and secure. So if your brand wants customer loyalty, it starts by making the experience an integral part of your business. Part of product development. Your culture. How you make decisions at all levels. Everything. It’s not just having a good customer experience. It means the experience comes first. This is what it takes to become an Experience Business.


The digital transformation of IT.

Digital transformation has affected most departments in most organizations. And while a great deal of focus and news has been targeted at the marketing department, IT has played a huge role in making it happen.

With the advent of SaaS, many departments and line of business leaders were able to purchase and manage their own tech. But that didn’t remove IT from the equation. The IT department has always been charged with maintaining security and connecting all technology together so that the company as a whole is an efficient machine. SaaS actually helped IT break free from some of the drudgery of infrastructure management to focus more effort on high-value strategic initiatives.

As we move into the experience era and need more technology to connect customer data and deliver great experiences, the role of IT is even more important. Without the right platform and foundation, great customer experiences won’t happen.

IT has a horizontal position that involves interaction across the entire company. This gives them an important role in building the foundation for an experience business. As the business transforms, they have a universal view of all technology and can ensure that all systems are connected and working together. IT also has a solid historical perspective. They know what has worked and what hasn’t, and this bridge from the past is vital to understanding the clearest path to a successful digital transformation.

For digital transformation to work, it’s important for IT to become partners with both marketing and digital teams. If all sides aren’t working together toward the goal of making experiences the top priority, systems can splinter and cause disruptions in the plan. In order to deliver the right experience to a customer at the right moment, all data systems need to be integrated — from customer profiles and web transactions to enterprise data.

This idea of integration and cooperation between IT and marketing teams isn’t just a nice story. Truth be told, deciding which tech to use is the easy part. It’s creating an ongoing process that’s hard. When the teams aren’t aligned, the process can become a nightmare. And the best way to resolve and avoid conflict is collaboration.


The CIO makes the experience.

Every business is structured in a different way. Depending on the geography and digital maturity of the company, the roles between IT, marketing, and digital teams can vary. For example, in a more traditional structure, IT and marketing may play equal but separate roles, where IT is limited to technical requirements. As a company becomes more digitally mature, that relationship increases so that IT and marketing collaborate as partners on new technology solutions.

And as some companies digitize, both IT and marketing may play smaller roles to an emerging digital department that becomes more dominant. In this model, traditional ¬¬¬marketing and IT roles merge into a single digital team that handles both technical decisions and marketing vision in an effort to be more agile and innovative.

Regardless of the structure, digital maturity, or regional dynamics of any particular company, the CIO plays a critical role in building the experience business.

The modern CIO has a broad business background that includes both IT know-how and a firm grasp on business goals and processes. They know how to apply tech decisions in a way that can help the entire business, not just to make life easier for specific teams. This role comes with many process and political issues, but today’s CIOs are ready for the challenge.

Digital transformation comes with security and privacy risks, but that’s nothing new for a CIO. They deal with compliance and security constantly. What keeps them up at night is finding a way to stay ahead of the technology curve. As leaders, they need to understand all implications of how each tech decision will push the business forward without causing more issues on the back end.

They also need to partner with other execs and departments. A common vision of focusing everything on the experience will only happen if all leaders from the top down believe in it. Departments like marketing and IT may have equal but separate powers, and the CIO knows that the only way to succeed is to modernize your own team and be prepared to reach across the chasm to embrace other departments. Involving both sides early and often through open collaboration is the best way to get the most experience value from technology investments.


The CIO's new best friend.

If the goal is a universal system, then the answer is also universal. IT wants an inclusive infrastructure that allows plenty of flexibility. They need a platform in place that can adjust for new directions in strategy or if leadership goals change.

A universal platform like this is the ideal dream for IT. Something that can integrate all data systems across the enterprise, from web and social data to third-party and content data — all centered around a specific audience. IT also wants to own the data models and transactions in order to maintain that consistent horizontal perspective of the entire business.

Here at Adobe, we're building such a platform. Adobe Experience Platform is a modern system designed for today's Experience Business. It acts as a central hub with all the necessary components for IT to maintain what we introduced at Adobe Summit 2018 as the Experience System of Record.

An Experience System of Record has an integrated data pipeline, where you can gather and process data from all sources, unifying everything into a single customer profile. It gives IT the control to manage data security and semantics, so there's a common language across the entire system. And it's built for machine learning, so IT has the proper environment to enrich, augment, and automate a unified profile. This means your company can instantly take action, creating amazing content and workflows for individual audiences.

All of this makes it easier for IT to manage the historically manual processes of their jobs. Like integrating data sources, connecting point solutions, and federating data. With a universal system, much of the manual labor is automated, allowing IT to focus on future needs rather than reacting to integration problems. Which makes the Experience System of Record IT's new best friend.

Knowing the benefits of an Experience System of Record and the critical role IT will play in establishing it, it's important to understand the technical implications. The following sections address these issues for IT professionals specifically, offering answers to common questions and more detail about how the Experience System of Record works.


How an Experience System of Record works.

An Experience System of Record is all about having a single version of the truth. As a shared architecture, all experience data comes together on Adobe Experience Platform. It's a multi-tenant, big-data stack where everything is located in one spot, so there's no loss from data movement or multiple copies of the data. All capabilities are micro-services that use APIs to connect with other enterprise data lakes. It's all built to create personalized experiences in real time.

An Experience System of Record includes three key functions — data, a unified profile, and content.

Data.

Data is at the core of Adobe Experience Platform. And we're not just talking about the low-hanging fruit of CRM or ERP. You need a system that can unify all types of data, from first- to third-party and every platform in between.

All the data that's collected through Adobe solutions, including Adobe Analytics Cloud, Adobe Marketing Cloud, and Adobe Advertising Cloud applications, flows into Adobe Experience Platform. This data is curated and organized into Experience Data Models (XDM) that provide open, standardized schemas for all experience data. This offers an immediate understanding of cross-channel experiences for an ecosystem of insights and services.

Developers and data scientists can also bring their unique and private data into Adobe Experience Platform through a rich set of connectors. This data is cleansed, prepped, and transformed into XDMs. You can also connect data integration tools like Informatica, SnapLogic, TMMData, Unifi Software, and Apache Spark.

Adobe Experience Platform was also built with data governance in mind. It offers a robust framework that you can use to manage compliance with regulations such as GDPR, usage restrictions, and policies controlling the management of your data. With Adobe Experience Platform, you can better catalog and categorize your data and respond to data usage requirements or limitations. And with an open architecture, you can easily add data governance into your own integrations, building on top of the platform. Which means you can use the right data for better experiences, while meeting compliance needs.

Read more about data ›

Unified profile.

Just using a small data set and calling it a profile isn't enough. An Experience Business uses the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to enrich, augment, and unify every scrap of data to create a dynamic experience for each customer. To do this at scale, we need easy access to complete information about each customer. This holistic view of customer information is provided in Adobe Experience Platform as a unified profile, called the Experience Cloud Profile. This unified profile includes CRM data, e-commerce transactions, offline transactions, loyalty program data, behavioral data from mobile, web or emails, and social interaction data.

In order to unify all data, we need a common standard for all customer records. This requires a variety of processes, including de-duplication, data merging, survivorship, and cookie-matching techniques. We also integrate identities from mobile and IoT with matching algorithms, creating an interconnected identity graph. Then we optimize access to all this data with a well-crafted data, storage, and access model that allows rich customer segmentation.

Using artificial intelligence and machine learning for predictions and insights to help personalize your customer experiences is table stakes. But getting from data to insights can come at a high cost. It typically takes skilled data scientists who conduct time-consuming data exploration, along with engineers who develop machine-learning models. The process is lengthy, the technology is complex, and skilled experts are hard to find.

Adobe's XDM does the heavy lifting by providing curated data, from CRM to marketing and support, for the entire customer experience through APIs. In addition, Adobe Experience Platform comes with a framework for authoring, managing, and consuming pre-built and custom-developed intelligent services. These machine learning services give you real-time engagement with consumers based on an ever-evolving Experience System of Record. Which means people of all skill levels in your company can find insights faster and deliver more relevant customer experiences.

Read more about a unified profile ›

Content.

Without amazing content, you'll never create amazing customer experiences. Great experiences are informed by data and are eventually paid off with content. And while content is mostly created and distributed by customer-facing departments, it still needs to pass through the Experience System of Record.

This means it's important to have a platform that has a robust content workflow in order to manage how content is accessed and used. An Experience System of Record will give you an accelerated content pipeline that can handle the exploding number of assets and content in countless variations.

Machine learning plays a part in this workflow in order to help create content velocity, by automating and streamlining many of the manual actions related to content creation. This includes processes like auto-tagging, auto-cropping, image recognition, and video discoverability. Content may not seem to require as much technical help from the IT department, but establishing the right platform will go a long way in creating great experiences.


Giving IT a clear path forward.

Building the right experience at the right time on any channel is critical to compete in the experience era. Businesses need a universal platform with curated data, APIs, and machine learning services, designed with the experience business in mind. And IT is perfectly positioned across the company to make sure the right system is in place to make it all happen.

The good news is that there's finally a precedent for CIOs to follow. A platform purpose built for creating amazing customer experiences, where data, content, and insights are readily available — Adobe Experience Platform.

Your enterprise doesn't have to travel this new path alone. We've developed a personal guide to help companies along the journey. Adobe Experience League is an enablement platform that includes AI-guided learning, one-to-one expert support, and access to a thriving community of fellow professionals. Another great tool for business leaders to understand how their company is doing in terms of creating experiences is our Experience Index survey. It offers research and learning to know which types of experiences are resonating with customers and measures how brands are doing in meeting those customer expectations.

Becoming an Experience Business is critical. And IT plays a critical role in establishing a universal platform. Specifically, CIOs understand both technical and business goals and are in the ideal position to help drive the digital transition into an experience business. Regardless of your organizational structure, IT needs to partner with other departments in order to build an Experience System of Record. With this universal system in place, you can bring together all data, a unified profile, and content, so that your business can deliver amazing customer experiences. Because at the end of the day, your customer experiences are going to be the differentiator that sets your business apart and will help you reach success.


"Customers 2020: A Progress Report," Walker information, 2013.

Up Next

Insights from Adobe

For IT Decision Makers, Data Security And AI Are Top Priorities

Research

4 Consumer Trends That Are Revolutionizing Content Consumption

From the Blog

Dig Deeper