The Challenges Of Composable DXP

Mike Edwards - Technical Director

10 Mar 2023

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We have spoken a lot about the benefits of a composable architecture when building you digital experience platform (DXP), but it can’t be all shining lights and music. Today I want to talk about some of the challenges and decisions you will need to make when moving to a CDXP. 

What tools do you need? 

Before the move to CDXP it was easier to decide what tools were available to you because you generally bought a single large Swiss army knife of a product that offered everything in a single package. It would do digital asset  management, it was a light weight customer data platform, it managed personalisation, and it managed customer authentication. You might have not used all these tools, but you knew they were there, and they gave some guide to decisions that need to be made. 

With the move to CDXP you no longer just get what is in the box, you need to decide what tools you put into the box. This means that you will need to think about what tools you actually need, rather than what tools are supplied. This has benefits, you only pay for what you actually use, but it creates challenges in what tools do you actually pick. 

Which nicely brings me on to…… 

What tools to pick? 

Like a kid in a candy store with 100’s of sweets, it can be a bit overwhelming. The market is full of different SaaS (software as a service) options, it just isn’t possible to assess and test all of them.  

You will need a way to filter through the noise and find the tools that are right for you. The easiest place to start with this filter is just to have a firm idea of what tools you need. If you don’t think you will use personalisation at this point, remove it from the list, you can it later; Not interested ready for a CDP, gone. 

Once you have filtered what you need down to a core set of tools you can start detailing the features you want from these systems. This will, however still leave you with a lot of choice, there are 100’s of different headless CMS, DAMs, CPDs options available. This is where the leg work gets put in, start by finding 5 products you like the look of for each tool and start to compare features. This where agencies like ourselves can help, we have played with many tools can share our opinions on the pro’s and con’s of different platforms. 

Additionally, most SaaS tools have a free signup and trial period. Unlike the traditional monolithic systems that required a week to setup and had to be demoed by a member of the vendor’s sales teams, most SaaS tools allow you to start playing with them in 5 minutes. Do this, don’t be afraid that they have your email address, they generally won’t bombard you with sales calls.  

Also remember that with a CDXP you don’t need to by all the tools now. Buy only what you need, you can always add more tools later. 

As you are choosing your tools you need to think about our next challenge…. 

Do These Tools Play Nicely Together? 

This is probably my biggest question when looking at different parts of a CDXP, how do these tools work together? An advantage of the monolith from a single provider is that the tools they provide will (in general) play nicely together. The vendor will spend time ensuring that moving from one part of the system to another is seamless and that data is presented in the best place for you as a user. 

With a CDXP this is a difficult challenge because you are taking services from a lot of different vendors.  

When you assess the different tools in your CDXP try to find out the integrations they have with other vendors. For example, does the CMS platform have an integration with your preferred DAM vendor or vice versa, how easy is it to integrate your CDP with your personalisation engine? 

Again, this is not an easy answer and will often require you to reach out to the vendor’s sales department to get answers. 

There are also SaaS services out there that attempt to tackle this problem by providing out of the box integration services between these different services. By acting as a layer that sits on top of these tools, they hope to make it easier to bring data and information together and build solutions quicker. 

The Learning Curve

Another challenge with a CDXP is the learning curve. You will now have a variety of different tools that your marketing, content and other business teams will need to use. 

For some this might reduce what they need to know. Maybe, now they only need to access the ecommerce service and never need to understand or interact with the CMS. For others the learning curve will be steep because they are now having to understand multiple different systems supplied by multiple different vendors. 

This extra learning will be worth it because normally the tools you are buying a much more powerful than the tools you had before. 

Business Logic

So, you have all your tools but where does the business logic go? By this I mean the rules that say for example, when a user registers you need to create an account in the IDP, add a record the CDP and send an email to Dave in accounts. Business logic turns your choosen services into something that provides value. 

In a traditional monolith this would have been put on the server that hosted the platform. With a CDXP you don’t have this as an option, there is no single server to host it.  

To solve this you have many options, you could opt for a low code/no code solution or create your own headless APIs and host them on Azure or AWS.  

This is one of those questions where some technical expertise is needed to help you make the right decision. There are trade-offs on time to market vs long term supportability that needs to be considered.  

You will also need a development team that understands security, state-management and common architectural practices of building APIs to server headless systems. Reach out to Konabos, we are can help you design this. 

Calculating Cost 

The great thing about the CDXP space is that most vendors have transparent pricing on their website. The SaaS tools are designed to be self service and not telling you how much it will cost impedes on that ability for you to self-server. 

You can quickly get out an excel spreadsheet, list the tools you want to use, their yearly cost and get a rough cost.  

Remember that this cost is just for the services that they offer, you will still need to add on costs for building your solution, testing and hosting. 

In Summary 

Moving to a CDXP solution brings lots of benefits in terms of reducing costs, improved product quality and flexibility. 

It can be, however, complicated and at the start of the project you will likely need to make more decisions and think more deeply about what you need your solution to do, what tools it will use and what it will deliver. 

If you have any questions about CDXP or this article then please reach out the Konabos team, we are always more than happy to help. 

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Mike Edwards

With 18 years of IT development experience, Mike has worked across government, not for profit, and commercial sectors. He has delivered large-scale multinational websites, desktop and mobile applications, and mission-critical health apps. He works closely with the client and delivery teams to ensure that projects deliver business benefits and not just a technical solution.

Mike is a nine-time Sitecore MVP and is the founder of the very popular Glass.Mapper.Sc ORM, which has over 1 million downloads.

Outside of work, Mike can be found exploring the British countryside, riding his motorbike, and learning the piano.

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