Experts Agree on What Goes into Creating the Best Digital Experience

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The digital era is in full swing, turbo-charged by the dramatic shifts in business and lifestyle wrought by the response to COVID-19. While the customer was king before the pandemic, they now extend their reign over all things digital. The impact on IT and development teams is profound — it’s estimated there was 10 years of e-commerce growth in three months during the COVID-19 pandemic. Teams must continually strive to innovate, looking to create that perfect digital experience for customers. Performance and security are also key, as expectations are sky-high for reliable and secure experiences.

We reached out to technology influencers and experts to explore some of the challenges, options, and strategies aimed at providing those experiences. We asked leaders across IT, DevOps and Security, “What are the success factors to continually innovate to create (and improve) digital experiences for customers, optimize app and site performance, and protect customers and their data?”

The Data Advantage

Things are moving fast in today’s business environment. Organizations must leverage all their data to create the best customer interactions, ensure the highest performance and secure every touchpoint.

“The key to all of these things is to get really good data, “ says Ben Rothke, Senior Information Security Manager at Tapad. “To create an excellent digital experience for customers, you have to know in detail every aspect of what a customer wants. For app optimization, you also have to know how the user will be accessing the app, device constraints, bandwidth issues.”

Harnessing all data across IT, DevOps and Security can help to improve digital experiences and get actionable insights to satisfy customers.

“Because customer preferences are constantly changing, sometimes faster than companies can handle, an organization's ability to address the complexity of managing apps, security and compliance, and data governance is foundational to creating remarkable digital experiences for customers and employees.” So says Gene De Libero, Chief Strategy Officer, Geekhive.

It’s important too to keep the prime directive — better business outcomes — front and center.

“Business leaders must target business impacts, innovation, and empowering people to leverage data and analytics,” says Isaac Sacolick, CIO of StarCIO. “This should set the goals and priorities, but it's key for leaders to shift-left the work to automate testing, enable cloud infrastructure automation, address technical debt, and improve security as part of the implementation efforts.”

Our experts cited specific technologies that can be brought to bear in the quest for world-class digital experiences — things like security and information event management (SIEM), robotic process automation (RPA) and others.

“As we continue to evolve into the new digital era, the customer engagement tool chest for IT, Dev Ops and Security is expanding,” says Chuck Brooks, President, Brooks Consulting International and Adjunct Faculty Georgetown University. “These innovations are already optimizing the customer experience. In addition, the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence in coordination with these tools is enabling productivity by providing the speed and ability to analyze data and predict trends.”

Security: Critical for Customer Trust

The importance of security was a common thread throughout the responses. “To make the digital experience for your customer truly successful, keeping your customers' data secure is paramount,” says Scott Schober, President/CEO Berkeley Varitronics Systems, Inc. One way to assure that is to bake security in from the start.

“The core fundamental to the successful rollout of a safe and personalized digital experience demands that privacy and security are built in from the foundation and not added as an after-thought,” says Nick van Terheyden, MD, CEO at Incremental Health. “You only get to be trusted once and a breach or failure to protect your customer's and partner's data from breach or misuse is unacceptable.”

For customers, security and trust go hand-in-hand.

“If your organization can’t detect if an attack took place within your network, it doesn’t matter if a healthcare provider has a smooth billing process or if the return mechanism for an online retailer is smooth,” says Peter B. Nichol, Chief Technology Officer at Oroca Innovations. “You just put your entire business at risk.”

“Customers reward transparency with trust,” says Schober, “and more business. So always be clear as to how the data will ultimately be utilized and who specifically has access to it.”

Not a Solo Operation

Digital businesses today cannot afford teams operating in silos — be it security, IT operations, or DevOps. This begins with creating the right cultural foundation and is supported by investments such as a unified platform to leverage data across teams.

“Leaders need to work across teams to establish a collaborative culture and just as important trust between them,” says Will Kelly, technical marketing manager for a container security startup. “It starts by them setting the example and being a champion for DevOps and DevSecOps teams. Optimizing app and site performance takes investments in infrastructure, staffing, and skilling up the next generation.”

Be prepared to make these practices routine, says Jason James, CIO of Net Health.

“Optimizing apps and sites for performance and security is never a ‘one and done’ project,” he says. “It’s ongoing and ever evolving to both customer trends and emerging security risks. Leaders in IT, DevOps, and Security must work together and embrace a continuous improvement mindset.”

Conclusion: Perspective and Priorities

Business and technology priorities must shift to accommodate this brave new world of customer expectations. The quest to provide the best digital experiences for customers requires stakeholders to work in harmony across domains: product, analytics, security, and beyond. Finding a balance — between the mundane and the innovative, between fast and secure, between secure and user-friendly — to make the right investments in innovation will be critical.

“The key is to make time for understanding the new, improved tech and operations processes coming to market, rather than spending all of your time fighting fires,” says Jack Gold, Principal analyst & founder at J. Gold Associates, LLC. “Someone needs to have that assignment and spend at least 25% of their time doing so.”

Our experts also believe data will remain center stage.

“Where many executives before saw data as the domain of the IT team - its importance has been fully recognized,” says Frederik Maris, Vice President, EMEA at Splunk. “2021 must not be an excuse to seek respite from this, but businesses … must push on with the use of data to ensure enduring success in what will continue to be a tough economic climate. It’s clear that the Data Age for consumers will be characterized by high standards regarding how their data is used, how it is managed and who it is shared with.”

Chuck Brooks with Brooks Consulting International reminds us finally, who’s the king:

“The key to success of any digital engagement is having the right strategy to achieve

business goals by understanding your customer's needs, your security requirements, and understanding how to choose and implement the right engagement tools for your mission.”