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How to reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction through self-service

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Jonathan Whiteside
Jonathan Whiteside
Global SVP Technology & Engineering
Date
30 November 2022

Everyone is hyper-aware of the challenging economic times we currently face.

And as companies start feeling the effects of consumer and business spending retracting, it may be tempting to cut marketing and digital transformation budgets or put projects on hold. But only 6% of companies intend to cut their tech spending next year, so continuing to invest is essential if you don’t want to fall behind your competition.

If the pandemic taught us something, it’s the importance of technology.

Stability, efficiency, speed, and optimization will be the fundamentals of resilient business during an economic downturn. And instead of cutting budgets, it’s more sensible to look at ways to make your budget work harder for you. 

According to Gartner, 80% of tech leaders consider automation to be a top tactic to achieve cost optimization.

DEPT® has seen first-hand how leveraging tech to automate processes and allow customers to self-serve helps companies to permanently reduce the cost of doing business, provide a next-level customer experience as well as increase customer loyalty and lifetime value. 

Let’s explore this further…  

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Start with customer journey mapping 

If you’re unsure what to prioritize when it comes to automating processes and self-service, customer journey mapping is the perfect place to start. Giving you the chance to really get under your customer’s skin and truly understand their unique needs. 

This technique allows you to get a holistic understanding of the entire digital customer journey. Throughout a series of workshops, we look at the flow for different types of users to identify current pain points, understand how customers want to interact, and identify opportunities. 

We also map the different technologies, tools, and touchpoints that are being used to see how they can be streamlined. Producing a visual customer journey map is a great way to demonstrate to senior stakeholders where investments should be made.

For OMRON, DEPT® reviewed their entire digital customer journey with the goal to improve customer satisfaction and reduce call center costs. We held a series of discovery workshops that explored the current user experience, OMRON’s business model, identified pain points, and pinpointed areas where automation could increase efficiency.

Three high-priority projects were identified to allow customers to self-serve which would ultimately drive cost and time efficiency for OMRON, while providing an enhanced experience for their customers. 

Serving the customer on-demand

In today’s world, customers are looking for convenience and this isn’t only in B2C, two-thirds of B2B buyers opted for remote human interactions or digital self-service across the sales process last year. 

Not to mention, loyalty amongst customers is dwindling. So, with this in mind, in uncertain times it is smart for brands to invest in enhancing the customer experience amongst their existing client base to stand out amongst competitors and decrease churn.

According to NICE, 81% of consumers want more self-service options, however, only 15% have a high level of satisfaction with the tools currently provided.

So developing effective strategies and digital products that allow customers to self-serve not only gives them access to the services they’re looking for, but creates an opportunity to build stronger brand connections, as long as their experience using the tool is positive. 

That’s where it can be valuable to work in partnership with digital experts. Here are three possible ways to do just that:

Customer portals

Developing tools and apps for customers to manage their own accounts can help to reduce operational spending. It takes some pressure off customer service agents by giving customers the ability to find resolutions on their own, allowing agents to then focus on urgent issues and delivering tailored customer experiences elsewhere.

And it’s a customer expectation, with 70% expecting a company to have a self-service portal or content available to them. Customers head to their account/portal to be able to easily find information, request services, and resolve their problems 24/7. 

It’s, ultimately, the hub of a brand’s relationship with its customers.  Some key features to include in a customer portal are a knowledge base, community forum, and chatbot integration. 

For Jotun’s trade site, DEPT® built a customer portal where dealers and distributors can access personalized tools, product, and technical information, and dynamically display products, tools, and content relevant to individual users.

The online portal is also an important section of OMRON’s site. Whether it be a distributor, employee, or member of the press, users are served content that is relevant to them, so it is completely personalized depending on the user type. The data required to identify users is collected during the registration and can also be used to support and optimize marketing activities and processes.

Chatbots

Chatbots are a great way to take the strain off call lines by allowing customers to find a quick solution through a flow of automated responses. Gartner predicts that by 2027, chatbots will become the primary customer service channel for a quarter of organizations. 

A strong live chat system brings together staffed and automated solutions to provide customers with the optimal experience, starting with automation and then directing the visitor to the appropriate colleague depending on their requirements. This helps to create more meaningful experiences between brands and consumers as well as save time.

Chatbots are now more advanced than ever. As a brand known for its in-store customer service, Ralph Lauren came to BYTE/DEPT® for help translating that experience into digital with a chatbot ready to help customers find the perfect gifts for the 2021 holiday season. As a result, only 0.4% of users required a handover to a live customer service agent, which is one of the lowest rates we’ve seen in the industry.

On-site search

Something so simple, but so effective, is on-site search. Although this is nothing new for most, it is often undervalued. It allows customers to self-serve by finding what they’re looking for on-demand and without the need to get in touch. 

Not only does it help visitors, but a well-optimized on-site search tool provides brands with a wealth of new data. It gives insight into what customers are looking for and any roadblocks to purchase, showing demand or opportunity. Brands are then able to analyze the data to provide personalized help, offers, and up-sell opportunities. 

DEPT® implemented Optimizely Find for Jotun to deliver intelligent search results across its B2C and B2B sites. It enhances user experience by powering global search, the product finder, color grids, related colors, and products.

Invest now to stay ahead

Although we face a period of economic uncertainty, there are many opportunities for organizations to leverage technology to stay afloat, and even grow. Now is the time to invest in order to stay ahead and reap the rewards both in the short and long term.

DEPT® have all the skills in-house to be able to analyze points in the digital customer journey that are slow, expensive, and causing their customers to be unhappy. We can then look at projects to automate existing parts of the journey or develop strategies and digital products which allow their customers to self-serve. 

Get in touch today to find out how we can help you reduce operational costs while increasing customer satisfaction.

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CTOs guide to maximizing the value of tech investments during economic downturns

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Jonathan Whiteside
Jonathan Whiteside
Global SVP Technology & Engineering
Date
17 November 2022

While the immediate threat of the COVID-19 pandemic is over, it has left multiple economies in heavy debt. And subsequent global issues, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have resulted in a downturn in the global economy. In a July update, the World Economic Outlook predicted global growth to slow from 6.1% last year to 3.2% in 2022, and 2.9% in 2023. 

With inflation reaching record levels, significant energy price increases and the rising cost of household items, consumers across the world face a cost of living crisis. And with a less than temporary reduction in household spending power, businesses can soon expect to see the impact on their bottom line. 

We know from experience that in periods of economic uncertainty, digital projects are often canned or stalled. But during times of crisis, the opportunity for businesses to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of budgets – as well as the overall value of their technology investments – is actually huge. 

We’ve outlined two of the best, easiest and most efficient ways to do this, as well as the steps to take to get these types of projects over the line.

stay ahead concept

The background

With the prospect of budget cuts looming, CTOs are being tasked with doing more with less. That might translate as automating processes, consolidating teams, sourcing new tech solutions, or getting more out of existing technology investments. 

It will mean different things for different businesses, but the golden thread will most likely be to maximize efficiency and reduce costs. The pressure to continue to innovate and build out new propositions will likely remain in order to stay ahead of competitors and pursue new commercial opportunities while keeping risk at a minimum. 

It’s a big ask. But having worked with a range of B2B and B2C businesses to do just that, DEPT® can help you unlock unforeseen pockets of value that stretch budgets further while increasing sales. 

Cloud platform review and optimization

Cloud software is integral to future-ready business. So if you haven’t already migrated to the cloud, now is most certainly the time. The focus needs to be on developing a scalable solution to create an agile framework that enables your business to adapt as your market develops and disrupts.

Not only will it go a long way to reducing the impact of rising energy costs, but connecting your teams through the right cloud-based software enables them to be more agile and harmoniously sing from the same sheet. 

The key benefits of moving to the cloud are threefold. Geo-redundancy is number one, meaning that users in one market access the infrastructure in that location, and if one region goes down users are automatically routed to the other, forming the backbone of your disaster recovery strategy. 

It also offers cost-saving benefits, as similarly to mobile phones, there are fixed contracts or ‘pay as you go’ options available. A ‘pay as you go’ serverless approach allows businesses to only pay when the service is used, rather than paying to have a server running 24/7 in a physical location. 

And finally, it provides greater flexibility as businesses can increase capacity when expecting higher traffic volumes, such as around planned sales or campaign or product launches. Plus, once a business understands its traffic volumes through the available data, it can fix its contract at a lower cost to scale capacity in line with business demand throughout the year.

DEPT® has a cloud-first approach and a cloud-agnostic mindset. We are able to deliver consultants and engineers that can help you take your cloud platform hygiene to the next level to maximize efficiency. 

Take Triumph Motorcycles as an example. We conducted a full review of its AWS setup, modernized old approaches, optimized configurations and removed unused components to facilitate a 30% reduction of its cloud hosting spend.

Outsource infrastructure management

With technology now serving as the backbone of modern business, even the shortest period of digital downtime can have a significant negative impact on operations and financial performance. 

That’s why outsourcing infrastructure management through managed services may be the best option to expertly manage your online infrastructure. 

Infrastructure management is less about maintaining your website or application content, but rather about the nuts and bolts that keep them running optimally. 

This can involve managing servers and their performance as well as monitoring up and down time, being alerted to any issues and taking action – no matter the day or time.

But not all outsourcing solutions are optimum. For example, an offshore team may not work in unison or in alignment with the time zones that you operate across. 

With local and nearshore teams working in a unified way across multiple physical locations, we have seen success in helping businesses reduce costs while upholding the expert standards of a global digital agency. 

Our unique culture helps us recruit top talent across the world, which enables us to be ‘timezone aware’, giving clients peace of mind that their digital estate will be up, and running and making money 24/7. 

And we’ve seen success come from establishing teams consisting of members located in multiple physical locations, with differing staffing rates that reduce the overall cost to the client. 

Such as for Just Eat Takeaway, for whom we provide ongoing support of their commerce platform; as well as for Jotun’s +5 websites, including proactive monitoring and reactive support, content editor helpdesk, and application maintenance services.

Making the business case

It might be easy for an established tech leader to see the value in these suggested approaches. But getting said projects over the line can sometimes be a struggle with final decision-makers, as they often require short-term investment before the long-term benefits can be reaped. 

There are two distinct sides of the fence when it comes to making investments during global crises. 

Frustratingly, the instinctive (and often more popular) reaction is to cut costs by postponing projects, reducing ‘non-essential’ spend on digital transformation, and scaling back headcount in order to bunker down and weather the storm. 

But in reality, recessions and economic crises tend to be short-lived, and are often succeeded by longer periods of growth. And businesses that seek out ways to maximize their existing investments (or continue to make new investments) can drive growth while competitors are cutting back.

During the 2009 financial crisis, according to McKinsey, organizations that maintained their innovation focus outperformed competitors by more than 30% and continued to grow over the subsequent three to five years.
Acting fast is imperative. The most successful technology leaders won’t wait for a confirmed recession to implement solutions, they will take immediate action to boost stability, efficiency and speed that is necessary for business resilience in this economic climate. 

While the implementation of digital marketing systems, CRMs, and big data projects have failure rates that exceed 50%, DEPT® has a strong track record of implementing and optimizing technology platforms that have a clear return on investment for clients. 

To find out how we can help your business maximize the value of its tech investments and accelerate digital resilience, get in touch with our experts today.

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Helping displaced individuals find their place in tech

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Pooja Dindigal
Pooja Dindigal
Global Impact Manager
Date
8 November 2022

When immigrants and refugees leave their home countries, they leave behind their jobs, networks, support systems, and oftentimes their credentials.

Their ability to find good jobs is stunted which can harm their confidence, happiness, and assimilation into society. 

In 2018, Nick Broekema (Salesforce Partnership Lead at DEPT®) and his partners saw this problem firsthand, with many immigrants moving to the Netherlands unable to secure quality jobs. At the same time, the industry was dealing with another problem: a lack of Salesforce professionals.     

So that year, with the desire to solve both problems with one solution, Blue Road Academy (formerly RefugeeForce) was born. Over the past few years, this program has helped over 180 individuals receive Salesforce training in a community-oriented atmosphere. From the initial cohorts, 60% of graduates have landed jobs at technology companies with positions in development, marketing, sales, and administration. 

DEPT® is a proud recruitment partner, and has hired two individuals from Blue Road Academy since its opening! We also support with an annual monetary donation and use of our offices in Berlin for the training. Learn more about some of the impact this program has had by hearing from some of its graduates below. 

Eyad from Blue Road Academy

Eyad’s story

Eyad Agha came to Germany in 2014 because of the instability in Syria. Beyond learning German, he enrolled at a university and received a master’s degree in information systems management. 

He joined Blue Road Academy because “Salesforce was the clearest manifestation of my studies. Coding and programming were not for me, but I wanted to work in technology. Salesforce training seemed like a good fit.”  

Talking about his experience with the training program, he said, “Martin (the instructor) is one of the brilliant minds in Salesforce. I was impressed and felt privileged for being instructed by someone like him. Martin was the most humble and nice person– always willing to help, answer questions, and have a conversation with the students.”

While he already had skills in information technology, they were sharpened during the boot camp. The other thing he learned was giving back. “The whole salesforce ecosystem depends on teamwork. You learn something and then you teach someone else. One arm to the throne, another arm to help someone else, a chain of people holding hands together and moving forward.” 

Currently, Eyad is working as a Salesforce administrator for Luca. He is excited about the opportunity! 

Frahnaz from Blue Road Academy

Frahnaz’s story 

Originally from Afghanistan, Frahnaz studied Economics and had her own e-commerce business. But due to the fall of the government, she had to leave her country, business, and degree.  

During her time at Blue Road Academy, she got another opportunity to go to a Salesforce Berlin Bootcamp which was a fantastic experience!  The salesforce community around Europe came together (partners, actual salesforce professionals) and she was able to get to know people in the network. “I am really thankful for the opportunity to know an amazing community.” 

While she doesn’t describe herself as “technical,” she likes Salesforce because, “The platform makes things easier for companies, which is valuable. I want to be in the technology and business space, so learning these skills is great.”
 
“During the program, we also learned how to interview and write a CV. This was useful because it gives real-life scenarios, how to answer questions, how to write a cover letter, and the different procedures in countries, like Germany vs the UK.” 

When asked about her future goals, her first response was, “To share all the knowledge she is gaining and encourage Afghan women that don’t have the privilege of education.” Her wish is to give all that she can as an Afghan woman and eventually share it with other women. 

“I believe that if you want to change the world, you have to change yourself and learn as much as you can. Knowledge is power. I wish every girl in my country had the chance to study and have the opportunity to go to university.”

Anna

Anna’s story 

Anna came to the Netherlands by way of Ukraine. She started to learn Salesforce by herself in 2021 because she had her own small business, but she wanted to learn more and get an official certification to expand her career opportunities. 

She enjoyed the in-person classes because it was easy to communicate with other people in the program. “It was difficult and challenging because of the technical tasks required, but the program was smooth. My instructor, Gaspar Rodriguez, explained all the concepts, materials, and theories in simple words so you can understand them.” 

For her, the Blue Road Academy ecosystem was supportive and gave opportunities to people without experience. Their way of learning was an environment with cool and intelligent people, which motivated her to take on the challenges. 

Anna currently works at DEPT®. Talking about her experience so far, she says, “It’s amazing actually. The people are really supportive and answer questions. I had time to meet my team, and get onboarded and I’m excited to see where the opportunity takes me.” 

“Anyone can transfer their knowledge into their work. And you can see where it takes you–the time you’ve dedicated is reflected in your work.”  

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The future of Blue Road Academy

By 2030, Blue Road Academy hopes to have trained 10,000 newcomers in its program with a 50/50 ratio of men to women. They hope to continue their 60% job placement success rate which would place 6,000 or more individuals in Salesforce roles, at all types of technology companies. 

Learn more about how you can get involved at Blue Road Academy.  

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DEPT DASH™ is here to accelerate custom website development

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Kelsey Anderson
Kelsey Anderson
Sr. Content Marketing Manager
Date
2 November 2022

Historically, custom websites have taken a significant time to build. So we created DASH to accelerate the process. 

For decades, brands have gone to agencies for help in design and development. And for decades, agencies have been kicking off projects from scratch. 

The problem here is web design and development don’t always require starting from scratch. Project setup, technology selection, and the creative process are often similar across the board.  

In other words, the digital world has reached a point where tools, platforms, technology expertise, and AI are so powerful, we don’t need to start from zero every time. We can come to the table with months of work already done, which cuts project time while delivering best-of-breed, process-proven, and completely custom technology solutions.  

Introducing DASH, a website accelerator from DEPT®

DASH is a headless website and e-commerce accelerator that provides the building blocks for modern marketing and e-commerce sites. A composable approach impacts both the implementation of the front end and influences the end-to-end process and methodology, from design through to deployment.

To understand it in action, consider the development of an e-commerce website. No matter your industry, size, or product offerings, every single e-commerce website will need hosting, shopping cart technology, payment processing, search capabilities, and a slew of other third-party integrations. Rather than let these necessities take up the first month of work, we have created IP that automates it. 

The out-of-the-box design and development elements provided by DASH include:  

  • Design system 
  • Scaffolding 
  • DevOps and infrastructure 
  • Component library 
  • Localization 
  • CMS integration 
  • Search integration 
  • e-commerce integration 
  • Automated testing 
  • Performance and accessibility testing 
  • Documentation 
  • Monitoring 

This enables you to use use the majority of your budget on impactful activities like

  • Discovery
  • UX/UI design 
  • Custom component and page templates
  • CMS content modeling
  • Frontend implementation
  • Launch
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Who is DASH for?

DASH is for any marketing or e-commerce team that needs a completely custom website in an unconventional timeline–typically a few months. The core technology stack consists of the Contentful CMS, Shopify cart technology, and Algolia search engine, and new integrations are being created each month.

By leveraging DASH, DEPT® strategists, designers, and developers have more time and budget to create experiences that power your digital strategy. 

DASH is a starting point, not a builder tool 

DASH provides what we always complete in the first month or two of a project, for both design and engineering. This allows delivery timelines to be 1-2 months faster without sacrificing design quality and customization. 

Any pieces a project doesn’t require can be quickly and easily removed in full, so the project isn’t weighed down with unnecessary cruft.

DASH is a starting point, not a builder tool. Builder tools make some things easy and other things impossible, which isn’t viable for the custom projects we do. This IP covers the entire production workflow from Figma design files to Storybook design systems, full technology implementation, and automated test and deployment scripts, all integrated end-to-end and ready to spin up within minutes.

Learn more about DASH, our proprietary website accelerator.

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Sr. Content Marketing Manager

Kelsey Anderson

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How to face the e-commerce challenges of today

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Date
19 October 2022

E-commerce is booming

From 15% of total retail sales in 2019, global e-commerce surged to 21% in 2021 in response to the restrictions caused by COVID-19.

Research companies like Morgan Stanley, Statista and McKinsey forecast further growth of up to 25%, despite an overall slowing of economic activity.

But to continue thriving and staying ahead of the growth curve, organizations need to tick a growing number of boxes. From marketing and technology to data and creativity, there are key challenges to address to keep e-commerce growth going.

online shopping

Last year, global retail e-commerce sales reached $4.9 trillion and are expected to exceed $7.4 trillion by 2025. This year, B2B e-commerce adds $14.9 trillion on top of that.

While many factors contribute to this continued digital growth, the two leading factors are the emerging digital presence of companies and the accelerated consumers’ digital maturity. The way companies sell and people shop has changed permanently.

However, this doesn’t mean that the e-commerce pie is shared equally. 

Fiercer competition requires better experiences

The e-commerce landscape is getting more competitive as more companies pivot to launch or optimize their digital commerce operations. In the race to gain consumers’ attention, the cost of advertising has increased and the return on ad spend (ROAS) has decreased.

CPMs on Facebook rose 47% in 2021 when compared to 2020, and Google, YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat are demonstrating a dramatic increase in advertising costs year-over-year. Smaller players with less financial means find they cannot rely as heavily on advertising as before. Additionally, advertising data is becoming less valuable as privacy concerns lead to stronger regulations and restrictions on third-party data worldwide.

The best way to stand out from the crowd is by creating exceptional digital experiences that inspire and attract consumers:

  • 54% of shoppers enjoy browsing and discovering online more than in-store. 
  • 74% of consumers are likely to buy based on experience alone, according to a recent Forbes study on the value of CX. 
  • 32% of customers would consider breaking up with a favorite brand after only one poor customer experience.

The standard for a good customer experience is rising every year. So it is no small wonder that customer experience was named a CEO priority for all respondents in an IBM survey of 3000 CEOs across 50 countries and 26 industries.

The big challenge to realizing a differentiated customer experience has the right technology architecture in place.

Technology drives e-commerce growth

Delivering optimal digital experiences is difficult when tools and technology are outdated, inflexible, and disconnected.

Research by Gartner finds the CMO’s top concern for 2022 is, therefore, rebuilding the marketing engine for flexibility in a changing environment. Customer journeys today have become complex, spanning a proliferation of devices and touchpoints. This results in new marketing challenges like managing content, keeping branding and messaging consistent, and connecting the marketing teams that work with their own systems.

True omnichannel – integrating all the channels into one seamless customer experience that is both relevant and high quality – is challenging to pull off. Meanwhile, new channels keep coming and gaining momentum, from podcasts, AR, VR, and Metaverse, to voice assistants, smart home devices, and car commerce. 

Marketers also see more urgency to launch digital products and iterate in today’s rapidly changing digital world. The ability to experiment, analyze, pivot, and deploy at the right time depends on agile solutions. All these developments lead to the need for a higher level of involvement from back-office technical roles. Because in today’s modern marketing environment, technology has become a cornerstone of doing business.

Every company is a tech company

The growing dependency on technology has led the marketing department to collaborate closely with the IT department.

From data collection to personalization and hyper-targeting to focusing on high-value customers, technology enables it all. The IT department has seen its responsibilities grow to support a growing number of systems, including CMS, CRM, data warehouses, and now CX platforms. The traditional gatekeeper role of the IT department has evolved to become a business driver.

Every company is turning into a technology company, because, as Forbes puts it, “Today, no company can make, deliver or market its product efficiently without technology.”

Historically, the leading choice for numerous organizations has been ‘monolithic’ platforms that contain a general solution for their most frequent marketing and e-commerce needs. These suites provide an all-in-one answer that addresses prevailing challenges with out-of-the-box solutions that ‘fit all.” The monolithic architecture is also associated with various cons, such as slow go-to-market timelines, inflexibility, lack of agility, complexity, and scaling issues.

In response to these concerns, a new approach arose that decoupled the front end and the back end.

The rise of headless

The term “headless” comes from the analogy of chopping the “head” (the front end) from the “body” (the back end).

By decoupling the presentation layer from the back-end processes, content can be easily served to whichever digital channel is connected. One head becomes many heads. This means that developers can build whatever they want and however they want, without having to worry about how it will be presented to the customers.

The rigidity of a coupled system is replaced with the flexibility of having two or more systems, loosely coupled with APIs. By going headless, developers can also address the pain points that have appeared due to increased smartphone adoption and create a mobile-optimized shopping experience. The flourishing of mobile commerce is one of the key reasons why headless became so popular. When headless solutions entered the market, the available full-suite solutions proved inflexible to address the growing mobile traffic and the growing matrix of buyer touchpoints, unlike headless.

Other cited technical reasons for choosing a headless architecture are flexibility, faster time-to-market, and stability. Companies also prefer not to be too dependent on one system and one full-suite supplier to reduce vendor lock-in.

For essential marketing practices like loyalty, A/B testing, and big data analytics, they want the solution that is best in its class. A headless architecture allows you to integrate these kinds of tools into an ecosystem. When a tool becomes inefficient or outdated, replacing it is relatively easy in a best-of-breed approach. This way, headless addresses a prime dilemma for organizations today: adapting to change without having to overhaul the whole architecture.

Headless comes with challenges

With all its pros, headless architecture also comes with cons. You must build what you want from scratch, which requires vision and ongoing development. This also means that marketing becomes IT-dependent for making content changes and running campaigns.

The biggest pitfall of going headless is doing it blindly and losing your head. Want to know more about these challenges?

Read our other blog “What is composable commerce? to learn more about the composable approach or download the whitepaper The Ultimate Guide to Headless and Composable Commerce. In this extensive guide, you will learn how the composable architecture builds on the headless approach and puts marketing back in control of the front-end experience.

Going headless with content and commerce

“The term headless typically refers to a headless CMS that organizes and stores all the content data (images, text, and videos). Popular headless CMSes are Sanity, Strapi, DatoCMS, Builder, Kontent.ai, Prismic, and Contentful.

“The content is delivered via an API to a front end, which can be custom-coded to fit specific needs. In headless commerce, the body consists of an e-commerce platform, which can be a full-suite solution such as Magnolia or Salesforce or a specialized commerce platform such as BigCommerce, Shopify, and commercetools.

“While full-suite platforms offer a native front end, this can come with the disadvantages of using a suite solution. That is why full-suite platforms are now moving towards developing front-end capacities that match better with the headless approach.”

Tim de Kamper, VP e-commerce DEPT®

Headless is booming – for enterprises

In 2016, there was only one headless vendor in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce. The Magic Quadrant for 2021 now features eight vendors offering headless solutions. The adoption of headless is booming globally, and headless is often called the future of e-commerce. According to research by Vanson Bourne in 2021: 

  • 64% of enterprise organizations are now using a headless approach, a nearly 25% increase from 2019. 
  • 92% of respondents state that implementing headless technologies makes delivering a consistent content experience easier.
  • 92% of respondents recognize digital experiences as essential to their organization’s success.

Still, only 2% of all websites worldwide use headless, primarily enterprises. Why are midlevel and SMBses not embracing headless with the same fervor?

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What is composable commerce?

Which B2C Commerce Platform is right for your Business1
Tim de Kamper
Tim de Kamper
VP eCommerce Europe
Date
19 October 2022

Where headless commerce only separates the content from the commerce platform, composable commerce takes the best-of-breed approach to an atomic level.

Every component of the commerce experience, from search to payment and everything in between, can be addressed by an independent solution or tool.

While this approach may sound like a magnification of the challenges with headless, its focus on business functionality gives control over the customer experience back to the business.

The term composable commerce was first coined by Gartner in its 2020 research Composable Commerce Must Be Adopted for the Future of Applications.

This paper explains that headless has become a buzzword that is not even a great name for this new approach, because it still needs a head or a UI. In fact, there are many heads that must provide a seamless digital experience. Early adopters of the headless approach experienced this problem first-hand, as their business was no longer able to manage aspects of the digital experience.

So instead of a “headless” approach, the solution lies in adopting an incremental, modular approach with packaged business capabilities that retain control of the presentation to the business user; composable commerce.

What is composable commerce?

Composable commerce is a development approach that uses packaged business capabilities (PBC) to create a modern commerce experience.

The resulting composable architecture is built from – or composed of – best-of-breed commerce components. Each component can be deployed and interchanged independently, which enables integration with any application available.

This open character of composable commerce gives the freedom and flexibility to create a totally unique and tailored commerce experience. For this reason, Gartner sees composable as the future of applications and predicts that by 2023, organizations adopting an intelligent composable approach will outpace the competition by 80%.

In The Forrester Wave™ B2C Commerce Solutions for Q2 2022, Forrester states that modular, cloud-native commerce solutions are no longer just for the most digitally mature companies: “Modern commerce tech is more adaptive and provides resilience for the digital businesses that use it.”

Composable commerce is business-oriented, whereas headless commerce is developer-oriented.

Composable commerce puts the business first

The key difference between headless and composable commerce is the usage of packaged business capabilities (PBCs). Gartner defines PBCs as software components that represent a well-defined business capability that is functionally recognizable as such by a business user. PBCs address specific business needs such as search, payment, CRM, shipping, inventory management, etc. Every PBC is pluggable, scalable, and replaceable without affecting the rest. As such, composable commerce is business-oriented, whereas headless commerce is developer-oriented. 

PBCs are composed of several smaller components called microservices. These are autonomous services that all work together. While they are often tiny, some microservices do match the standards for a PBC. Technically, a PBC includes a bounded set of data schema and a set of services, APIs, and event channels.

When talking about composable commerce, business users should focus on PBCs to keep the focus on business functionality.

The pros and cons of composable commerce

Any company struggling with headless commerce is probably not thrilled to hear another buzzword as the solution to all their problems. But for many e-commerce applications, using headless commerce is the first step to a composable architecture.

The following list of pros and cons is aimed at helping you to better understand the impact of switching to a composable architecture and decide whether it is the right choice for you:

Overview of Pros and cons of Composable commerce

When is composable commerce the right choice? 

The key considerations for choosing composable commerce are:

  • How important are optimal commerce experiences in your market? Is your market competitive and rapidly changing?
  • How complex is your current infrastructure? Do you need to freeze all deployments a month before Black Friday to prevent breaking the webshop for example?
  • To which extent is the marketing department dependent on the IT department? Who controls the front-end experience? 
  • How flexible can your architecture scale as needed? 
  • How important is innovation for your long-term success? Does your current architecture offer the flexibility and time-to-market that you need? 
  • Can your IT department face the tech debt that comes with connecting and maintaining various tools?

How to start with composable commerce

The composable approach lets you pick the best solution for the specific business needs you have. Its starting point is the notion that there isn’t one best solution for everything that works for everybody.

In our whitepaper The Ultimate Guide to Headless and Composable Commerce we explore how the composable architecture builds on the headless approach and puts marketing back in control of the front-end experience. We interviewed five leading solution providers to give you a rich overview of the solid solutions available to companies struggling with headless.

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VP eCommerce Europe

Tim de Kamper

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The challenges of a headless architecture in e-commerce

shopping online e commerce
Tim de Kamper
Tim de Kamper
VP eCommerce Europe
Date
14 October 2022

The headless approach empowers organizations to create custom front-end experiences that accelerate e-commerce success, but it also comes with responsibilities.

You need to build from scratch, which requires vision and ongoing development. The biggest pitfall of going headless is doing it blindly.

Going headless sets you back about 30% in functionality

The headless approach has been around for some time, but its adoption only picked up momentum when BigCommerce in 2018 and Shopify in 2019 started promoting and educating excessively.

These platforms showcased marketing benefits such as improved customer experience for all devices, rich visual merchandising, enabling multi-locale, and increased page speed.

However, these benefits do not come out of the box like a software product, they require development. Compared to a full-suite solution that covers the essential features, going headless sets you back about 30% in functionality.

Integrating a headless CMS to a front-end application simply takes time to develop, which increases the overall solution time-to-market. It’s not as quick as deploying a full-suite solution. And this is where going headless is causing headaches

Separation of expectations

For non-technical people, headless offers the creative freedom to create unique experiences and the ability to enter new markets and channels quickly. When marketers hear headless, they think CX, innovation, speed and scale.

Technical people see a separation of concerns that allows for a customized front-end and therefore, requires a lot of development work. Where marketing expects to be present on many exciting new channels quickly, the IT department has to point out all the resources required to get there. The front-end layer has to be built from scratch – and maintained. This requires either an in-house development team (a larger IT team) or a system integrator.

The complexity of going headless can be overwhelming, especially for smaller brands and retailers with fewer development capabilities. When the front end is customized, there is typically no WYSIWYG editor for the marketers. This lack of seeing how the content will appear to the customer negatively impacts the brand experience. Minor changes on dynamic pages, like changing a banner on a landing page, may require custom development.

Some organizations are reported to need several months of preparation to run their seasonal campaigns due to IT dependency.

Developers get a lot of requests for managing the front end, which affects their IT roadmap. As the number of “heads” and “bodies” grows, so do the dependencies they rely upon. Without additional IT resources, all of the potential power and flexibility that headless can offer will be out of reach. This seriously impacts the company’s hard-sought ability to innovate.

In 2021, 75% of executives ranked innovation as a top-three priority for their company. With a jump from 65% in 2020, this is the largest year-over-year shift seen in 15 years of BCG’s Most Innovative Companies survey.

Headless is not a solution, it’s a starting point

The choice of headless is an IT decision that should come from the IT department to address the challenges IT has in enabling e-commerce. In the following scenarios, headless is a solid choice to consider: 

  • A slow website. The speed of your website matters for SEO, the brand experience, conversion rates, and, therefore, revenue. When all the options for speeding up your current architecture are exhausted, headless becomes a serious candidate.
  • Lack of differential options. An exceptional brand experience requires elements that are not readily available in full-suite storefronts. If you’re looking to customize the branding of your webshops beyond template themes, headless offers all the creative freedom you want. 
  • Need for a custom experience. Adding more checkout security, connecting to a specific payment provider or improving the search experience. The one-size-fits-all approach that comes with a full suite is unlikely to cover all your brand needs. When these additions become paramount to the success of your brand, going headless gives you the ability to build a custom experience with more complexity.
  • Expanding touchpoints. Platforms such as smart home devices and smart TVs are expanding in adoption and maturity. To deliver content and process orders from these emerging touchpoints, organizations need a platform that can integrate effectively. The newer these touchpoints are, the more likely a headless platform is better suited than a full-suite solution. 
  • Cross-border e-commerce. Expanding your e-commerce across borders comes with new languages, currencies, warehouses and locations, payment options, regulations, channels and content. The headless approach makes it easier to expand internationally by easily connecting new functionalities and channels as needed.  
  • Rapid growth. Companies experiencing a rapid rate of growth search for the flexibility, speed, and agility that only headless can bring. Headless offers a customizable solution that enables the streamlining and aligning of internal development that fast-growing companies need. 

While these scenarios represent marketing challenges, note that most of these are typically faced by larger organizations with deep pockets and vast IT resources. Headless is foremost a developer-oriented architecture. However, mid-level organizations with fewer development capabilities are now also running into these challenges and are considering the headless approach. This coincides with the development of efficient solutions that help tackle the headless problem.

Front-end progressive web application (PWA)

Commonly known as a progressive web app, or PWA for short, this web application can work both as a website and a mobile app on any device, even offline.

It’s an all-in-one solution that takes away the hassle of developing, distributing, and installing separate mobile apps. PWA offers a user experience that is fast, reliable, and engaging regardless of the device used – making it an ideal head for a headless architecture. From a tool to realize mobile storefronts, PWA evolved into a single codebase for mobile, desktop and tablet. When a PWA integrates with headless commerce, it’s called a headless PWA.

While the history of PWAs goes back to 2000, it was only in 2015 that they got their name when Google introduced PWAs as a new standard in web development. In the same year, the software company Mobify launched its first PWA for mobile. Desktop soon followed, which led to Mobify’s Front-End Platform as a Service for headless commerce architectures. At the same time, the software company Divante developed a PWA for Magento and later for commercetools.

From PWA to composable

In 2020, the Divante initiative split into a new company called Vue Storefront while Mobify got acquired by Salesforce and became the B2C Composable Storefront. This falls in line with the trend of commerce platforms expanding their offering with a headless solution, with Magento offering PWA Studio and commercetools acquiring Frontastic in 2021.

All these solutions go beyond the original mobile premise of PWA and include the integration and orchestration of many tools and solutions. And that’s where headless commerce becomes composable commerce: the approach in which every component of the commerce experience can be defined on an atomic level. 

Read What is composable commerce? to learn more about the composable approach or download the whitepaper The Ultimate Guide to Headless and Composable Commerce. In this extensive guide, you will learn how the composable architecture builds on the headless approach and puts marketing back in control of the front-end experience.

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VP eCommerce Europe

Tim de Kamper

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When to use .NET for product development

net framework with logo
John Askew
John Askew
.NET Development Lead
Date
12 October 2022

.NET is a platform backed by Microsoft that gives developers the freedom to create several products, from desktop applications to small IoT devices. 

These products, while different in function, all share a common foundation. This common foundation makes it easy for developers to switch between projects since they have a knowledge set that can be reused. 

Being backed by Microsoft also means that there are resources dedicated to continuously developing the platform so it doesn’t become outdated. This development also applies to .NET developer tools, which are some of the best. 

.NET relevance in 2022

Some consider .NET to be outdated, but over the past few years, Microsoft has been recreating .NET as an open-source platform that can target multiple operating systems. This open-source strategy has benefited the platform with modernization for optimal performance. 

It uses the popular C# language and is well positioned to beat Java (its main rival) for dominance of the enterprise software development space, and arguably has already achieved that. 

C# has a beautiful syntax that is readable, maintainable, and performant. Combining this language with .NET allows you to build scalable performant applications quickly and target them to several platforms with excellent tooling and support for continuous integration and deployment.

Microsoft has renamed .NET Core to simply .NET from version 5 onward (avoiding any confusion with .NET Framework 4.x) as another sign signaling that it will be the future for Microsoft. 

If you are starting a greenfield development project, consider .NET

.NET allows you to target multiple platforms, which streamlines your development. When development is straightforward for your developers, it’s easy to reach users across a wide range of devices and technology (Windows, Linux, and macOS ). 

The tooling and modularity within .NET help accelerate your product’s development and ensure that you have an excellent foundation for maintenance and enhancements in the future.

.NET features high-performance and scalable systems, which makes it a great choice for backend systems.

.NET Framework vs. .NET 

.NET Framework refers to the legacy version of .NET (up to the latest 4.8). This had dependencies on Windows OS which made it obsolete as other operations systems became more popular (e.g., macOS)

.NET Core was a reimplementation of .NET that wasn’t dependent on Windows OS. .NET dropped the “Core” naming convention after version 3, and version 4 was skipped to avoid confusion. As such, what would have been .NET Core v5 became .NET 5 (the latest .NET version is 7.)

When you should use .NET framework vs .NET 

This mostly comes down to how much existing code you have and what its future looks like. 

If you already have an existing application using .NET Framework, then migrating to .NET might require rewriting some of your code and potentially re-architecting. It may be preferable to do a phased migration where you can isolate the responsibilities of your application and reimplement them in .NET to be consumed by your existing legacy .NET Framework code, and migrate more and more over time. 

One other aspect that may be overlooked is language support. For example, VB.Net is not supported by Razor pages in ASP.NET Core, so if your team has limited experience outside of Windows OS, WebForms, and VB.Net then you might decide to stick with .NET Framework until you can address that skill set mismatch.

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Examples of products using .NET

The most famous .NET product is Stack Overflow and its family of web applications, which is a Q&A forum for developers to ask and answer questions about a variety of topics.

Stack Overflow demonstrates how .NET can scale since it serves an audience of over 100 million per month.

Here at DEPT®, we have used .NET to implement a DXP (Digital Experience Platform) for Omron Industrial Automation. By using .NET, we were able to evolve their digital offering with a streamlined development process, more capabilities for enriching content and personalizing the user experience, and abstraction of 3rd party technology providers. Omron saw more control over partner technologies and improved ownership for individual providers. 

If you’re curious about .NET and how it can improve your products, reach out to the .NET developers at DEPT®. We can extend your team, take ownership of your next .NET project, or consult on how to accelerate your .NET product. 

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How Salesforce Commerce Cloud creates customized e-commerce experiences

rupixen com Q59HmzK38eQ unsplash scaled

Date
23 September 2022

This year, global e-commerce sales are expected to surpass $5 trillion

This milestone speaks to the industry’s unique position at the intersection of rapid digital development and a renewed period of slower but sustained growth following the boom period spurred by a global pandemic.

If you’re looking for a platform to create (or level up) an e-commerce experience for a B2C brand, you’ll know that now, more than ever, is the time to stand out. 

Here’s why Salesforce Commerce Cloud (SFCC) might be the solution you need.

e-commerce-purchase

The SFCC advantage

Salesforce Commerce Cloud is one of the leading cloud-based SaaS e-commerce platforms. It’s known for being a robust product that can be taken out-of-the-box and leveraged to build & launch an immersive brand experience quickly. 

One of the biggest advantages of SFCC is that, as an out-of-the-box solution, you only need the support of an engineering team to deploy it.

Once the storefront is live, managing the platform is easily done in-house, even if your brand doesn’t have a dedicated team of engineers. 

Using SFCC also offers your brand the advantage of Salesforce’s suite of best-in-class integrations. Some of these come pre-built in, like SFCC’s AI-powered Einstein module, which delivers personalized recommendations to your customers. 

Other integrations are sold separately but are well worth considering.

Mulesoft, Pardot, Salesforce CDP, and Salesforce OMS are just a few examples that can bolster your customer experience with a 360-degree view.

New customization options for limitless innovation

Historically, SFCC depended on templates for storefronts to help brands deploy their e-commerce sites quickly. 

Although SFCC offers numerous effective options for templates, the requirement posed a creative restriction for brands looking to build a custom storefront fully aligned with their identity and nuanced customer experience.

Following Salesforce’s acquisition of Mobify at the end of 2020, however, SFCC got an exciting upgrade: full customization, powered by a headless architecture.

Headless architecture separates front-end and back-end software. Where a software update in a traditional architecture would require engineers to make changes to both the front- and back-ends, a headless architecture makes it possible to change—or even completely rebuild—one end independent of the other.

For brands using SFCC, this makes it easy to break out of a template and work with a team of engineers to build your own fully customized e-commerce storefront without compromising on the speed of deployment.

Most importantly, taking advantage of headless architecture positions your brand to innovate continuously. As digital evolves and new customer touchpoints emerge, you’re able to incorporate additional features and creative experiences quickly and affordably.

Bespoke SFCC in action

Over ten years of building upwards of 200 e-commerce sites with SFCC, we’ve seen the platform deliver customization at speed time and time again.

This was our inspiration for creating DEPT® SFRA, an in-house storefront reference architecture for SFCC, which provides a highly capable foundation on which to build a bespoke storefront tailor fit to meet client needs. 

As an out-of-the-box platform, SFCC can be launched fast.

But starting with a foundation like SFRA makes it possible to deliver modern, highly customized experiences at lightning speed. Sometimes in as little as five months, as was the case for GANT’s global e-commerce transformation, or even four, which was the timeline for the Dutch stroller company Bugaboo

But SFCC’s customization goes beyond meeting deadlines, too. As e-commerce undergoes a shift with new innovations in technology and a lower barrier for entry allows a plethora of new players to enter the market, providing a highly customized experience gives brands like yours a way of standing out against the noise.

Patagonia worked with us to incorporate a design system into the storefront architecture’s front end that created a balance between their world-renowned products and a purpose rooted in sustainability, taking advantage of SFCC’s headless customization to create a flagship experience that future-proofs their brand against our rapidly changing digital world.

Providing a great e-commerce experience has been a requirement for B2C brands for some time. Now, however, is the time to use customization to differentiate your experience from everyone else’s. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how Salesforce Commerce Cloud can help your brand create a future-ready e-commerce experience, our team of SFCC pros are always ready to chat.

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VP eCommerce Europe

Tim de Kamper

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How to create a cybersecurity strategy that also creates business value

computer
Wesley Niels
Wesley Niels
Head of DevOps
Date
21 July 2022

Experts predict damages caused by cybercrime could reach $6 trillion globally by 2021.

As tech develops so does the ingenuity of those seeking to exploit it, which is why risk management and cybersecurity must be top priorities for any future-thinking company. 

computer

A solid security strategy will not only protect your business but enhance your reputation. However, taking a traditional protectionist approach can inhibit innovation. Instead, companies need to change their mindset around risk management.

They need to understand that security can actually enhance value creation, rather than stifle it.

Here’s how.

Changing how you think about risk management & cybersecurity

The whole point of a strong risk management strategy is to make your company resilient and trustworthy – and make it appear so to customers and clients – while still creating value.

Traditionally cybersecurity has been inward-facing – only concerned with protecting the company’s infrastructure from threats such as malware, hacking or ransomware.

In 2017, a ransomware attack called ‘WannaCry’ targeted computers running Microsoft Windows.

Amongst other businesses, it hit a third of hospital trusts in the UK, locking users out and demanding a ransom in Bitcoin. It’s estimated to have caused billions of dollars in financial damages worldwide.

Meanwhile, the Cambridge Analytica Facebook data scandal offers us an effective risk-management case study on three fronts: first as an example of how catastrophic the repercussions can be of woefully inadequate data protection; second, how difficult it can be to police tech; and finally, as a study in the reputational damage that comes from disregarding people’s right to privacy.

The fact this was then followed by an entirely separate data leak by Facebook a year later is fairly extraordinary but shows the inherent risks associated with rapid tech development.  

As tech develops, so do threats and so should risk management and cybersecurity.

However, progressive times demand a progressive mindset. Focus can’t only be directed inwards, but outwards too: how does your risk-management system and security tech enable and enhance value?

Rather than limiting information, it’s about freeing it up responsibly – and there’s no excuse not to do so with the technology now available. This means check-box compliance is out and risk-based decision-making is in. Security experts must work side-by-side with executives and creatives to decide which measures can facilitate as well as protect.

The drivers behind your new risk management strategy

These are the things you need to address and consider when working out your new strategy – the areas that will drive and influence what security is needed and how it’s implemented.

Technical drivers

  • Adaptive architectures
  • Digitalized ecosystems
  • Identities and transactions
  • Applications and data
  • Technological infrastructure
  • Business continuity management

Emotional drivers

  • Local and international governance
  • Internal governance
  • Policy and processes
  • Integrated risk management
  • Structural ecosystems
  • External disruptions (i.e. data breaches, Brexit or Coronavirus)
  • Staffing (i.e. having the appropriate number of skilled staff in the right positions)
product vision meeting

Your new value-driven risk-management strategy

Your strategy should prioritize adaptability, confidentiality, integrity, privacy, safety, reliability, and accessibility.

It must combine protecting against attack with protecting access and productivity.

To do this effectively, the current threats your company faces must be continuously monitored and analyzed – are they mutating as your tech evolves, and is what you’re currently using the best option available?

You also need to be vigilant against potential future threats and risks. As your business becomes more sophisticated, so will the tech you use… and so will the criminals you’re up against. Appointing someone whose role it is to oversee these prediction processes, making sure they’re up-to-scratch and constantly adapted according to changing demands, is a smart move. 

Behavioral analysis comes to the fore when changing up your strategy. Knowing how both staff and clients use your tech, and how that behavior changes over time, is an integral part of any risk-based decision-making process.

Value creation is dependent on the analysis of authentic case studies – on how people actually behave online, not how you think they behave – and these case studies should be constantly updated. 

Research security options available to you that will free up data responsibly. Executives, creatives, developers, and analysts, should work together to establish where value is gained and lost and at what cost.

Do the rewards outweigh the risks?

Also, make cybersecurity a focus of any internal tech-development strategy. Any API portfolio should include security-focused products that will not only add value internally through your own use but externally, with developers and clients.     

Once you have all of this information, follow the below guidelines to create a risk-management strategy that enables value creation.

Three steps to successfully balance protection with productivity

This charter will set out your security objectives clearly. Almost like a vision statement, it must be the result of collaboration between all areas of management and include the results of your value-driven risk-management strategy. This charter must be accepted by everyone in the company to avoid any conflict or mixed messaging. 

It will include a detailed description of your current information security management system – its features, components, and capabilities – as well as your future plans. It will also clearly define the hierarchy of risk-management responsibility within your company.

You need to be constantly on top of governance and compliance – internal, local, and international. Cybersecurity is one of the biggest concerns for law enforcement, yet rapid tech growth means governments are constantly playing catch-up. They are also often led by societal and environmental disruptions and public movements.

Upskill current leaders in new security approaches and compliance. You’re negotiating uncharted territory when it comes to the rate of tech development and the implementation of new security measures on outdated platforms.

Staff needs to be constantly upskilled, not necessarily replaced, as their knowledge and business acumen will be essential to successfully integrate both new tech and new workers.

Securing and protecting digital innovation

Continuing to take a traditional defensive and protectionist approach to risk management and cybersecurity will limit creativity, and innovation and possibly create conflict between security teams, developers, and clients.

Instead, adopting an attitude that recognizes how security can work alongside value creation will not only future-proof your business but keep you well ahead of the competition.

Your security program needs to be adaptable, with a view that it will constantly evolve as the tech evolves.

But your company’s mindset also needs to be adaptable, acknowledging how digital is changing how we work and how we protect that work.

We need to respect how risk management doesn’t mean today what it did even just a year ago. Rather than an impediment to be overcome, security can and should be viewed as an essential part of enhancing digital value creation. 

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