Digital Platform Implementation: Risks & Challenges

Picture this: a company hears all the rumors and promotions about digital platforms and DXPs. They see figures on how Digital Transformation can support operations, grow business relationships, and drive growth across time. After digging deeper, they learn that the upfront cost can provide ROI for over a decade if done right, and, convinced of the benefits, they decide to take the plunge and start platform implementation.

If that picture sounds familiar, stop before you hit that start button. No, we aren’t going to try to dissuade you from your choice, but we do want you to be aware of the risks and challenges involved before you start, and the key players within your organization that should be involved.

Long story short, Digital Transformation is not as simple as picking the right platform and moving content over. The journey around digitizing business processes and leveraging technology to enable business is at least as complicated as the company processes it’s being used for, and proper planning and coordination are essential for a successful DXP project. That planning can be difficult to do without an expert in Digital Transformation projects.

Digital Platform Implementation

That’s talent most companies don’t have on staff – digital platform integration is not their area of expertise. In fact, many companies face platform migration only a few times in their entire history. It’s a landmark moment and not something companies should do often – both for the cost and the risk to operations and company memory.

The lack of expertise in this area, however, can lead to an incomplete or unsuccessful platform configuration and implementation. In fact, the IBM Institute for Business Value’s research insights shows that proper planning and implementation is one of the main hurdles businesses face when trying to get the most from their DXPs. Based on Base22’s many years of digital platform consulting practice, we’ve broken down platform implementation and DXP configuration into seven main platform challenges and risks for businesses to look out for.

DXP Implementation Insights & Risks

1. Lack of Stakeholder Alignment

Getting the main stakeholders onboard and aligned is a key part of the process, especially with application and legacy system integrations. One reason that’s so important is most departments have developed individual dependencies on many different systems. Integrating those systems into a new platform requires a great deal of communication and participation from all involved. “Content” is also its own application and impacts everyone within the organization. Without internal audience and departmental buy-in to the project, that communication doesn’t happen smoothly if at all.

When Reworked’s State of the Digital Workplace 2023 report (full PDF) asked about the top three challenges companies face with their digital platforms over the next year,

  • 28% mentioned competing initiatives or departments,
  • 16% listed lack of cross-departmental collaboration,
  • 12% cited lack of executive support,
  • 9% reported limited cross-functional alignment, and
  • 8% said proliferation of applications.

All those issues can be improved by initially working on stakeholder alignment, and that’s part of the benefit of working with a digital platform consulting firm like Base22. Part of our expertise is navigating complex business relationships in organizations of all sizes and helping them to develop a technology roadmap. It can be much harder to handle that completely in-house, where everyone has a stake in a specific aspect of the integration, and without knowing the specific strategies that help improve the agility of these processes.

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2. Not Choosing the Right Platform

Most businesses recognize the importance of choosing a good platform. Unfortunately, there are many aspects of picking the best platform for your business model that the IT team, management, and employees don’t encounter until it’s time to implement.

With a growing selection of products each year, the digital platform market can easily be overwhelming, and unfortunately, there’s no one right answer that every company can turn to. Some even consider creating a specialty platform or application from scratch to try to simplify matters, but that has its downfalls, as well. Gartner reports can be helpful, however, the selection needs to be based on the business and technical requirements of each situation.

Unfortunately, in-house development is usually more expensive and slower than a DXP implementation. So despite the growing number of DXP options to wade through, we highly recommend taking the time to search the market and identify the right platform for your company.

Choosing the best option is going to rely strongly on your needs (both current and anticipated) as well as how those needs are prioritized in your roadmap, and the future-proofness and supportability of the DXP. Considerations include…

  • Model (on-premise, private Cloud, or full Cloud),
  • Pricing (by seat, by consumption, by size, by environment, by resources, by support tier, etc.),
  • Specific Features and Frequency of Upgrades,
  • Level of Personalization,
  • Level of Support
  • Add-ons, and
  • Scalability.

Pricing is one of the key questions. If your company wants to create an employee portal for 200 employees, a pricing defined by seat definitely makes sense. But if your company has over 100,000 employees and plans to keep growing by acquiring other companies, a different pricing model, such as by support tier, could benefit you in the long run.

Navigating through those considerations requires a clearcut list of prioritized requirements. Note that these challenges are not independent issues: a full list of requirements cannot be made without stakeholder alignment, commitment, and communication.

Digital Platform Implementation Risks infographic

3. Lack of Content Migration Experience

Application and content migration is an absolutely critical component of platform implementation. Vast amounts of information and countless user journey’s must be mapped and accounted for, and with large content migrations, the mapping alone has a process to guarantee that vital information isn’t lost.

Someone with no experience in these processes has to figure out a number of steps quickly:

  1.  Where and how to start,
  2. How to collect the information,
  3. How to prepare the information for import,
  4. How to import the existing information, and
  5. What are the biggest risks related to the experience.

Accomplishing these steps is certainly possible, but it’s all too easy to overlook one until the process is partially complete, especially for someone who is still learning the requirements of the new platform and its future implementation. No one wants to spend manhours and energy covering ground again because an aspect was missed or, worse, find out after the original resource is gone that something was missed.

Beyond those basics, there are plenty of recommendations related to large content migration that need to be considered, including content cleanup, categorization, new metadata, and reviewing content types. These tasks or milestones should be part of the bigger implementation plan and carefully evaluated in terms of resources and time to avoid any delays in the project.

For example, Base22 believes strongly in including steps like content cleanup and duplication removal because the long-term success of the digital platform depends on training the content authors. They need strategies that not only improve the quality of the content and experience but also make the site or app easier to maintain. These enhancement methods are something learned from many years of working on Digital Transformation projects, so they’re generally missed when companies try to pick up the process on their own.

Proper planning and implementation is one of the main hurdles businesses face when trying to get the most from their DXPs, according to IBM Institute for Business Value.

4. Not Giving Enough Time for Integrations & Requirements

Platform integrations are a bit like cutting lumber in that similar rules apply: measure twice and cut once. Good and thorough planning can save not only time and frustration but also money down the road. The instinct may be to do the planning as quickly and barebones as possible, especially if the company already owns a digital platform and is migrating to a new one; however, even seemingly simple cases like that have existing integrations and requirements that the new platform must comply with.

When the business relies on integrated processes, planning is one aspect you cannot afford to skimp on. Technical roadmaps and requirement lists guarantee a better outcome, ensure business continuity, and help the company avoid costly pitfalls at the same time. Not to mention that new integrations and innovations are needed to make the change and advancement. Otherwise, why make the change in the first place?

5. Not Having the Right Technical Support

This technical support could apply to the old platform, the new platform, or both since different platforms and integrations require different skillsets. Legacy platforms often require specialized resources, and having an experienced partner in this process is a must to avoid downtimes or losing capabilities. Accounting for technical support is part of essential DXP implementation preparation, and an experienced digital platform consulting firm will be sure to include that in their immediate migration as well as the company’s roadmap.

Think of a DXP implementation as a translation project with the added scope of preparing in advance to be able to meet your desired outcomes.

Platform integrations are a bit like cutting lumber in that similar rules apply: measure twice and cut once.

6. Not Planning for Long-term

Truly leveraging a new digital platform means taking actions in the present while planning for the future – and the actions you take should fit into that future plan. A Digital-First approach is particularly valuable to this process because it helps you understand how your company should provide or deliver services and products beyond your current technological limits.

This ties back to selecting the correct platform for your needs and priorities. The new platform should have functionality and performance capabilities to allow your company to thrive for the next 5 years or more. For example, if you have 1,000 users now, you want to ensure there’s room in the new platform for 5,000 users based on business growth plans. Or for companies planning to create additional revenue streams, consider how the digital platform can support them.

Creating new projects and channels that are externally facing is always unpredictable. Plenty of factors are out of a company’s control, such as seasonality, new governmental regulations, changes in the market, public opinion, or facing security threats. Planning for the long term also requires thinking of how your digital platform will perform under unpredictable scenarios and if it has enough tools and functionality for your business to overcome any of these challenges.

7. Not Including a Change Management Program

One major misconception some companies have when diving into a DXP project is thinking that the project is over when everything is migrated and working correctly. That’s only phase 1. Driving adoption across the organization is essential for project success. That includes training, expanding platform reach, and continuing communication both down and up the ladder.

Not including a change management plan as part of a DXP project has a big chance of failing – not because the implementation went wrong but because the business and stakeholders involved in the project didn’t leverage its features and capabilities to its fullest potential. It doesn’t matter if the IT team is expert in the platform. DXPs are meant to drive Internal Communications, HR, Marketing, Admin, and Sales efforts, among many other types.

Remember: the most expensive tool is merely a paperweight if no one uses it. Or in this case, a digital account bleed. If your stakeholders and internal users are left out of understanding the value of this new power tool and how it can help them in their everyday tasks, you’ll be walking down a path to 0% ROI. That’s what makes adoption so essential.

The users need to see the value in the product and expected outcome. That means the result needs to match their needs and goals, and change management programs are one of the best methods available for making this happen. For maximum success, you will need to collaborate with your stakeholders and partners to create a tailored change management plan and start shaping the future together.

Remember: the most expensive tool is merely a paperweight if no one uses it.

Conclusion: Platform Implementation and Beyond

These common platform risks paint a vivid picture that platform implementations are more complicated than they seem from outside. There are risks and challenges that must be countered to achieve maximum success. The hurdles we covered above can help mitigate or remove 21 out of 24 of the top challenges listed by companies in the Reworked’s State of the Digital Workplace 2023 report.

Here are some key reminders:

  1. Long-term strategy, in-depth requirement analysis, and roadmaps are vital to understanding which platform fits your business model and technologies better.
  2. Change management is a must-have for any project that involves many stakeholders, multiple departments, or several business units.
  3. Stakeholder buy-in allows your project to be delivered on time. Without it, the project cannot succeed fully.
  4. An experienced digital platform consulting firm like Base22 brings years of inside knowledge and expertise to help you avoid costly pitfalls.
  5. Think Digital-First to shape your business into what you need it to. Envision what your customers and stakeholders need, and let technology make it happen for you.

Digital platforms are incredibly powerful tools, and used properly, they can transform your business for the better. Like any power, however, the outcome depends entirely upon how they’re used. Accounting for these risks will help make sure your platform implementation is a good one. And when in doubt, ask the experts.

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