The essential guide to B2B digital experience: Part 2

There is no one type of customer. And there is no one type of business.

When it comes to enterprise IT and its role in B2B, there is no quick fix. But – there are a few easily implemented and easily adjusted solutions to help you on the path to modernising the B2B digital experience.

Businesses come in all shapes, sizes, and industries. They all have different goals, different ways of working, and different technology estates. And these factors are constantly changing and evolving with time. But there are a few common traits that they all share when it comes to their technical real estate: technical debt, legacy tech, shadow IT, expensive tech cycles, no holistic digital strategy.

Technical debt is the result of decisions you make unknowingly, or knowingly, that will require reworking further down the line. Large organisations naturally accrue technical debt over time. They also typically have vast legacy technology that is closely tied to business operations.

There is no one-size-fits-all tech solution

Digital is complicated. Different parts of your business will have varied and specific needs – what finance needs is vastly different to what marketing needs. Not to mention, accounting for things like legislative requirements – both national and international – and customer groups.

A homogenous solution for all your business needs isn’t practical. Attempting to build one system that can meet all business requirements, always, is expensive and time-consuming. By the time it’s done, needs will have changed, customer expectations will have evolved, and you’ll be back in the infinite tech cycle of doom.

Crucially, it’s also important to remember that there is no such thing as future-proof technology. Obsolescence is a real and inescapable thing. But it’s not something to fear – it’s something you can plan for and mitigate. What organisations need is adaptable, flexible technology - supported by a clear organisational digital strategy - that’s built with awareness for current demand and potential evolution.

3 pillars of a good digital estate

To achieve your business goals, it can be useful to consider these three pillars of digital success: flexible technology, management of legacy tech and tech debt, and pace of delivery. Let’s break it down.

Utilising flexible technology

Breaking the endless procurement cycle

Trends, tools, and techniques from the commercial world can easily be ported to a global B2B setting, thanks to digital experience platforms evolving massively over the years.

Now, your front end can be decoupled from the content management system, which can be decoupled from the personalisation engine, which can be decoupled from the commerce engine. Need a UX/UI overhaul? Simply update your front end.

Composable architecture and swappable components, like those found with Sitecore, offer a suite of systems that can work together at will. Along with loosely coupled systems - designed for layers of abstraction and indirection between components - and SAAS + NoCode, these flexible technologies will support and cope with the complexities of your organisation, with less operational overhead.

Managing legacy systems

You don't have to replace everything in one go

It’s very common to find old, legacy technology within an enterprise digital estate that can’t communicate with modern systems. Building a roadmap is essential – you'll use it to validate decisions and keep momentum going. Most organisations don’t have one!

Every organisation should have technical debt tracked in their backlog/s, so it can be prioritised and remediated. The longer you delay paying off this debt, the more it’ll cost you. Educate product owners and business stakeholders on why clearing this debt is important – the temptation of shiny features tends to be quite high, especially in larger organisations.

Intelligent use of abstractions can also make a huge difference to how you live with legacy systems: placing a layer in front of the legacy system that brokers communications, so the rest of the technology stack doesn’t have to. This avoids incurring technical debt all over your digital estate and instead concentrates it in the abstraction layer.

Replacing a legacy system wholesale is often impractical. This is where the ‘Strangler fig pattern’ can help. Instead of wholesale replacement, you instead create a façade – gradually migrating functionality to a more modern system (or systems). Calls to the legacy system are routed through the façade layer. It knows which bits of functionality have been migrated, and routes traffic accordingly. It’s a gradual shift that slowly, but surely, eases reliance on legacy systems in a digital architecture.

Maintaining innovation and pace

How to avoid issues with shadow IT

Enterprise IT is notorious for crawling along at a snail’s pace. There is a balance to be struck. Find that balance in your organisation.

We all know that maintaining pace is crucial. But not all teams should work the same way. Bring teams together, share ways of working, and let them adapt. If implemented and run in the right way, a composable architecture can act as a multiplier, enabling you to run multiple teams at once with less friction. And giving teams autonomy, ownership, and accountability for system components empowers them to innovate and deliver at pace.

But to do so, it’s also important to keep teams together – nothing disrupts the pace of delivery like moving people around all the time. Optimise for productivity, quality, and happiness by interrogating any decisions that will directly affect team members.

And avoid drowning them in bureaucracy when it inevitably shows up – even when simply selecting day-to-day tools like Slack, Clickup, Jira etc. A flat structure will ensure everyone is aware of process, enabling teams to move quickly.

Where do I start?

No matter where you’re starting from, and what your business goals are, it’s important to remember: there is no one-size-fits-all enterprise solution.

Think holistically about your customer and business needs. Develop a technical strategy, and a handy roadmap, to keep your organisation and teams on track with objectives, rationales, and solutions for business goals. Start small, create pace, deliver value quickly – and repeat.

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