Deep Dive: Composable DXP vs Traditional All-In-One DXP

Evaluating The DXP Landscape

The market for web platforms is really in a moment of transition. Many organization have invested in Digital Experience Platforms (DXP). An important questions everyone has to answer is what do they have?, what has and hasn’t worked them? and where are they going?

Because we make a big investment in these platforms and expect them to last +5 years, a lot can change with technology. And through the line between those 3 questions is looking at the fundamental architecture and approach of your platform - All-In-One DXP vs Composable SaaS DXP?

We’ll look at the two concepts and understand how they fit into your current and next web platforms.

Explained: All-In-One DXP

In the early 2010s, as the digital expectations expanded, companies realized they needed a centralized solution to manage the growing complexities of execution while trying to create more engaging experiences for customers. This need led to the emergence of All-In-One Digital Experience Platforms (DXP) from vendors like Sitecore and Adobe. It’s through this transition of customer needs that Sitecore grew from a CMS to a DXP.

I prefer the term all-in-one, but others use the term monolithic. Same idea.

Platforms embraced organizations omni-channel goals and delivered functionality like email, personalization, A/B testing, CRM, customer data tracking, marketing automation, analytics & multi-channel content delivery.

All of these features were included in the same platform and software for very good reasons.

Historically, the cost of deploying, supporting, and maintaining platforms was very high, and the overall ecosystem of Software as a Service (SaaS) technology had not yet matured. You would not get multiple platforms. As organization you would get one platform and expect it to do as much as possible.

As the website is the anchor of an organization's digital experience, the web content management system (CMS) is a natural anchor.

A one-stop shop. The big box store of technology. It might do the most, but in reality can it be the best platform at everything promised? And what the platform excels at, is it what you need?

Explained: Composable SaaS DXP

When we talk about a composable SaaS DXP, we are referring to a new architecture - a composable architecture. This architecture utilizes a modular approach, where organizations integrate only the capabilities they require. These capabilities can come from separate technology platforms, but the key is that these platforms are best-in-breed and built for easy integration with APIs.

And of course SaaS. Which means there is organizational footprint left by the technology.

Quick Overview of DXP Characteristics

Here is recap of someone of the key characteristic of a composable DXP:

  • Microservices architecture: DXP capabilities like CMS, commerce, personalization offered as independent services.
  • Headless CMS: Content repository exposed via APIs for flexible content consumption.
  • SaaS delivery: Available as cloud service for faster updates and scalability.
  • Open and standards-based: Integrates easily with other marketing, sales, service systems.
  • API-first: All services and data accessible via APIs to customize experiences.
  • Decoupled frontend: Gives freedom to use any presentation layer technologies for web, mobile & other endpoints.

Quick Overview of DXP Impact

And again at high level, as organizations are making the transition from all-in-one to composable, here are some of their main drivers:

  • Agility: Add and update services faster without affecting others.
  • Flexibility: Mix-and-match capabilities that meet specific needs.
  • Cost efficiency: Only pay for used capabilities and scale(or remove) them independently.
  • Speed: Faster deployment and iteration with SaaS delivery.
  • Innovation: Incorporate emerging technologies (like AI) more rapidly.
  • Future-proof: Escape vendor lock-in and easily adopt new capabilities.
  • Omnichannel: Content and services can be used in more creatives ways across multiple channels.

As you can see with from the above, organizations are expecting to get a lot out of the transition to DXP by gaining more agility, scale and innovation.

DXP Comparison: All-In-One vs Composable SaaS-Based

Now, let's examine the differences between the two DXP approaches and how their features and functionality can be expected to vary.

All-In-One vs Composable SaaS Solution

Feature/Functionality All-In-One DXP Composable SaaS-Based DXP
Integration Generally have built-in integrations with limited customization options Highly flexible and can be easily integrated with various tools according to specific needs
Customization Limited customization and may require vendor support High level of customization as it's built with different tools tailored to specific needs
Scalability May be limited by the vendor's offerings and features Can be scaled easily by adding or removing SaaS tools as needed
Cost Often higher initial cost and ongoing licensing fees Can be more cost-effective, as you only pay for the tools you need
Maintenance & Upgrades Typically managed by the vendor, reducing the burden on internal teams Requires managing updates and maintenance for each individual tool in the stack
Innovation & Adaptability Dependent on the vendor's roadmap and feature releases Can quickly adapt to new technologies and trends by incorporating the latest SaaS tools
Vendor Lock-in Higher risk of vendor lock-in due to the all-in-one nature of the platform Lower risk of vendor lock-in as each tool can be replaced without impacting the entire stack
Learning Curve One learning curve for the entire platform Multiple learning curves for each tool in the stack
Time to Market Can be quicker to deploy initially as it's an out-of-the-box solution May require more time to set up and integrate the various tools
Security & Compliance Managed by the vendor, ensuring a consistent level of security and compliance Must ensure each individual tool meets security and compliance standards
Data Management Centralized data storage and management within the platform Data may be spread across multiple tools, requiring additional data management efforts
Performance Performance may be limited by the platform's capabilities Performance can be optimized by choosing best-of-breed tools for each function
Best-of-Breed Features May not have best-of-breed features for every functionality Can select best-of-breed tools for each specific function, optimizing performance
Support & Training Single point of contact for support and training Support and training may come from multiple sources, depending on the tools used
Ecosystem & Community May have a smaller ecosystem and community due to vendor-centric focus Can leverage the broader ecosystem and community around each individual tool
Platform Evolution Dependent on the vendor's development and innovation Can evolve the stack independently by adding, removing, or upgrading tools as needed
Single Vendor Accountability Vendor is accountable for the platform's performance and issues Accountability is distributed among multiple vendors, requiring more vendor management
User Experience User experience may be more consistent and cohesive User experience may vary across different tools, potentially impacting usability

Composable Platforms

To recreate an all-in-one DXP using a composable SaaS stack, you would need various SaaS platforms covering multiple aspects of digital experience management. Here's a list of potential types of SaaS platforms that could be part of such a stack:

  • Content Management System (CMS): A platform to create, manage, and publish content for your website or application (e.g., Sitecore XM Cloud, Contentful, or Squiz). This generally the most important piece of your stack to get right.
  • Front-End Platform: If you are leveraging a headless CMS, you’re website will require a front-end service to render your website. A popular web framework like Next.js can be hosted on Netlify, Vercel, Cloudflare, AWS and other services depending your requirements.
  • Marketing Automation: A platform to automate marketing tasks and workflows, such as email marketing, lead nurturing, and campaign management (e.g., Sitecore Send, Sitecore Personalize, HubSpot, Marketo, or Pardot).
  • Personalization and A/B Testing: A platform for creating personalized web experiences and running A/B tests to optimize conversion rates (e.g., Sitecore Personalize).
  • Forms / User Feedback and Survey: A platform for collecting user informatio and feedback that is (e.g., Typeform, Jotforms, or Google Forms).
  • Search and Recommendations: A platform for providing advanced search functionality and personalized product recommendations (e.g., Coveo, Sitecore Search, Algolia, or Elasticsearch).
  • Analytics and Reporting: A platform for tracking user behavior, website performance, and generating actionable insights (e.g., Google Analytics, Qualtrics or Mixpanel).

Useful Composable Technologies

  • A.I. Platform: This is used to enhance your organizations data to derive meaningful insights, automations and generative answers. (e.g., Open AI and Anthropic)
  • E-commerce Platform: A platform for managing product catalogs, orders, and payments for online stores (e.g., Sitecore Order Cloud, SAP, Shopify, WooCommerce, or BigCommerce).
  • Customer Data Platform (CDP): A platform for unifying customer data from multiple sources and creating a single view of the customer (e.g., Segment, Sitecore CDP or Tealium).
  • Digital Asset Management (DAM): A platform for managing digital assets like images, videos, and documents (e.g., Sitecore Content Hub, Widen, or Bynder).
  • Customer Support and Help Desk: A platform for managing customer support inquiries and providing self-help resources (e.g., Zendesk, Freshdesk, or Help Scout).
  • Social Media Management: A platform for managing social media accounts, scheduling posts, and monitoring engagement (e.g., Hootsuite, Buffer, or Sprout Social).
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM): A platform for managing customer data, tracking customer interactions, and driving sales (e.g., Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics).
  • Community and Forum Management: A platform for creating and managing online communities and forums (e.g., Discourse, Vanilla Forums, or Invision Community).
  • Learning Management System (LMS): A platform for creating and managing online courses, training materials, and certifications (e.g., Moodle, Teachable, or TalentLMS).
  • Event Management: A platform for managing events, webinars, and registrations (e.g., Eventbrite, Cvent, or Hopin).

This list could be more extensive, but it showcases the expansive options that could be part of your composable stack.

Additionally, it's worth noting that companies like Sitecore, which previously offered an all-in-one DXP, now offer multiple purpose-built solutions for the Composable SaaS DXP space.

Sitecore’s Composable SaaS DXP

As previously mentioned, Sitecore's offerings across the composable stack make it unique. Its new enterprise SaaS-based web content management system, Sitecore XM Cloud, is one of the best products available and can serve as the anchor to your DXP strategy. I can attest to its success firsthand, based on our experience at Fishtank with the platform.

Sitecore's other impactful SaaS products, such as Sitecore Personalize and Sitecore Content Hub, can be extremely effective individually, but when used together, they have even more power due to their built-in integrations.

Working within Sitecore's suite of technology allows us to avoid using multiple vendors, simplifying accountability and vendor management while still providing the benefits of the composable approach. While it's definitely important to explore all options, I wanted to shed some light on our experience with Sitecore.

Check out this article from us that goes into more depth on Sitecore’s composable DXP offering.

A Last Word On All-In-One vs Composable DXPs

When considering adopting a composable SaaS DXP approach, Adopt technologies that address core business needs. Buy the best technologies available (appropriate for your size of organization). Don’t get distracted by nice to haves and don’t rush it.

Develop a strategic road map. Understand which how these new technologies and which can bring most value to your organization. Do you need Personalization or Search & Relevance? Do you need to decrease the time it takes to create new content or do you manage digital assets better at scale? Ensure there is an idea for an initial project established and plan to support the composable tools going forward.

The world is definitely moving towards the composable SaaS DXP.

Closing Thoughts

The composable approach allows organizations to do more with less by mixing and matching capabilities that meet their specific needs and only paying for the necessary tools. Adopting a composable architecture can also fundamentally change an organization's capabilities and introduce new ideas that they may not have known were possible.

Lastly - find a great partner like the people at Fishtank to benefit from our expertise and experience and make the transition to a composable SaaS DXP successfully.

Contact us and lets get started on this path together.

Thanks for reading.

Meet Dan Cruickshank

President | Sitecore MVP x 11

Dan is the founder of Fishtank. He's a multi-time Sitecore MVP and Coveo MVP award winner. Outside of technology, he is widely considered to be a top 3 father (routinely receiving "Father of the Year" accolades from his family) and past his prime on the basketball court.

Connect with Dan