Building a scalable DXP - Part 1

by Dean Haddock


Scale is one of the most common and fundamental problems digital teams have to confront in order to grow their businesses. But more than just a key to unlocking growth, how a team thinks about scale can affect costs, ongoing resource capacity, feature roadmaps, and even an organization’s overall pace of innovation. 

In the universe of digital experience (DX), which spans all the way from the devices at the frontier of your audience’s senses all the way to the cloud and hardware that powers your company’s back-of-house operations, scale applies in some way to nearly every facet between these two ends. Understanding how the systems, people and processes that make up this end-to-end DX assembly line fit together and affect each other is key to unlocking that scale.

This article aims to explain how to scale your digital experience platform (DXP). In it, we will discuss the meaning of scale, how to approach scale within your organization, and why it’s important. 

What exactly does it mean to scale?

Simply put, scale is the relationship between the inputs and outputs of a given system. When people refer to scaling a business, they are typically talking about increasing outputs, like sales and revenue, while holding constant or decreasing inputs, like costs and materials. 

In an engineering-oriented team, scale often refers to hardware and software, such as the ability to flex or expand capacity to process more operations. If you work on a content or marketing team, scale usually refers to growing your audience, increasing engagement, and publishing more and better content. On the business and leadership teams, scale usually means increasing revenue.

But these definitions of scale are oversimplified because they focus only on the outputs of these systems while ignoring the inputs. Or to put it another way, when we are talking only about increasing the outputs of a system, we’re talking about growth. When we talk about increasing outputs relative to the inputs, we are talking about scale.

A “scalable” case study

Consider a digital agency as a hypothetical case study. The agency builds highly engaging promotional websites, and its revenue is directly tied to the number of websites it can implement for its customers. Let’s assume the agency is high touch and that each website takes a total of 1,000 hours to successfully design, build and launch. 

Let’s also assume that the agency employs 10 people, for a total of 20,000 available hours per year (ignoring PTO) and enough resources and the proper staffing configuration to successfully sell and deploy a maximum of 20 new sites per year.

A blunt approach to scaling this business model would be to demand more than 20 sites out of the talent. In this approach, leadership sees the staff as the enemies of scale and demands more output from them in the form of working faster and staying late to meet aggressive goals. Indeed many companies attempt this strategy at the cost of talent attrition, sloppy work, constant training of new employees, missed deadlines and lost customers. Launching just two additional sites per year would require every employee to work an average of about one extra half-day every week of the year, leaving scant time for family as well as the occasional urgent customer support request.

Another approach is hiring additional talent and slowly scaling up output while demand catches up to the newly increased capacity. Although this approach is common, it comes with the risk of increasing investment before increasing revenue, and when applied responsibly it can take some time to pay off. Leaders who choose this tactic will hire, say, two more staff with the aim of selling and launching about four additional sites per year. While this approach is intuitive, once the full cost of two FTEs, the opportunity costs of training them, and the revenue from four additional sites are factored into the balance sheet, it’s easy to see that this approach could be slow to take off and perhaps actually decrease the agency’s profit margin over time if it doesn’t go well.

Now consider a third approach, where leadership recommends that each team looks for opportunities to repurpose generic work developed for other customers in order to reduce the number of hours required to implement new websites. Over the course of building the next few sites, the teams are able to develop reusable components of their work, for example, in the form of code and design libraries for commonly requested solutions, which in turn results in an average reduction of 200 hours across all website deliverables. This means that the agency can now produce 20 sites of the same or better quality in only 16,000 hours, which increases output capacity to 25 websites in the same original 20,000 available hours without adding staff or increasing costs.

Scale smarter, not harder

While each of these three examples are strategies for how an agency might approach scaling up output, the third example is a clear frontrunner because it has the highest impact on increasing output while at the same time holding inputs relatively constant. The third approach is also the only example out of the three that can lead to economies of scale. Economies of scale describe the state of a relationship between an input, such as cost per unit, and an output, say, the number of units produced, where the cost per unit actually goes down as you create more units. This relationship between inputs and outputs is what people typically mean when they say they want to scale something. It is not just that they want outputs to grow, but that they want outputs to grow and the cost of inputs to stay flat or decrease at the same time.

Although this case study centers around an agency and looks at three simplified approaches to scaling the overall business outputs, it’s useful to shed light on the fundamental concepts of scale before unpacking the specifics of scaling a DXP. Here we’ve highlighted two essential tenets that will benefit digital leaders as they work to scale nearly any system: 

  1. There are many ways to approach a problem of scale, some sustainable and some unsustainable. Scaling on the backs of employees, for instance, is not a sustainable approach. There is nothing wrong with hustling to achieve a goal, but hustle alone lacks the strategic thinking that unlocks scale, which leads us to our second tenet.

  2. Effective and durable scaling centers around creativity and is founded upon understanding — not brute force. But don’t be discouraged if you feel you or your team lacks creativity or your processes are too complex for anyone to understand. As we will see in the following articles, there are some tried and true methods for creating the conditions for creativity to emerge, and if you apply them with your teams you will have a higher likelihood of successfully achieving scale, no matter what it is you wish to scale.

What’s next? Now that we’ve established a baseline understanding of scale, in Part 2 we will set the agency example aside and explore specifically what it means to scale a DXP. Stay tuned!

Share on

About the author

author image

Dean Haddock is a Senior Product Manager at Contentstack who focuses on platform, hosting and data engineering

Learn more about Dean


Leverage composable tech to drive business forward


Composable architecture: How to future-proof your business tech stack

Technology is changing at lightning speed along with market trends and customer expectations. Adding more to it, as per a recent survey by the Conference Board, 93% of corporate CEOs are gearing up for a recession over the next 12 to 18 months. The immediate requirement for these leaders is to ensure the resilience of their technology stacks for the future, thereby keeping their businesses ready for a diverse range of unforeseen circumstances. In such a scenario, delivering customized user experience through composable architecture could ensure long-term survival and success.Customer experience is prioritized by 44.5% of enterprises worldwide, as per a 2021 Statista report. Achieving this in today's dynamic environment requires effectively using technology to create and deliver top-notch products and services.To help organizations respond to that sense of urgency, here are five tips to consider when futureproofing your business tech stack.1. Customized User ExperienceBrands, on their composable journey, must focus on offering personalized user experiences, attained using relevant user data right from the start. McKinsey reports that 71% of consumers expect personalized interactions from brands. Besides improving user experience, brands must focus on designing systems that scale with the growing user base and its dynamic functionality needs.2. Coordination with other business unitsContrary to traditional stereotypes, IT does not function in isolation. In fact, to ensure business success, technology initiatives must align with the business's overall strategy and add to the brand's short- and long-term goals. However, transitioning from a monolithic structure to a composable one must be iterative. Once a new technology is integrated within one business unit, it can eventually be rolled out to other units. While preparing for future challenges, the choice of technology will impact multiple business units during a business's transitional phase.To make sure a specific new tech works well for all units, it's essential to plan and think about the opportunities, problems and trends that might occur. This requires effective collaboration across business units. Given the interconnected nature of these departments, proper goal alignment must be ensured to deliver compatible, scalable, flexible and secure results. For seamless and customized solutions across different touchpoints, the chosen technology should be capable of scaling and accommodating new process changes across the organization.3. Constant hyper-personalization and differentiation The importance of customer experience (CX) is highly discussed in the current business ecosystem. Brands are constantly innovating new solutions to thrive in the face of competition. The only way to do that is by adopting highly scalable tech stacks that incorporate speedy change processes. While customers expect a more compelling experience, selecting any technology for the sake of it or, worse, by mimicking other brands will not work and will lead a brand to lose its competitive advantage. Instead, they must adopt best-of-breed components and change stack parts when required, creating the much-required hyper-personalized experiences.4. A flexible approachBusinesses are more unpredictable than ever, increasing the potential stakes for which leaders must be prepared. While tech leaders know that a tech revolution is coming, the exact nature of the change remains unknown. This unpredictability will lead to rapid and diverse market requirements and changes in user preferences. By investing in and leveraging technology, brands can quickly adapt to these changes and make necessary system adjustments. Furthermore, flexible tech is more interoperable, allowing smoother integration with other tools and platforms.5. Prepare your organization for the futureDon't bite off more than you can chew when it comes to composability. Business leaders can decide the number of components they want to switch at a time. Unlike monoliths, composable architectures allow business leaders to determine the number of components they want to change at a time. This makes the shift a lot smoother and much quicker. There is no rush to modernize in haste. With customer needs and industry trends changing dynamically, flexibility in business functionality is the only way forward and achievable through composable architecture. But before getting into the composable journey, organizations must find their motivation and identify their reasons for going composable to deliver a differentiated experience to their audience.

Empowering finance: The composable technology starter-guide

Why composable for finance makes sense (and dollars)The financial services sector, a front-runner in innovation, faces intense competition, from major investment firms to independent banks. When it comes to financial services, today's customers demand agility, security and continuous innovation. To surpass these expectations, the financial world is embracing composable technology for its unparalleled capacity for customization and innovation. Imagine tailoring services to meet each customer's unique needs, staying ahead of evolving regulations, and fostering relentless innovation. Composable Digital Experience Platforms (DXP) are the secret ingredient that fuels this transformative journey for today’s financial services organizations.Benefits of a Composable DXPThis shift offers financial institutions a chance to revolutionize their technology spectrum, driving revenue growth, faster market entry, cost efficiency, enhanced risk management and elevated customer contentment. Through a composable DXP, financial businesses gain the agility to adapt swiftly to market dynamics, personalize customer interactions, unveil new services quickly, and seamlessly integrate innovative solutions to maintain a competitive edge in the ever-evolving financial landscape. So what should financial institutions consider before getting started on their composable journey and how does this shift truly move the needle?Personalized digital experiencesToday’s customers crave personalization. They no longer want to be just another number on a spreadsheet; they want services tailored to their unique needs and preferences. This shift towards personalization isn't just a trend; it has become a necessity in the financial landscape. Composable technology serves as the backbone for this personalized evolution, allowing financial institutions to craft bespoke solutions that resonate with each customer. By leveraging modular components, these building blocks enable financial institutions to design personalized offerings that cater to individual needs. By breaking down services into smaller, interchangeable parts, institutions have the flexibility to mix and match these components, creating dynamic and tailored solutions for their customers. “Integrating a headless CMS into our cloud-native approach allowed us to really optimize edge delivery of a lot of our content… Render times are five times faster when compared to our legacy CMS.”— Clay Gregory | Principal Architect, MorningstarThis composable approach empowers organizations to adapt quickly to changing market demands, stay ahead of the curve and deliver innovative, customer-centric experiences.Improved connectivity, compliance and risk mitigationCompliance and risk mitigation have always been critical in finance. However, the increasing complexity of regulations and the fast-paced nature of financial transactions make these aspects even more crucial.Composable technology serves as a game-changer, not only enabling swift adjustments to comply with regulations but also enhancing risk mitigation strategies. Known for its inherent flexibility, composable technology empowers organizations to seamlessly update their systems to adapt to regulatory changes. This facilitates real-time risk assessment by enabling continuous monitoring and analysis of potential threats. Its modular architecture facilitates the integration of advanced risk management tools and AI-driven analytics. Additionally, it streamlines risk mitigation efforts by providing the agility to swiftly implement necessary controls and measures in response to identified risks. By leveraging composable technology, businesses can proactively identify and address potential risks, predict potential vulnerabilities, and implement preemptive measures, ensuring a robust and secure operational environment.Such a proactive approach not only fortifies the regulatory compliance stance but also bolsters the resilience of financial systems against unforeseen risks, safeguarding the integrity of operations in an ever-evolving regulatory environment.Increased customer engagement: Building loyalty with contentEngaging content is no longer limited to media companies. Financial institutions are recognizing the value in building loyalty and trust among their customers — and nurturing that customer loyalty requires a strategic blend of informative and engaging content. To build lasting relationships and deliver value beyond transactions, more financial services organizations are demonstrating their commitment to customer needs with personalized newsletters, social media, targeted emails and other various channels.But how does composable technology come into play in this context? By enabling seamless integration of various content delivery platforms, it empowers financial firms to create localized and omnichannel content strategies, ensuring meaningful engagement with customers across different channels and regions.This approach enhances the overall customer experience and strengthens the bond between financial institutions and their diverse customer base.“We’re aggressively making changes to the website. We’re trying to draw people in, and we haven’t done that before. We can spin up new pages faster now than they could previously.”— Jason Hagen | Software Architect, Harbor Capital AdvisorsModernizing workflows for today's expectations around agility and innovationAgility and innovation are no longer just buzzwords — they are non-negotiables. Composable technology is a force multiplier when it comes to modernizing workflows and increasing agility. The integration of composable technology not only amplifies agility but also catalyzes a culture of innovation within organizations. With composable technology, teams can streamline operational processes, seamlessly integrate new tools, and optimize collaborative efforts, resulting in enhancements in productivity and efficiency. "We cut out 40% of our tickets by having a CMS where other users can make updates to the website. That 40% is so valuable for us, so we can focus on revenue-driving initiatives and find new ways to get users to engage with our web properties to get more leads in the pipeline for sales. It is a huge advantage for us!"— Kevin Yang | Senior Manager, Digital Experience, ICE Mortgage TechnologyAdditionally, the rapid deployment of new functionalities and enhancements encourages a culture of adaptability, allowing teams to respond swiftly to market shifts and emerging opportunities. Composable technology not only future-proofs operations but cultivates a dynamic ecosystem where innovation thrives, positioning organizations at the forefront of industry advancements.Composable is the key to new growth and revenueIf you are still wondering why composable technology is the future of finance, consider this: it paves the way for new growth and revenue streams.By enabling customization, fostering innovation, enhancing compliance and improving customer engagement, composable technology helps financial institutions tap into previously unexplored opportunities. Composable Digital Experience Platforms are not just about keeping up with the times; they are a linchpin of progress. Composable DXPs embody modernization, propelling businesses forward in a landscape defined by agility, innovation and customer-centricity. Embracing these platforms isn't just about staying relevant; it's about reimagining your digital experiences to thrive in an era where adaptability, personalization and swift evolution are paramount. Are you ready to not just meet but exceed customer expectations?Get started today.

Composable commerce: Best-in-class tools for the job

Many people today use the phrase "composable commerce" — including monolith vendors like Adobe and Shopify. As the composable commerce space has matured, and as more and more brands have seen the value of a system that lets you leverage best-of-breed microservices for your brand needs, it makes sense that legacy tech platforms would want to carve out a piece of the composable pie. But the reality is, a monolith can never truly be composable. If you're on Adobe, you may be able to leverage a handful of third-party services with relative ease—but only ones that have been approved and integrated by them. You’re still locked into their ecosystem, and your ability to make changes and update your commerce experiences is driven by their feature development and priority list. True composability is about breaking down those barriers and putting control in your hands.What is composable commerce?What sets pure-play composable commerce apart? At its core, real composability involves component-based architecture, cloud-native infrastructure and API-first connectivity. This means that modular capabilities can be mixed and matched, scaled, iterated, and swapped as needed. Instead of an all-in-one toolset, brands access integrated microservices via APIs.Cloud-native infrastructure provides the foundation for this plug-and-play extensibility. Containered services scale automatically, while APIs enable headless commerce functionality alongside other capabilities. As capabilities expand, composable stacks stay cohesive yet cutting-edge.“The ability to curate your commerce experience using best-in-breed microservices, with access to the tools you want and need—nothing more, nothing less—is a compelling argument for modern retail and commerce brands,” notes Jason Cottrell, CEO of Orium. The market moves quickly. Brands need to be able to move alongside it.Benefits of composable commerceModular composability centered on APIs and the cloud provides:Targeted personalization: Leverage real-time data for contextualized messaging connecting commerce and contentContinuous experimentation: Rapidly test and scale what resonates without significant liftsFaster innovation cycles: Plug emerging engagement channels into your stackIf a new, better alternative comes on the market, swapping it out won't be an option. When you lock into a monolithic platform, your options will always be limited by their platform. With a truly composable stack based on MACH technologies, you'll be able to leverage the best solutions in the market for your needs. For example, if you need to understand user behavior (and you do), quantumetrics is an industry-leading solution that can be implemented into a modular composable architecture with relative ease. The same can't be said for monolithic counterparts.Overcoming implementation challengesSome brands hesitate to adopt composable commerce, fearing overly complex implementations involving stitching together disparate systems. However, MACH’s open APIs and microservices architecture streamline integrations. Composable also offers the freedom to work with preferred agency partners versus being locked into an agency ecosystem dictated by a suite vendor.With expert guidance, brands can launch composable stacks rapidly. Many even realize faster time-to-market versus monolithic solutions given leaner, more lightweight systems. Vendor-agnostic flexibility also allows engaging your preferred system integrator partners to streamline rollout.“As the space has evolved, moving to a MACH-based architecture has become easier. The emergence of accelerators, like Orium’s Accelerator, can smooth the process for brands, speeding time to first value without sacrificing the flexibility and scalability of a fully composable system,” notes Cottrell.Separating composable leaders from followersIncreasingly, legacy platforms now pay lip service to composability but lack the cloud DNA and API foundations required. Their tools remain a walled garden, restricting the versatility that authentic composable architecture provides. Even with approved partners, integration is complex, expensive and provides minimal capability.Forward-looking brands opt for these purpose-built composable commerce technologies to future-proof innovation potential. With composability anchored fundamentally in the cloud and powered entirely by APIs, curating cutting-edge yet cohesive stacks becomes simple — an unmatched advantage.ConclusionComposable commerce delivers instantly extensible, best-of-breed stacks aligned to business goals. In 2024 and beyond, composable architecture offers unmatched adaptability to address digital experience challenges through continuous experimentation powered by specialized tools. It lays the foundation for optimized customer journeys that convert. This unmatched advantage makes composable the obvious choice for digital experience success.