The Fascinating Intersection Between Digital Adoption, Journey Management, and Transformation

by Charles Araujo | May 25, 2022

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Welcome to The Digital Experience Report, your source for news, analysis, and insights on the ExTech (Experience Technologies) market and all things related to the Digital Experience.

In this report, I go on a journey of discovery about the true meaning and impact of digital adoption and journey management platforms as I dig into solutions from WalkMe and Pointillist. Also, new studies on customer data platforms, product-led growth (via Gainsight), the state of application modernization, and consumer digital behaviors (via Precisely). Plus news from Zoho, Algolia, Front, Riverbed, Celonis, Mendix, CXera, OutSystems, Dynatrace, Vivun, Tidio, Velocity Global, LucidLink, Glean, Claravine, Credo AI, ServiceNow, Asana, Nice, and WalkMe.

The Fascinating Intersection Between Digital Adoption, Journey Management, and Transformation

This issue of The Digital Experience Report is a little late because I spent Tuesday at the WalkMe Investor and Analyst Day, and what I heard made me reconsider today’s analysis.

If you don’t know them, WalkMe is the self-proclaimed creator of the digital adoption platform category of enterprise technology. You’re not alone if you haven’t heard about digital adoption platforms. While it’s gaining market and analyst mindshare, it is still a nascent space.

I’ve been watching both the space and WalkMe for a while, and I have considered myself what I’ll call an “optimistic skeptic.”

What I mean by that is that I have recognized the need to support and drive the adoption of digital technologies (although, more on this in a minute), and I’ve been a fan of WalkMe’s market messaging and presentation — but I’ve had this unsettled feeling that made me think something was a bit off.

After spending time with the executive leadership team and getting deeper under the covers, I figured out what was causing this feeling. And the good news for WalkMe is that I think my wariness was unwarranted.

But it also made me realize that the term adoption — at least as most of us think of it — is a misleading representation of what the company is doing and needs a bit of redefinition. And in that redefinition, it extends the concept of digital adoption to other market sectors. That will muddy the waters for WalkMe, but it will represent a tremendous opportunity for technology providers and enterprise leaders alike.

The Digital Adoption Problem — Is It Real?

As I sat in the closed-door analyst session yesterday, I finally figured out what had left me feeling unsettled about WalkMe’s value proposition. I realized that I didn’t fully believe that there was a real need to invest in an entire platform to support digital adoption.

It took me a while to recognize this because, on the surface, the idea that we want people to adopt the technologies we deploy in the enterprise is obvious. Why would anyone invest in technology only to have it languish unused?

Still, the company presented these big numbers about the percentage of features unused and “application penetration,” and I was left wondering, “so what”?

Weren’t these issues as much a function of technology vendors engaging in feature bloat because they always needed to have something “new,” or the fact that enterprise factions demanded different applications because “their needs were unique,” leading to lower “penetration” by (poor) design?

And sure, some applications were clunky and unwieldy, but wasn’t that just a function of bad technology providers selling bad technology to suckers who purchased it?

So, while I got that adoption sounded good, was it really worth the investment? And more importantly, would it result in a sustainable market?

The Real Adoption Problem

Over the last several years, WalkMe has evolved from being a provider of in-app guidance (think those application walk-throughs and pop-up field helpers) to a more holistic provider of what it calls user interface intelligence and user-centric workflow automation.

And in that evolution is the clue to my challenge with the entire adoption category: It’s not really about adoption.

What I mean is that if you break down what WalkMe is really doing, it falls into two broad categories:

  • Business process guidance, and
  • Transformation enablement.

Yes, it still offers the run-of-the-mill, simplistic help functions, but the real power and value in its offering is that it helps organizations guide their employees (and increasingly customers) on how to use one or more applications to execute a business process and achieve the desired outcome.

The fact that its solution sits on top of the application stack and can, therefore, cross applications means that it can help organizations deliver the business outcomes they desire, even as they cross applications, business functions, and use cases.

Then, when you add in the intelligence of how employees or customers are interacting with applications (which fields they’re using, where they’re getting stuck, etc.), it becomes a powerful tool to improve efficiency and the employee or customer experience. But even more importantly, it becomes a powerful enabler of organizational and business process transformation whenever that transformation is dependent on a large swath of employees or customers using a new technology or an old technology in a new way.

These business-centric challenges are very real and have plagued business and technology teams for decades. The problem is that I’ve never called any of that adoption.

I suppose it’s fair to call it that, but it seems to underplay its strategic significance. For me, this use case is all about driving organizational change and enabling business and digital transformation.

The good news for WalkMe is that I now believe it can help enterprises solve much more significant, much more strategic problems — while driving quick-to-realize return on investment (ROI).

That’s a neat trick that will serve the company well. But the not-as-good news is that it also leaves them staring into two headwinds: the need to redefine the term adoption in a much more strategic sense, and the fact that they’re not alone in attempting to address this broader challenge.

It All Comes Down to Use Journeys

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to talk with the team at Pointillist (now part of Genesys) about their customer journey management platform.

For most technology providers, when you talk about customer journeys, they’re really talking about buying journeys. What is fascinating about Pointillist, however, is that it is mainly focused on what it calls use journeys — meaning a customer’s journey after they’ve purchased and when they are trying to use the product or service they’ve acquired.

Much like WalkMe’s evolution, Pointillist is now heavily rooted in its Journey Data Hub, which aggregates use data from a variety of sources to then create journey analytics and journey maps. Its approach culminates in what it calls Journey Orchestration (creating personalized experiences based on the data) and Journey Collaboration to allow organizations to come together around the delivery of a winning customer experience.

While almost no one would consider Pointillist and WalkMe as competitors, it struck me that whether you call it adoption or the journey, we are talking about much the same thing.

It all comes down to managing the use journey.

Understanding how the consumer of a technology, whether a customer or employee, uses that technology to achieve their intended business outcomes, and then using that intelligence to guide them to achieve those outcomes, is now critical across all dimensions of an enterprise’s operational stack.

Most importantly, that data (and the insights it provides) opens the door to a transformational process as you seek to continually create a better experience for your customers and employees.

The Experience at the End of the Adoption Question

As I pondered all of this yesterday, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was watching worlds collide. When I take the broader view of adoption and then see it in the context of the need to manage end-to-end use journeys, it’s hard not to see the clear overlap.

Still, I was reminded of a conversation I had several years ago with John Donahoe, the then-CEO of ServiceNow. At the time, I observed that ServiceNow was competing with huge players like Salesforce and SAP to become “the platform” for the enterprise. He told me that he wasn’t concerned. He said the enterprise’s needs were too complex for any one platform to meet all of them. There’d be plenty of room for everyone.

His prognostication has proven correct, and I suspect the same thing will hold true here.

I believe as we look forward over the next several years, leading enterprises will invest in a wide range of technologies that all strive to do variations on the same theme: deliver a winning, outcome-oriented experience for their customers, employees, and partners, and enable them to continually transform themselves to do so.

It may come in the form of a digital adoption platform, a customer journey management platform, or who knows what else. But the common characteristic will be that these platforms will focus on outcomes, deliver meaningful and delightful experiences, and enable continual transformation in all its forms.

And that will make them indispensable for the modern enterprise competing in the experience economy.

Are You a DXO?

If you’re an enterprise executive that understands the critical role that the digital experience plays in creating value in the modern enterprise, then you’re a Digital Experience Officer — or DXO — and you should be a part of our DXO Council. 

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About the author 

Charles Araujo

Charles Araujo is a technology analyst and internationally recognized authority on the Digital Enterprise, the Digital Experience and the Future of Work. Researching Digital Transformation for over 10 years, he is now focused on helping leaders transform their organizations around the digital experience and to reimagine the future of work. Publisher and principal analyst of The Digital Experience Report, founder of The Institute for Digital Transformation, co-founder of The MAPS Institute, and author of three books, he is a sought-after keynote speaker and advisor to technology companies and enterprise leaders.

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