by Adit Singh, Partner
Published in International Business Times on Dec. 4, 2022
The way software is created and consumed by organizations is constantly evolving, and what we see today will be very different tomorrow. When it comes to software development, I believe the next wave of value capture will be in two complementary areas.
The first is customer-experience software platforms. The way I see it, companies that build this kind of software will inevitably see a shift in power away from business roles, such as the product-marketing manager, toward roles with more technical skills, i.e., developers. Secondly, in stark contrast to the previous era, data-analytics and machine-learning platforms will witness a move away from the technical side and toward business users. I plan to address this second part in a future article.
Here’s an easy way to think about this: the softer customer-experience functions will shift left, away from business users, while the harder analytics and ML functions will shift right, toward business users.
Lost in translation
So why is this happening? Let’s look at customer-experience platforms first. At many of the larger customer-experience software companies, such as Adobe and Zendesk, the marketing people gather the product requirements and then communicate those requirements to the development team.
However, the two roles—product marketers on one hand and developers on the other—are simply not speaking the same language. Typically, the marketing people are talking at the user level, whereas developers are knee-deep in code and at a far more complex level of abstraction. A lot is lost in translation. By the time the requirements reach the individual developers, and they are tasked with actually writing the code, they often can’t figure out what to do.
Today, we are starting to see the emergence of software startups that are putting an end to this disconnect. In tech-forward companies, VPs of engineering are assuming a lot more responsibility—and receiving a larger chunk of the budget allocation. They don’t have time to listen to translations from the product marketers. Instead, they are focused on better understanding real-world customer behavior for themselves and doing what they need to do to improve the product constantly.
As a result, we are now witnessing the rise of the chief development officer (CDO), who is in charge of not just traditional engineering but also of the product and customer experience. Most sales, support, and marketing, for their part, will stay in the loop as internal stakeholders served by the CDO organization.
A new, headless architecture
Going forward, the companies that build customer-experience software have to be fundamentally headless. Ultimately, a headless architecture will result in customer-experience software solutions that are instrumented better, with nothing lost in translation because engineering is more accountable for the code and how it impacts the customer experience at every level of the stack.
Already, CDO organizations are re-architecting and instrumenting their product with built-in feedback on customer experience, marketing performance, churn analysis and even support intelligence to help make customer support more efficient. I see the market evolving to a point where developers and engineers will work under a headless framework that enables them to better understand users and send relevant data about those users to internal dashboards for constant analysis.
As we move into the future, I believe savvy software startups will embrace a headless architecture of open-source telemetry, along with a methodology for consistent instrumentation and a developer community to build standardized product telemetry. These startups will support a community of open-source, standard-based agents for data collection and have closed-source databases to piece together the end-to-end story.
To make this happen, startups will have to develop their own data models that maintain a flexible, headless architecture at the API level but converge support, product analytics, customer experience and product performance with developer-specific features like built-in summaries, search, and session replay, so that developers can understand the big picture without losing context.
The next CX titans
Ultimately, I envision the emergence of several large headless CX companies that will sell into the CDO organization and that will compete with Adobe and Zendesk in their core markets. This is truly an exciting time, because the next customer-experience titans—the next Adobe, Salesforce and Zendesk—are being created now.