November 1, 2022

The Optimizely Podcast - episode 28: Mando Agency’s DXP journey

The Optimizely Podcast sits down with Mando Agency Ltd.’s CEO, Ian Finch, Strategy Director, Jon Seal, and Product Director, Andy Pimlett, to discuss why migrating to Optimizely’s DXP has yielded benefits of scalability through product, support and strategy. Click below for more.
Optimizely Team

Transcript:  

Laura Dolan:

We have a full house here on the Optimizely Podcast today. We are joined by Mando Group Ltd., one of Optimizely's solution partners. We have Ian Finch, CEO, Jon Seal, Strategy Director, and Andy Pimlett, Product Director for the company.

Welcome, everyone. How's it going?

Ian Finch:

It's great, thanks, Laura. It's good to be here.

Andy Pimlett:

Yeah, we're good.

Laura Dolan:

Thank you all so much for taking the time to join us today. Please start off by telling us about your history and relationship with Optimizely. What made you decided to partner with us?

Ian Finch:

So, this Ian, CEO speaking. We made a move to partnering with enterprise content management vendors and partners way back in 2008, and we first worked with Episerver, as it was known then, back in 2011 with a, a flagship, my website project we did for a company called TalkTalk Business here in the UK. And loved the product, early doors, I think the philosophy behind Episerver, and now Optimizely has always been great technology that's easy to use, and that completely suits our value proposition and where we're at in the market with customers as well. And to have journeyed with you over the last 11 years, off and on through some ups and downs, let's be honest, as you guys-

Laura Dolan:

(laughs).

Ian Finch:

... have expanded, you know, and the products' evolved too...  But yeah, we love Optimizely, and we love the way everyone sings from the same hymn sheet, everyone's aligned, whoever you work with at Optimizely, there's this excitement about the future and you really listen to partners, and end customers too, and so it's been, it's been a great partnership as far as we're concerned.

Laura Dolan:

That's great I'm glad it's been a positive experience. I know 11 years is a long time, and I'm sure you've seen many acquisitions along the way, so (laughs)-

Ian Finch:

Indeed (laughs).

Laura Dolan:

... appreciate your commitment to us. Can you go into more detail about your platform selection from a content management standpoint?

Ian Finch:

Yeah, so I, I think we’ll probably add to that each in a different way. From, from my perspective as CEO, yes, we want great technology, but we also want a great partner that's easy to work with, that we can work for the customers' success together with, that you can have an open and frank conversation and you can really work with someone that evolves, and, and listens to feedback, and which Optimizely do in spades. We also wanted a partner who have a very clear roadmap and it's been quite a joy seeing Optimizely work its way up across, you know, whether it's a Forrester or Gartner quadrants, and evolving.

And particularly when Optimizely first moved to the cloud and being a cloud first offering, certain, ways in which we interacted changed, and there was some turbulence during that time, but the feedback loop that Optimizely put in place for us as partners to advise, and help that transition was a cut above all the other vendors that we'd ended up working with, and so really cemented the relationship. And what's been great is that the technology has remained fantastic throughout. But when we went through those acquisitions your emerging strategy to bring it into the platform and make it really clear to partners has, has been exemplary.

And so yeah, the partnership, the people, and the roadmap has been brilliant, and I hear from the studio, and I'm sure Andy might opt in at this point, from a product perspective, developers love it. And I gotta say, that Optimizely is the only platform we have ever worked with where our first project came in der budget, and ahead of time. That, that's never happened when we've onboarded a platform for the first time, and I think that speaks volumes, and that was, you know, well over 10 years ago, and it's only improved since.

Laura Dolan:

That's impressive.

Andy Pimlett:

Yeah, I mean, I can, I'd certainly add to that from my perspective. I think for me, it's a lot about confidence, and there's a lot of moving parts in a platform selection, there's a lot of stakeholders, a lot of practitioners involved, and they all wanna work well, they all wanna maximize and deliver value. And a lot of that comes from sense of confidence, and so, if you can demonstrate that confidence to clients, and they can realize it quickly and they can see the benefits, and that they can see the value, and then likewise your practitioners, and particularly your engineers, can, can leverage that value quickly and demonstrate those features quickly, and, and bring them into a product of really high quality quickly, then it just grows that confidence. And that's one of the things that we've seen time and time again with, with our work with the platform is, as, as Ian says, developers warm to it very, very quickly, the onboarding is, is very swift, and the ability to deliver at scale with a real high, high degree of confidence and quality is ever present.

Jon Seal:

And just to jump in from the consulting side of things, which is where I tend to come into play, you'll often get a situation here clients will, you know, arrive either with a massive wish list of what they want a digital experience platform to deliver for them, or they've, or they create one pretty quickly. And it's often helpful to be able to rapidly assess that and map those to existing product features, rather than have to go through the process of trying to do a lot of work to say, you know, "How will custom development address that?" So, we're always looking for that sort of course optimal point across, you know, what's gonna create a total cost of ownership that's really compelling between the capability of the platform, and the flexibility and scope for the future based on that platform, the vendor roadmap which Ian's talked about, and that ability to support those customer developments and integrations that the customer is looking for. So that's where we feel that, you know, a product like Optimizely can be a really strong player in that mix, because it, it tends to have a really good point when you look at that across the board and look at that broad view.

Laura Dolan:

Great, so why do you think it's beneficial to make the switch, and move clients form one platform to another?

Jon Seal:

When you've got platform where you've had to do, you know, custom development integrations, you very rapidly get to that point of kind of diminishing returns where you're, you're building layer upon layer, upon layer, and you're having this increased cost to support those bespoke features where... And especially where that's coupled with a situation where the vendor, or the original product, isn't really developing in terms of roadmap in alignment with where the business strategy of the client organization is going. That's when it becomes that sort of you arrive at a tipping point at some point in the journey, where you start to think it's, it's just not fit for purpose of the future.

Ian Finch:

There's a recent case study we, we've had where we, we won a new customer at the start of the year who were on another platform we operate, and, or and one of your peers, shall we call it, where it was just such a better fit with Optimizely. And, and a key, the key things we, we really looked at when we saw the brief where there was a real issue around infrastructure costs on top of application licenses, which Optimizely's all in one, Azure based solution handled really well. There was not just an upgrade imminent for the other platform, but a very obvious upgrade within a year or two as well, so the client wasn't gonna have to upgrade once, they were gonna have to upgrade twice. Whereas, Optimizely's much better, more micro version continuously improving, continuously upgrading approach, was gonna make them far more successful and give them so much more momentum.

And then their particular use case for that customer, the features that were very much out of the box, and very core to Optimizely content cloud offer were, had been heavily bespoked and hacked and tried to make better on a part of the platform that had been otherwise overlooked from, from the other vendor, and needed a lot of extra work to make effective and efficient. And then the final piece was very much around the intelligent search and content recommendations. So, it was a real hand in glove, very, very kinda sweet spot fit for this particular customer commercially, and in terms of the feature set, and in terms of ease of use.

Andy Pimlett:

Yeah, and speed of delivery is a huge area for us. We, you know, it wasn't so long ago that some of the areas which clients now talk about routinely, you know, things like personalization were, were considered, you know, innovative features, but not necessarily core to the requirements of a digital strategy, but that's changed now.

Laura Dolan:

Mm-hmm.

Andy Pimlett:

And so, what used to be a kind of slow burn proof of concept, let's see how it goes, type approach to development is now, we need these technologies standing up, we have them built into our digital strategy, they're core to our business offering, things like marketing automation, AI powered content intelligence, that sort of thing. And so, you don't have the luxury anymore of taking a slow approach, you have to stand these features up quickly. And with Optimizely, you have that potential to, you, you have an, an ambitious and aggressive roadmap of feature development, and those features are incredibly well documented, they're in, incredibly easy to stand up, you know, out of the box, as Ian mentioned. And so, when you have clients who are demanding these, these sort of features you have to move quickly to deliver that value, and up, Optimizely is a platform where we can leverage that very, very quickly.

Laura Dolan:

And speaking of features, as far as content recommendations go on the content cloud, how are you encouraging those to self-serve digitally?

Ian Finch:

So, again on a key element of the case study we were mentioning is that not just, this information resource that we're building for this particular customer, search and findability via navigation is incredibly important, but that nonlinear aspect of content recommendation, and cross pollination across the site was a real key part as well, so it allows us lots of different ways for users to navigate the site that suits them. And so that personalization, and that content recommendation element, where it's learning that if people find this kinda content really useful and engage with it, then they might like this kind of content.

And that is starting now just to kind of self-learn, based on user behavior, adds a whole other content, a whole other level of experience and evolution of that offering for that particular customer. Very useful for that information cycle. Now looking at content recommendations across the rest of our Optimizely customers to see just, just how much extra we can deliver because something as powerful as that that comes largely through config, and out the box, rather than custom code is gonna be so powerful moving forward. I mean, it's kind of still early days, right, but I think the, it's gonna become a core part of our, our consultant offer and our approach to building out solutions moving forward.

Andy Pimlett:

Yeah, and one of the, one of the biggest drivers for us in terms of understanding where we can maximize value of feature delivery is in, is in gaining as much insight as we possibly can. The more insight we can gain, the more we can make informed decisions about what we need to do to drive up engagement, and improve performance against digital KPIs, one of the things obviously content recs does is, is it's giving us further insight, it's showing to us, in real time, which content is, is seeing the, the highest levels of engagement, and consequently not only does that give you the ability to double down on the, the richest content, it also allows you to take a step back and, and look at creating new journeys more specifically engineered around perhaps some of the areas that content might speak to, and consequently further drive up engagements. So, you, all the time you're getting double benefits from features like that.

Jon Seal:

Just to wrap up the consulting side of that, it's a lot easier for us if we can go into a customer and be able to give them the confidence that that isn't gonna require a huge amount of, you know, either training or upskilling of their team, because it's largely something that, as was mentioned, is delivered in config, and therefore just propagates, and so they're not having to an awful lot of work.

Laura Dolan:

So, what are the main benefits of choosing a DXP?

Jon Seal:

Well, typically when we're talking about choosing a DXP, we're doing it reference to choosing a DXP as opposed to choosing, typically, a CMS product. And so, I suppose, when we're thinking about the benefits of a DXP generally, we're talking about those enhancements over and above what a content management system would generally provide. So, broadly the big ticket items that we would be thinking about in that mix and when a DXP becomes really relevant is when you start to think about things like personalization when you start to think about, you know, how you can tailor an end result rather than just have, you know, content served up generically, when you start to think about some of the data that's gathered by these DXP solutions, that give specific insights, and the ability to analyze it and slice and dice it in various ways to support that.

And then also some of that wider support that a DXP provides for things like the delivery and the maintenance and the evolution of those digital capabilities so things like AB testing or multivariate testing, where you can then start to think, "How can I both put variants out there, get data back on it, use that to optimize and get into a rolling program of iteration, and delivery?" So, from the consulting side of things where we're starting to think about the difference between a CMS and a DXP, those are typically the areas that we tend to mainly focus on.

Ian Finch:

And from a, a roadmap perspective, the, it's quite interesting, I think, moving forward for our, our own value proposition, our own offer that the acquisition of Welcome and that whole content marketing, digital asset management element, will, will really bolster the extra capability that we can provide our customers to have used a well-used phrase, you know, a one stop shop in terms of having to integrate multiple systems to be able to get timely content, accurate content marketing out. And the wider roadmap of having the commerce elements, and then obviously Optimizely's core of experimentation and so on, I think as we've come across during the course of this, we come from that old Episerver content management space, and so that's typically where our customers are still at. But the wider DXP that can grow and evolve with a customer as they increase in maturity, I think has a lot of value to our client base moving forward, because in the mid-market where we operate, there isn't that hunger and desire to have multiple disparate systems. A DXP and a marketing DXP that has already done the heavy lifting and the thinking, that'll suit our customer base very well indeed.

Laura Dolan:

Great. Andy, anything to add to that?

Andy Pimlett:

I think for me just with the, with the, with the product lens on it, very similar in the sense that, you know, when you think of a CMS, or a DXP, you want to be making technology choices which give you the broadest possible canvas going forward. So, in a world of projects where you might wish to stand up a content managed website, then you'd be forgiven for thinking that a content management platform would be the right technology choice. But we don't really live in, in a world where that's the case anymore. These products have got to stand the test of time, they have to evolve, and they increasingly have more ambitious objectives within their digital strategy.

And so to make sure you can reach a point where you can deliver on that digital strategy, you have to be in a position where you've made correct choices on what that canvas is. And that's what DXP gives you, it gives you that ability to move forward and evolve features, and know that you have a strong, stable technology platform there that will stand the test of time in a way that the CMS platforms wouldn't, or they would require significant bespoke engineering, or they would require significant additional third party integrations, and you're always fighting against the, the need to innovate. And to be creative in anything, you want to remove as many barriers as possible. And that's what DXP gives you, that's what Optimizely gives you the ability to remove those creative barriers, and evolve quickly and with agility, and deliver the features that your clients want.

Laura Dolan:

Right. Giving that path of least resistance that's very important. So how can a DXP develop your digital offering?

Ian Finch:

So, I think this is a really interesting point because you have the full spectrum of humanity in a client base, and so you have clients that are, have a very specific way of working and very much want the technology to fit their way of working, because there's necessary rigidity perhaps in that. Conversely, you also have clients that are starting out, and are maybe perhaps at the beginning of their journey, and so, you know, we've aligned our maturity model along similar lines to, to Optimizely's maturity model and we're finding that's so valuable because there's a lot of overwhelm in the marketplace.

Laura Dolan:

Mm-hmm.

Ian Finch:

And so here we've got a very successful very large company have invested a lot of money, intellectual property, and acquisitions, and building out roadmaps, and so increasingly, I think as DXPs have matured, and particularly Optimizely's matured, customers have got that increased trust to go, "Actually, we'll change some of our operating model around to suit the DXP, because this roadmap makes sense. It ties against the maturity model, it'll help me change and evolve, my department, my workflow, my organization and, and has a clear what's next."

And so, I think it can work both ways. The DXP can, can meet existing needs, and you can match them, or it can influence the way in which you do your digital operating model, and, and recruit, hire, and go through transformation as an organization. I think there's increasing value in that latter. I often make a point with our customers, and anyone willing to listen to course me actually, but this is the first time in human history where technology's not the blocker, people are. And so, that's been the case, after thousands of years, maybe for the last two to five at the most. And so, with technology not being the blocker, people, anything that can help you do organizational change, allow a more fluid easy adopted digital operating model to evolve, and provide you that roadmap I think is gonna be welcome for people that have got so much choice, so much overwhelm, are so busy and disparate working. And so I think it's more than just a DXP, and that's why I keep coming back to the roadmap and the strategy that sits behind the vendors that do the DXP, and one of the reasons we're so excited to work with Optimizely.

Laura Dolan:

Great. Thank you, Ian. Is there anything else we didn't cover that you'd like to mention before we wrap up?

Ian Finch:

Only that we're very excited to be working with Optimizely. We've got a great moment in our relationship now, our customers are big fans of the platform, platform's evolving all the time, and we're very excited about the changes ahead within the roadmap. So yeah, as we build out our offering within that engineering change space, through our consultancy offer, product offer, again open call, if people would like to bounce ideas around with us or see what it is that we can do to offer our experience into what they're choosing to do with Optimizely, then we're all ears, and we'll do anything we can to help.

Andy Pimlett:

I'd only add as well, what delights me about Optimizely, as a platform, as a technology choice, is something I haven't readily seen in agency environments. You tend to find our engineers will have a buzz about a particular technology or a platform, and, and they will get, you know, they'll drink the Kool-Aid, and they'll get heavily invested. But what I really like at the moment with our relationship with Optimizely is right across the studio, all of our practitioners, they're learning about features, they're learning about the innovation and the platform, they are seeing clearly how they can work with our clients, and enable them, and offer solutions that leverage these features in a way that I've not really seen before, and I think that's a huge positive when you can get that level of investment across practitioners, be it strategists, product owners, business analysts, designers, user experience consultants, when they all have an eye on the platform and the technologies that, that we're partnering with, and they're able to see where we could leverage those features to answer our client problems. I think that's a fantastic thing that we're seeing.

Laura Dolan:

Perfect. Jon, any last words?

Jon Seal:

I think it's been covered. I mean, you know, as Andy said, the fact that the, as the roadmap of Optimizely kind of comes into play, we're just seeing more opportunities where we can actually get stuck in and leverage those to bring new solutions and new value to our clients, which is obviously what it's all about.

Laura Dolan:

Thank you all so much to the three of you for taking the time to come on today. This has been very insightful. Thank you all very much for your time and thank you all so much for ting into this episode of the Optimizely Podcast. I am Laura Dolan, and I will see you next time.

Laura Dolan:

Thank you for listening to this edition of the Optimizely Podcast. If you'd like to check out more episodes or learn more about how we can take your business to the next level by using our marketing, content, or experimentation tools, please visit our website at optimizely.com, or you can contact us directly using the link at the bottom of this podcast blog to hear more about how our products will help you unlock your digital potential.