Modern brands require a marriage of marketing + tech that moves at the speed of business, but often it’s hard to know where to start.
Today’s marketplace poses many challenges. Consumer demands are ever-changing, cost optimization and predictability are paramount, future-proofing and scale are table stakes and the timeliness of meeting all these needs is shortening. None of this is new to brand marketers, but as the last year has proven to us, even in a global pandemic, the on-going need for new, relevant solutions and experiences for consumer and business alike, must always be at the forefront.
This is where tech comes in. The backbone of all marketing is an organization’s technology infrastructure. IT pain points can impact on delivery, agility and effectiveness. Without a solid partnership between marketing and IT, solutions are developed in silos which can lead to dangerous side effects that put brand, sales, budget and organization at risk.
Let’s talk about where to get started:
1. Know Your Infrastructure
“You can’t handle the truth!”
– A Few Good Men
When Colonel Jessup shouted this classic line, it was fueled with rage and condescension towards Lt. Kaffee as he showered the Colonel with accusations and questions. It strangely feels all too similar to conversations that happen between marketing teams and IT teams at organizations of all sizes.
Marketers are creative by nature and need the ability to bring new, dynamic and effective solutions to market quickly and efficiently. IT teams are trying to create secure and scalable infrastructure with minimal risk. These two diametrically opposing viewpoints create rifts that result in lower quality outcomes or a compromise in the execution of ideas that leaves both parties, and more importantly the business less than satisfied.
The truth is, more often than not, these situations are fueled simply by a lack of clarity and shared vernacular around what exists and what is needed. Enter the Infrastructure Audit. At first, this may sound like something big and scary mandated by the IRS, but it’s really a key first step. This audit ensures all stakeholders—both current and future—within an organization have a clear understanding of what and how their systems work.
Performing an Infrastructure Audit on the key points below provides clarity to make the right decisions at the right time—at all levels of the organization.
Current Technical Infrastructure
- Enterprise resource planning systems
- Customer resource management systems
- Financial systems
- Marketing automation services
- Supply & fulfillment management
- Content management systems
- Digital asset management
- Digital properties
- Native apps
- Social media
- Distribution channels
- Resource related
- Customer or service related
Current Technical Issues
- Areas of pain or frustration
- Data integrity & continuity
- Security concerns
The outcome of this audit is common: something needs to change. Ensuring that it is changed for the better, well that takes strategy.
2. Architecting For the Future
“We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster.”
– The Six Million Dollar Man
Okay, so we may not be building an advanced cybernetic organism to fight crime, but working to update your organization’s infrastructure is a serious initiative that takes a serious time investment and bold ambition to accomplish.
The landscape of available solutions is vast, with a wide range of features and costs. It can be intimidating when asked to dive in and vet a multitude of services. Thinking about the right solution that fits your needs starts with having a sound philosophy on what that architecture should look like. While there are of course, many different ways to implement a solution, the outcomes outlined below are common.
I come from a software engineering background, so I will use application architectural paradigms to help describe two of the most common approaches to organizational infrastructure.
As the name suggests, monolithic approaches to infrastructure are reliant upon selecting business solutions that are all-encompassing. Leaning hard into suites of software that boast deep integrations to one another out of the box, means that a business can operate all aspects with greater consistency and transparency. Often these systems are marketed toward the enterprise, and carry heavy costs of implementation, operation and future upgrades. The true merit of these systems is difficult to ascertain, but they are the entrenched solutions that carry age in the market as one of their greatest values.
For decades, these types of systems had a stranglehold on the market. They were the only option and adopted by organizations across the globe. However, the organizations offering these monolithic solutions move slowly, often lack modern features and can present challenges to modern business that demand deeper system integrations that are efficient, effective and quickly scalable.
Examples of these solutions include your classic Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, or IBM software suites.
On the opposite end of the spectrum you have an approach that involves the assembly of multiple systems from multiple providers that optimize for the highest degree of specialization within each business solution. These systems are becoming more common today, as the demand for a greater quality, customized product trumps one out-of-the box solution.
Assembling an infrastructure of multiple independent systems allows you to plug and play with different solutions at various need states, without disrupting the entire system. It provides the agility necessary to grow, pivot and evolve without disrupting the entire infrastructure.
A simple example of this in today’s market is the uptick in adoption of headless content management systems. They allow for separation of an organization’s content and intellectual property from the channel of display, making content transportable to any medium versus locked into a rigid system.
Let’s take a look at how this may look with something like a marketing website.
Where a monolithic solution such as Sitecore or AEM could be used, a micro services approach would leverage:
- Headless content management system
- Single page application website
- CRM integration for lead generation
- Automated marketing integration for drip campaigns
- Third party analytics
While this may appear to add complexity over a single monolithic solution, it provides profoundly more flexibility with greater adaptability.
Some additional considerations around total cost of ownership should also be considered:
- Annual license fees
- Availability of staff to support
- Complexity of use
- Initial setup fees
- Ability for customization & modification
Accordingly, we see a Micro Services approach increasingly becoming the go-to methodology for organizations. This said, whatever approach is a best-fit for your organization, make sure that you have the right people in the room to ensure that the dial is turned in the right direction.
3. Stay the Course
“Aim small, miss small.”
Let’s fast forward, the process is complete. The Infrastructure Audit exposed many issues that needed to be addressed. It resulted in an overhauling of the corporate infrastructure and the adding of a few business critical systems. You now have flexibility from a technological perspective and the result is more opportunities to create engaging brand experiences that move business. You are reviewing and adjusting new systems annually and implementing them in an approach that facilitates your business needs.
Now it becomes the responsibility of all stakeholders to ensure the systems and processes in place aren’t just used, but are the living set of rules used to gauge the viability of ideas moving forward. Ideas that deviate from the groundwork are less likely become a reality—or successful. Avoid this circumstance by always keeping grounded in your architecture and push big ideas that aren’t optimized for your current infrastructure out to a time when the organization can truly support them. This is not intended to stifle creativity, but to ensure the optimization of new ideas and a seamless delivery.
When marketers and IT work together the outcomes are compounded ten fold. MarTech matters. Your organization, brand and consumer sees the greatest benefit, and everyone looks like a rock star.
At Hunt Adkins our team of seasoned professionals in brand, technology and creative consulting can help get your organization through this process and set you up for a brighter more dynamic future. – J. Soucheray