As organizations embark on digital transformation, oftentimes it feels like Technology is from Mars and Marketing from Venus.
A typical day for marketing involves a gamut of activities such as PR, SEO/SEM, ABM, Networking, Social Media Marketing, Video Marketing among others. Their metrics center around MQL’s, SQL’s, conversion rates, brand awareness, CAC, LTV etc.
On the other hand, Technology has its hands full with constant upkeep of the entire technology ecosystem which could be anything from infrastructure such as firewalls, routers, network, servers to software such as Mainframe, ERP, Databases, supply chain applications, custom applications and security among others. Their focus is configuration management, incident management, change management and problem management with metrics such as uptime, average daily incoming rate, First hour fix, Root Cause Analysis and Corrective action etc.
Hitting closer to home, Marketing would own Content/Experience Management and Marketing automation while IT would own Commerce. They have very different areas of focus and this leads to many budgeting and platform disagreements. Lets unpack the challenges a little bit:
1) Uptime v/s modernization : As a CIO, there is a delicate balancing act of keeping everything up, running and secure and focusing on delivering continuous incremental value to the business. Having a fragmented topology results in more effort needed to keep things up and running. Any CIO would rather have a simplified topology and focus more on delivering value.
a) Hybrid Infrastructure – Most enterprise organizations have a hybrid cloud setup. This means that they have some on-premise datacenters consisting of physical and virtual servers and leverage some public cloud service such as AWS, Azure or Google Cloud. The challenge is the complexity of optimally supporting a diverse topology and ensuring that processes are in place to autodiscover and/or update the asset database.
For example : One of my past organizations had a primary datacenter and a DR center in the US with 2 others in europe and APAC region. In addition, we used AWS as our public cloud. ITIL V3 standards were applied to represent IT Services that supported the business.
b) Technical Debt and Custom built apps : Most of the technical debt is accrued due to the following reasons
a) Deprecated Code
b) EOL’ed Server Versions
c) Ageing infrastructure
For example : In some cases, for legacy applications, we couldn’t find the source code and only had compiled code. The functionality wasn’t documented and the business stressed on the importance of the application to our customers making the application business critical. We couldn’t upgrade OS and or patch without risking major downtime or potentially the app not coming back up resulting in older server OS versions with huge implications from EOL.
c) Complexity through M&A : Complexity is further increased through a merger or acquisition, This brings a host of new processes, products and technologies that may be completely different from the existing setup. While IT would have additional challenges around platform complexity, Marketing would grapple with challenges around branding and skill gaps.
For example : We were involved in an acquisition by another entity. That brought a variety of complexities : SAP vs. Oracle for ERP, Microsoft vs. Open Source, .Net vs. Java etc.
d) Data Quality and insights : Before the whole data driven revolution, businesses built data warehouses to house massive amounts of data and overlaid BI tools to generate business reports. The challenges included data quality, data structure, governance and cost among others.
For example : We had 3 DW’s for AMR, EUR and APAC. The structures, processes, upstream and downstream systems were sometimes the same and sometimes different, there was a big team centered around capture and upkeep of DW from admins to ETL experts. Reports were generated in 2 ways, by the IT team and some facets in the universe were accessible to the business to generate reports using Business Objects.
2) Budgetary Constraints: The previous point highlights the challenges around spend management within the CIO’s portfolio where upkeep forms a major portion of the budget. Add to that the need to do more with less : ie: rolling out new initiatives and systems to support those and the need to constantly justify increased budget allocation and it’s a tough battle to fight constantly.
3) Security: One of the key challenges that a CIO grapples with is the security of the topology. The phrase “you are only as strong as your weakest link” comes to mind. The exploitation of a single vulnerability in a corner of your tech stack or codebase can result in severe and far reaching consequences for the stack. The inability to patch, homogenize and modernize the stack is a constantly security risk to the entire organization (security breaches).
1) Stalled initiatives : Speed of execution plays a critical role in the success of their initiatives. A fragmented tech ecosystem bubbles up challenges in seeing the full picture end-to-end without a lot of data massaging. Simply put, a fully stitched martech stack will do wonders to the ability of a CMO to deliver on the high expectations the organizations have on them.
2) Attribution: Attribution modeling of multi-channel multi-touch campaigns encompassing an entire customer journey is much more complex with a fragmented ecosystem..
3) Functionality Roll-out : There are a few challenges with rolling out new functionality. Depending on how old the version of the code is, it may not be possible at all. The alternative is that it may need deep interaction with the IT team and an external team to build the functionality. It may also take a lot of time, this isn’t ideal for an agile marketing team.
These challenges have different implications for both functions and aligning the north star of Technology and Marketing is key to successful transformation. In my next article, Ill focus on how a “Simplification, Consolidation and Rationalization” initiative can reduce the pain of the CIO/CMO and refocus their energies towards delivering exponential value to the organization.