In the forefront of the Digital Transformation stands the Marketing department. This direct exposure to change leads to sophisticated IT needs. In this context, it is vital to develop and maintain an IT landscape that allows marketing to react quickly to market changes.
Marketing and public relations have to adapt more and more quickly to new customer behaviour patterns. At the same time, marketing communication is becoming increasingly complex. Not only are customers demanding identical content on all the available digital touch-points, they are also increasingly expecting highly relevant content. Last but not least customers are choosing the time and channel to contact a company. The in-house requirements have also increased. Marketing specialists want to optimize their communication with performance tests, improve the relevance in search engines or conduct customized campaigns through various channels, while evaluating the return on investment from their initiatives. How can a company still satisfy these requirements today? First, it’s about an agile organizational structure that works with sprints (in a manner comparable to the approach used in lean marketing). Second, it’s about an IT environment that supports this approach and simplifies the management of activities, information, channels and tools.
A global solution or individual modules
There is already a wide range of solutions available to develop an IT environment capable of supporting marketing. In addition to the many products that perform specific tasks, it is possible to use comprehensive solutions that provide all the services. Large platforms such as Sitecore encompass not only a content management system but also analytical tools, performance optimization functions or components for personalized marketing activities. These solutions offer users the advantage of being able to perform all the tasks through a single point of entry on a single platform, which can, in addition, be integrated with the company’s back-end systems. It is thus possible to use CRM data, among others, which is essential in the area of personalization, for example. However, these global platforms are less flexible when the customer wants new functionalities. In case of a “Best of Breed” strategy, specialized tools adapted to specific tasks, be it website management, analysis of behavioural data or planning and conducting e-mail campaigns, are used. The advantage of such a strategy lies in the fact that companies are more flexible in integrating new technologies because other solutions can be implemented quickly. These tools are often consumed as “Software as a Service” solutions (SaaS). These services can be purchased and used online. Hence it is first of all necessary to judiciously integrate these services or applications with one another, a process during which the various access routes to the system, and different user interfaces, will remain. If there is no integration and the systems operate in stand-alone mode, it is then impossible to access the back-end systems such as the CRM or the product catalogue.
Whether one chooses a large platform or a “Best of Breed” strategy, the key requirement is that marketing should have, first, control of all the available tools and, second, that it can rely on an IT services structure offering standard services that are pre-integrated up to a certain level and can be adapted to specific requirements. For this, there is a hybrid approach that combines the advantages of comprehensive solutions and the flexibility of the “Best of Breed” variant. In this model, the IT department plays a central role and has to change from being a system integrator to a services provider. With the hybrid model, IT provides a platform that brings together the tools and solutions that marketing needs – be it a CMS system, an analytical tool or a mobile application. In this context, it is possible to turn either to comprehensive solutions or to SaaS solutions. The integration and provision of solutions are the responsibility of the IT managers, which also makes it possible to counter the well-known problem of “shadow IT”.
Agile business structures
The example of microsites illustrates well the hybrid model approach. Microsites are a typical standard service that can be made available to the marketing department. If marketing needs a microsite, the IT department can use existing templates that are already integrated with a CMS, the CRM and which might even be configured in a way that it is possible to analyse behavioural data or to display customized content. In collaboration with the Marketing and IT experts and possibly other external services providers, marketing can then adapt and organize this microsite model according to individual requirements. Such an approach is flexible enough to meet marketing’s specific requirements, while greatly easing the workload involved in the development of a microsite and its connection to the back-end systems. In this way marketing can react swiftly to market developments and at the same time it benefits from enough leeway for individual adjustment to specific requirements. To benefit from this agile structure, however, the company must also organize itself internally. The IT department becomes a services provider and, as such, offers solutions. The marketing managers and the IT experts collaborate on developing a final product from standard solutions.
External services providers to offer solutions
Depending on the company’s in-house situation, an IT department may lack the flexibility needed to provide services to marketing owing to its inadequate size or the existing structures. Often, the IT experts have different skills and do not have the necessary knowledge of the marketing solutions. This is where external services providers can step in and take on this mission. Ideally, they offer a full range of services, from consulting through provision of technology to support, to which even design services can be added. The possibility of outsourcing these IT services gives companies the agility and flexibility that are essential in today’s marketplace to respond quickly to changes, make the most of new technologies and thus satisfy the customers’ growing demands.
Agile Marketing is just one of our five Marketing Trends in Switzerland for 2015. Find out what the others are.
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