If the advance of new marketing technology showed no sign of slowing during the recession, it’d be wise to assume the pace of change may increase as we enter economic recovery. Achieving a high level of understanding about your customers, as well as being able to automate marketing communications and decision making, even if it means just keeping up with your rivals in terms of customer engagement, is becoming increasingly important to enable you to stay ahead.
The growth in marketing technology is exponential. The challenge with investing in marketing technology is ensuring that it is matched to business needs, is well implemented and then fully adopted within the business once it has gone live.
Organisations mostly turn to new marketing solutions to transform customer understanding and engagement. Ultimately, of course, that should translate to boosting the bottom line. Adopting the technology and making it work within your business is no easy task, but here are five important things to consider up front:
1. Have a clear business case
Knowing the reasons you want to implement new technology and ensuring they are achievable has a huge bearing on its success or failure. If business benefits are not realised, or budgets are busted, the project has failed.
The new kit may be labelled ‘marketing technology’, but the project more than likely crosses many departments and directorships, for example CMO, CTO and CIO. That means everyone has to share common goals, and the best way to achieve that is often to bring in outside help to keep everyone focussed. Companies like Occam implement systems with the business case always front of mind; a bit like when you wrote an essay at university and were advised to constantly keep the hypothesis to hand as you typed.
The business case for technology needs to be married with an evaluation of business marketing needs. At Occam, we use a Solution Evaluation Model that focuses on four key areas in sequence:
Application: people, processes and strategy; how does the project measure up against industry best practice?
Insight: what is the understanding you have now and what do you need in the future?
Data: what data do you have now and what will you need to support insight?
Technology: this should be the final consideration; what’s needed to support the areas above, rather than ‘let’s buy some IT or software’ and then consider how do we make this work.
Bring in the experts, do these things in order, remember the process is about driving towards goals and not twiddling knobs on your new kit; and you’ll have the basis of a successful project.
2. Introduce governance and stakeholder management
Governance is a constant check point to ensure the project is still on track in terms of the business case. These are not Project Status Reviews, they are more granular focussed and should be held separately and more regularly with Project Managers.
Governance brings executive buy-in and visible participation across teams and divisions that are vital throughout the life of the project. This is partly to ensure all stakeholders have a vested interest up front and can’t simply complain they weren’t involved at any stage; but it’s also because everyone needs to anticipate problems during the process.
This is the ‘political’ part of implementing new technology, but having the key stakeholders on board will ensure a smooth roll out. A clear communications plan should be drawn up for all stakeholders, alongside a defined list of responsibilities for when issues arise. The person who is responsible for delivering the business case is usually at the centre of the project (i.e. the CMO), and they should ensure different parts of the business talk to each other with minimal conflict; in other words, construct a ‘no-blame culture’.
3. Anticipate problems
The implementation of marketing technology is complex and comes with lots of potential issues. Businesses need to be realistic in the fact that there are going to be problems and so need to ensure they have a way of handling them pragmatically and in the right way.
The project team and governance board need to have an approach that focusses on resolutions. The teams need to be clear on the scope of work and the business benefits when considering issues and problems, and assess impact in accordance with these. This allows greater clarity on dealing with issues in the much wider context of the overall business aims, rather than deep in the nuts and bolts of project delivery.
Projects change; it’s a fact of life. So there needs to be a defined way of handling changes that prevents scope creep, and where changes either justify, or do not detract from, the business case. An internal Project Manager is required, or if working with an external supplier, they should be providing their own Project Manager. This ensures constant communication between the client and supplier, and a focus on the intended outcomes. Think Tom Hank’s character in Captain Phillips working with the Navy forces inside and outside the boat to save the hostage.
For example, you may want to bring another feed of data in to the mix that could be quite complex, and you must assess whether it would be beneficial to the original business case. Projects are in danger of letting the technology run away with itself, so the business case should be used as a roadmap.
4. Draw up a solid business change programme
There are five points here to consider:
User adoption – allowing end users of the technology to be involved in the decision process will help ensure a smooth transition to the new systems. To do this, users need to understand the business benefits, but also need to be willing to learn as they are going to be changing existing practices and processes. The solution needs to meet the business processes and changes in business practices need to be undertaken to ensure use of the technology is efficient.
Review practices – in the lead up to going live, a review of the processes that feed into and out of the teams using the technology must be undertaken. A focus on best practice should be adopted, and planned reviews of what is best practice should be undertaken in the months post implementation, until fully embedded.
Training – initial and ongoing technology training, along with thinking about how the training and new practices will be embedded is crucial. Often the training by software producers is on a generic set of data. This can be useful to gain an understanding of how the features and functions work, but inclusion of training on the actual solution with your data makes it all relevant, and helps to embed the tech.
Immediate coaching post implementation – undertaken by the experts on both technology and process. We usually recommend coaches walking the floor in the days and weeks following implementation.
Review the measures and metrics – for user performance and successful team working. What determines if the team and the processes are working well? Make sure they are known, measured, and communicated.
Some of these items can be helped with input from suppliers, but most need to be managed internally with oversight by the Governance Board/Committee.
5. Partner with an implementation expert
A partner with industry and implementation experience can bring both technological and change management points of view to the party. Such an expert should bridge the gap between perceived and actual requirements, as well as keeping the project aligned with the business case. Most importantly, partners that are outcome focussed, rather than technology focussed, will support the achievement of your business case.
The initial phases of a project are the foundations for successful outcomes. Structured discovery and design stages, and allocating adequate time for in-depth analysis of the data to be consolidated, are recommended. Occam is a pre-eminent partner in this space in the UK and we always follow a structured approach to implementation.
The main thing to remember is that implementation of new technology is not just about the technology itself. Understanding the business case and applying the technology to that, rather than the other way round, is critical to success.