How Do You Eat An Elephant?

You’ve made the decision to upgrade your marketing infrastructure to develop and integrate offline and online marketing systems in support of your brand’s vision for customer-centricity. Now comes the next big decision: Execution.

How Do You Eat An Elephant?

You’ve made the decision to upgrade your marketing infrastructure to develop and integrate offline and online marketing systems in support of your brand’s vision for customer-centricity. Now comes the next big decision: Execution.

The people-based marketing-development effort is a big beast. How do you develop the capabilities? Can you bite off the entire effort at once? What is the best way to develop and take your organization along?

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With the advent of addressable, programmatic, and personalized channels for communicating with the customer, the development of marketing platforms is undergoing big changes. Early on in the performance-marketing movement, a company that was focused on direct marketing would seek help from a marketing service provider (MSP) to create marketing database and campaign management capabilities. This would typically translate to large capital commitments, multiyear development, and testing processes before the platform was operational and starting to produce value.

The MSP would go through a process of robust discovery, data analysis, functional design, and development to meet the client’s stated requirements. The requirements and design process would be driven in its entirety by the client’s marketing goals, while incorporating the best practices for functional and nonfunctional scalability to address future needs. The requirement and design artifacts were typically hundreds of pages, spanning many months, and often the client struggled to map the granular details to its business objectives.

The necessary time commitment from the client teams to provide, review, and approve the requirements was not small and posed a considerable burden. The training, migration, and other onboarding efforts and cost for the client to transition to the newly built solution were not trivial. That didn’t even take into consideration the inevitable misfires in expectation and development that often come up for a project of this size and duration.

New Challenges For The Marketing Platform Development

Now enter the new realities faced in the integration of multiple technology solutions to drive an omnichannel journey:

1. Increased number of media and channels that need to communicate:

• Traditional direct marketing, such as direct mail, and email

• Digital addressable channels and media, such as display, search, social, mobile, and website

• Sales channels, such as POS and call center

2. Increased number of stakeholders and project participants:

• Marketing

• IT

• Channels

• Lines of business/brands

• Analytics

• Various agencies

3. Increased number of technology solutions to be developed:

• Marketing database

• Data integration

• Website and mobile integration

• Decision management platforms

• Analytic environments

• Data management platform

• Content management

• Email platforms

Many of these solutions have been purchased by disparate parts of the organization, and now CMOs are left trying to get these solutions up and running and integrated to service a holistic program. In addition, CMOs are under the gun to prove the value of newly acquired technologies. Gone are the days when they could spend a year or more implementing the technology to handle all of the potential business needs.

So, can we really follow the same old approach to detailing all the businesses requirements and design up-front? Will the client’s institutional capacity and engagement model even allow for such an approach? Last, how can we ensure we still are tracking and progressing against the overall marketing objectives (not losing sight of the forest for the trees)?

The answers starts with the recognition that the modern marketing platform is a long-term vision to support long-term goals. A clearly defined strategy on how to capitalize on the vision should be developed. Then, business use cases (tactics for the strategy) should be developed and prioritized by value, effort, and/or capabilities. The platform will need to be developed in iterations driven by prioritized business use cases. Each iteration may involve development of several point solutions, either in full or as much as required to meet the business use cases. This approach would call for business requirements to be defined across multiple technology solutions that clearly map to the business use cases, strategy, and vision.

Integrated Business Requirements

The use-case-driven integrated business requirements (IBR) document is key to the iterative development of the solution. The IBR has to be crisp enough for stakeholders to understand the business objectives for the iteration, but also detailed enough for the point solutions to develop functional design and to build on it. The IBR has to provide the following details:

1. Business requirements:

• Identify all technology solutions required for the iteration.

• Determine business requirements (think outcomes).

• Determine integrated test plan for the iteration.

2. Data requirements:

• Develop the business entity relationship diagram, illustrating the entities, entity relationships, and granularity.

• Determine data requirements and flows across the technology stack.

3. System integration

• Determine functional workflows (level 1, level 2) for the iteration.

• Determine interfaces for each solution in the stack.

In addition to the IBR, the technical architecture and nonfunctional requirements for the iteration are also essential to the iterative development process. The individual solution teams will use the IBR to build a functionally scalable solution employing best practices.

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In Summary

We may still have instances of sequential point-solution development using the traditional approach. However, as more and more clients seek to upgrade their infrastructure, it is becoming clear that business use-case-driven IBR and iterative development are viable options for approaching platform development. They allow for delivering value early to the client and incrementally build the vision by learning from the prior iterations. The institutional capability of many clients also fit this model.

The answer to the big question posed in this article’s headline? One bite at a time.