2016 will be the year that even more companies will realise that the roles of CMO and CIO should converge on each other, even merge into a single role. This is happening because there can be no digital marketing without platforms and tools. No learnings without big datasets and the tools to run real-time analytics on them. And building platforms and tools without using a user centric approach is a waste of effort. 

The permeation of digital channels in our lives brings these interactions into our pockets. Customers demand a top of the line experience in these interactions and consider it a breaking point if these  expectations are not met.

The traditional IT and Marketing silos are not equipped to handle this fundamental change in approach. To be able to provide this exceptional experience and service will force the merge between these two.

Such a change is hard. No question about it. No organization starts from a blank slate, so this transformation is a long term process. One that involves a lot of organizational layers and stakeholders.

In this post I want to focus on designing an approach and IT architecture to fulfill these expectations. There are two simple concepts from Genrigh Altshuller's "TRIZ" method that are especially suited. 

Genrich was a Soviet naval officer tasked with examining patent applications after the Second World War. After going through tens of thousands of patent applications, he arrived at forty patterns for innovation. After a little run in with Stalin and a stint in the Gulag, he wrote a book on these patterns, a reference in the innovation community.

He states that every innovation starts off with a contradiction. The contradiction between improving one aspect, while not degrading other aspects. An example could be a car manufacturer that wants to improve their SUV to have hyper car performance. But without sacrificing offroad capabilities. 

In this case, we want to improve the type, flexibility and time to market of solutions to cater to the current digital expectations. Without losing the control and quality of the architecture. The two concepts we like to use, put in simple terms, are "splitting up things" and "not doing things"

Splitting up things

Traditional IT solutions are for the most part large monolythic applications or platforms. These applications fulfill most of the requirements a a certain moment. But, due to their size and complexity, are slow to adapt to changes in the market and new usecases.  This often results in missed business opportunities, and in dated client interfaces. Both unacceptable.

In a service oriented architecture these applications are split into components with a single purpose. Communicating between each other via webservices. Deploying new components becomes a lot simpler because each component has only a limited scope. Due to the loose webservice coupling, it becomes easy to interchange or recombine services. Release schedules can diverge and in some cases (hight tech startup often) end up as continuous delivery.

If we look at the traditional marketing websites and tools, we need to move to a collection of "best-of-breed" solutions, linked together via webservices. It would be absurd to assume that a single application can be the best content management system and the best email marketing tool.  And the best marketing automation tool, and the best transactional platform, ...

Again, this is not an overnight change. These ecosystems of components grow and evolve in a gradual and incremental manner

Not doing things

In such a modular architecture it becomes more easy to define what services an IT department needs to offer, and which ones can be outsourced. 

It's obvious that all services that define the core business are handled by the organization itself. Examples are calculating prices, ERP systems, ... While customer facing services benefit from outsourcing to a partner focused on customer experience and marketing. Examples are websites, marketing tools, customer and employee tools, transactional platforms, mobile applications, ...

This approach frees up time and resources in the in house IT departments, resources that can be put to good use in keeping up with business demands. It also opens up new opportunities by getting access to all the capabilities of the partner.

Keeping control of it all

Going back to the contradiction, "improving the type, flexibility and time to market of solutions to cater to the current digital expectations without losing the control and quality of the architecture", we now have flexible architecture, but how can we keep it under control. And as important, how can we make it work together like a well oiled machine.

There we need to take into account the CIO/CMO trends. You cannot do the one without the other, so you need to select a partner to match that philosophy, and keep the amount of partners as low as possible. Such a partner needs to be an expert in customer experience, digital marketing, design and development. 

While even the partner is interchangeable, it will be a crucial part of your organization. A traditional customer-supplier relationship is not suited for such a partnership. A more flexible and close working relation is needed. The partner should be able to function as an extension of your own IT/Marketing team, speaking the language of both.

The paragraphs above might sound as an obvious marketing ploy for Kunstmaan, but it's not just that. As early as the 90's we have recognized the benefits of the mix of customer experience, (digital) marketing, design and development. A skillset we have invested in for almost twenty years and have put into practice with great success. In recent years the need for this approach is becoming ever more clear to companies under pressure from more digital competitors. A challenge we gladly take on with our clients.

Written by

Roderik van der Veer

Technology Director at Kunstmaan, passionate about innovation and the technology to do so.

Follow @r0derik