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It's Time for CIOs to Ask CMOs Some Tough Questions

By Shawn Douglass, President - Software & CTO, Unified

Shawn Douglass, President - Software & CTO, Unified

Functionally, the marketing department presents a new set of challenges for enterprise technology environments. Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) will spend more on technology than CIOs by 2017, according to Gartner, and some analysts predict that by 2025 CMOs will be spending $120 Bn on technology annually. The majority of that spend will be outsourced, but neither the software nor the services being purchased are being vetted according to enterprise technology best practices. In fact, most of the thousands of marketing technology vendors sell directly to CMOs in an effort to keep CIOs out of the loop. That’s dangerous for all concerned.

The root cause of CMOs’ exponentially rising technology purchases is the explosion of data that marketing campaigns generate. Facebook, which is where the majority of marketing dollars will soon be spent, generates over 500 times more data than the New York Stock Exchange every day. CMOs also consume a staggering amount of data daily in order to better inform their efforts ranging from television advertising to their nascent efforts in virtual reality. Marketing data, which often contains highly regulated Personally Identifiable Information (PII) on consumers, might reside in corporate file servers or databases, but aggregating, storing, and managing that data can quickly become a risky, costly IT nightmare. One alternative, which is to leave it in the hands of an external vendor with dubious standards for security and data, is the stuff of CIO’s nightmares. Another more frightening scenario is that such data regularly is stored unencrypted and transported via everything from Excel spreadsheet to thumb drive by employees of Fortune 500 companies’ advertising agencies.

“Marketing is still about empathy. It’s still about understanding your audience and aligning messages with their desires and needs”

Fortune 500 marketing supply chains are going to continue to generate more data than ever before. Knowing that CMOs move quickly in order to outmarket their competition and are demanding shiny new technology, CIOs have the opportunity and responsibility to provide checks and balances as their colleagues in the C-suite make critical purchases. That can be as easy as asking the following questions:

Is the Proposed Vendors’ Software Architecture Monolithic, or will it Scale with Enterprise IT needs?

Think of companies like Amazon, Netflix, LinkedIn, Uber, and even Facebook. They started out with monolithic software architectures. Early on, when they began to get incredible traction, they determined that monolithic architectures didn’t serve their core business needs, didn’t meet their customers’ needs, and didn’t scale. In order to meet the changing demands of their businesses they factored out functionality and adopted a micro services architecture. This enabled them to scale and fail independently, compartmentalizing function and risk, and thus ensuring that public-facing services seamlessly meet the needs of their businesses. In addition, each broke their platform out into discrete, focused services, automating them whenever possible. That automation is critical. Wrapping cloud-based resources with configuration management enables them to treat their infrastructure as code that scales up and down on demand and leverages spot markets for ephemeral resources. Furthermore, their developers are empowered to deliver code unencumbered by slow, process-heavy approaches. Ideally, marketing technology vendors demonstrate this approach to software architecture.

Is the Proposed Purchase a Real Platform or a Point Solution?

Real platforms address core business needs that CMOs have, ranging from investment management and audience identification to competitive intelligence and the need to connect teams across their marketing supply chains. Those needs aren’t going away — but they’ll evolve, and they’ll certainly expand. There’s absolutely no sense in buying point solutions when you can instead license a data platform that adds value to all applications built on that platform–in essence, making the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Platforms accrue data in a way such that any part of that platform’s ecosystem is enabled by a data set that is always increasing in value. Point solutions just end being a throwaway investment, since they’re often obsolete within months of purchase.

Does the Proposed Purchase Leverage True Cloud Computing, or is it merely a Marketing Cloud?

There’s a world of difference between cloud computing and marketing clouds. True clouds are used by the Fortune 500 every day to leverage enterprise-class IT resources on demand. The term “marketing cloud” is a rationalization used by legacy software vendors so they can bundle unscalable and unintegrated point solutions under an umbrella that makes them palatable to CMOs — on the surface. Cloud computing is relied upon because it leverages the same best practices that CTOs, CIOs, and CEOs have demanded for scalability, availability, business continuity, data integrity, and security. That makes for an infinitely scalable enterprise platform that easily integrates with enterprise-class applications.

If you look at marketing clouds—even those offered by industry leaders like Oracle, Salesforce, and Adobe, you’ll find three common characteristics:

•A core application (database, CRM, etc.) that represents that vendor’s roots and that may have once had a monolithic architecture.
•A few additional applications, whether developed in-house or by acqui-hire.
•A much larger, kludgy group of point solutions that the vendor has acquired over time with monolithic, incompatible software architectures. Those require years to be integrated into the ven­dor’s core software stack (assuming they can ever be integrat­ed)—and none of them can scale.

What is the True Cost of Making a Poor Marketing Technology Purchase?

Incompatible software architectures make customers pay a steep price in terms of learning curves, lost productivity and integration costs. They struggle with multiple UIs, broken promises of integrations that are delayed by quarters or years, and the opportunity cost of marketing data that remains siloed within archaic applications rather than being made available across a common enterprise platform. The result is that end user — CMOs and their teams — never achieve the ultimate promise of the “marketing cloud” concept: holistic views of their audiences across the entire customer journey, with the ability to act and impact customer experiences to drive business success.

Increasingly, CMOs and CIOs share common characteristics––they’re more quantitative than ever, they’re increasingly critical elements in enterprise success, and they’re writing bigger and bigger checks. It’s time that they also find common ground around technology solutions that drive business success without introducing risk.

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