Whether or not they realize it, your company's Information Technology (IT) personnel are not in the business of bringing newer and flashier technology capabilities to your company's business users' computers or desktops. They, like you, are in the business of saving or making money. Technology is a useful means to that end, but only a means.
Somewhere along the line, technical people became mesmerized by the phenomenal pace of technological innovation—and let's not kid ourselves: it is phenomenal. But they also managed to forget the golden rule of business: She who has the gold makes the rules.
Consequently, in more and more enterprises, IT departments are seeing their roles reduced. Marketing departments, especially, have been aggressive about considering other options: Because of IT shortcomings and a widening chasm of distrust between IT personnel and themselves, more marketing departments are bypassing their internal, infrastructure-focused resources and are outsourcing.
Choosing the Right Projects
What are the most important trends in the world of marketing management? Increasing pace of change (we must do more in less time)... sharpening focus on profitability... ever-increasing scrutiny from shareholders, management and government... and so on. Under this conflux of influences, marketing managers frankly haven't the time to wait for their IT departments to introduce the perfect or most sophisticated technology implementations over a period of months.
The impatience is understandable, and it's not just a matter of the rush to be the first to market, when potential profit margins are most attractive. When marketing departments outsource their technology needs, they avoid petty, emotional turf battles with internal IT departments.
Plus, there's increasing evidence that many IT projects aren't worth the wait, anyway. A Datamation study found that 30% of application projects that took longer than a year to complete failed to meet business requirements.
The emphasis on scalability in IT is part of the problem. With business changing so rapidly, can you legitimately anticipate what's next for your company?
If not, then why would you be so interested in IT projects that promise simple, cost-effective migration for value-added functionality far downstream. Strategic infrastructures and systems have their place, obviously, in enterprise networks. But, more and more frequently, marketing departments are choosing to leverage and build on the capabilities of their existing, proven technology systems—addressing today's needs today and tomorrow's needs tomorrow.
Taking Control of Quality
The IT discipline is focused on delivering enterprise testing that doesn't necessarily determine whether business objectives will be met.
Certifying technology functionality in the conventional methods used widely by IT departments—unit, string, system, integration, user-acceptance, stress-and-volume and 508-compliance testing—has its place. But the key to effectively and efficiently implementing technology in marketing goals is evaluating not only technology performance but also the internal and external parties using the system, the practices they employ in using it and the interrelationships among people, processes and technology within the context of the enterprise's business mission.
Here are some tactics for simulating production environment and real-world experiences and, thereby, driving revenues, slashing overhead and getting to market more quickly:
- Customer-experience testing. Evaluate methods, procedures and training materials. (Between production release and customer availability is a prime opportunity.)
- Customer-fulfillment testing. Upon service availability, follow processes as any system user might and assess impact across billing, management reporting, etc. Record performance metrics.
- Operations testing. Measure inputs and outputs in context of service-level agreements (SLAs), and gather customer feedback.
When companies take this more customer-oriented approach (or user-oriented, in the case of internal-facing systems), enterprise testing can actually pay. Companies experience swifter return on investment in technology deployments and answer more strategically useful questions than simply, "Does it work?" or, "Is it bug-free?"
Speaking the Language
If infrastructure-focused IT departments want to stop seeing themselves cut out of the conversations with their own companies' marketing departments, they've got to start speaking the language of business. For example, how could a proposed IT project cut customer-acquisition costs by 40%—in weeks, not years?
It's a more aggressive approach, for sure, and the stakes become significantly higher for the IT department that holds itself to such stiff standards. Adopting a more judicious process for selecting projects to pursue and a more comprehensive, customer-focused approach to enterprise testing is a good way to begin turning the tide.
Until IT departments are willing to make changes, however, their power will continue the steady decline that began with the recovery from the economic downturn. And marketing departments will continue to look externally for support.