By Kristina Podnar
How many times do you hear that IT is slowing down the digital marketing process, focused so much on security that Marketing can’t be responsive to user needs? Or how many times does it seem like Marketing is not giving any thought to serious operational considerations, such as backups and disaster recovery?
From content management systems (CMS) to productivity tools (e.g., Confluence, Jira), it is evident that not much has changed in the Marketing – IT dynamic during the past two decades. Sure, unlike 20 years ago when Marketing had to come to IT for a precursor to one of today’s CRM platforms, Marketing has a slew of software as a service (SaaS) options that seemingly require little to no IT input. But the reality is far more nuanced. Today, more than ever, it takes both sides of the house to create sound digital systems, but even more so, it takes both groups to deliver a great digital user experience that drives the business’ bottom line.
What if I told you there is a way to stop clashes over reliability versus speed and get rid of wasted hours in meetings reinventing the selection criteria each time a new addition to the digital stack is required? What if the rules of the game, or the technology selection identification and selection policy as I like to call it, were predefined and they allowed you to focus on what matters? Right! Let’s allow Marketing and IT feel like they are in the movies: “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
The objective: Avoiding chaos
As the old saying goes, “When everyone is responsible, no one is responsible.” The purpose of this specific policy is to define the start-to-finish process for purchasing and/or subscribing to digital technology (e.g., a content management system (CMS), social media listening tools, tools for analytics, database management tools, code repositories, backups and disaster recovery, authentication, etc.). It also identifies the various roles involved in the process.
Often, it’s IT that goes into a corner and decides what the digital technology stack ought to be. After all, “technology” is in your department name. But maybe Marketing took advantage of their budget and set up a content management shop in the cloud. But when there’s no clear responsibility for providing input and selecting digital technology, then everyone does their own thing. Chaos is the inevitable result.
This policy is intended to bring order to that chaotic environment by clearly stating who gets to identify what digital technology is used, and how the selection process will work. And you can’t get that done without your colleagues in Marketing. So while your first instinct might be to go off and write a policy that tells Marketing what to do, resist the urge, and ask your colleague to meet with you and focus on getting a policy defined.
Key outcomes: A beautiful friendship
The goal of this policy is very straight forward, and the beauty is that it can be sponsored by IT or Marketing. If this policy were a box of cookie mix, it would contain fine print that indicated whoever is sponsoring the event must also invite their counterparts to participate in the policy development process. The objectives are simple:
- Clarify who is responsible for digital technology decision making is communicated
- Define who is accountable and responsible for decision making around various digital technologies and document it
Getting it done
The priority should be to determine which approach—centralized or decentralized purchasing—will best serve the organization’s needs. Considerations to leverage in discussions with your Marketing partners and to document in your policy include:
- Who has the authority to make the final decision? Does someone in IT make decisions for the entire organization, or does Marketing get to make those decisions for themselves?
- If Marketing will decide technology for themselves, what procedures do we need, to make sure the new technology will successfully integrate with existing technology?
- What about other performance criteria like uptime, notifications of scheduled maintenance, data security protocols, 24/7 support, etc.? Should Marketing be required to select from a list of providers that have been vetted by IT?
- If the decisions are made by IT, will we seek input from Marketing and other digital workers who will be using the technology? How much weight will we give to various input?
- If we are a global organization, will we keep purchasing decisions at headquarters, or will we allow remote locations to buy digital technology according to local needs? If we let local offices choose their own digital technologies, what standards or requirements will we establish?
- What other issues should be considered before the authorized party decides about purchasing digital technology (records management, privacy, security, etc.)?
- Should we try a proof of concept before fully investing in new technology? If so, how and when will we collect user feedback, and which factors should carry the most weight when evaluating feedback?
- If we are dealing proactively with systems that were already selected by Marketing, but ultimately IT will get to choose technology going forward, what happens to content stored on legacy systems? How much time will it take to convert to a new platform? How difficult will it be to transfer data records to a new system? Who will be responsible for getting that work done? Will Marketing have veto power?
- Are there set times—e.g., license renewal—when we should rethink a previous choice and consider other options? Other than license renewals, what other triggers should we watch for?
Validation of effectiveness
- Should we conduct scheduled audits to identify the various technology products being used throughout the organization? If so, what action will we take if digital workers are using an unauthorized product (if any)?
- What processes will we use to prevent and/or resolve conflicts—for example, regarding functionality vs. usability? What can we do to make sure everyone’s needs are met to the greatest extent? When that’s not possible, which should we prioritize (e.g., functionality vs. usability)?
Supporting and servicing
- If IT will have full responsibility for purchasing and maintaining digital technologies, what policies should we have about SLAs? What is the minimal level of service we will require?
- Once a technology is identified and selected, will IT be responsible for installing, maintaining, and supporting it? If not, what guidance and support will be provided to the various functional areas?
Conclusion: The power of policy and partnership
In today’s hyper-competitive world the key to increasing any business bottom line is the bridging of Marketing and IT. That means having a documented policy that clarifies digital technology decision making and related roles and responsibilities. Joining with your Marketing colleagues and defining that peace treaty will stop the battling and prevent any future wars.
And that is the power of digital policy.
KRISTINA PODNAR is a digital policy innovator. For over two decades, she has worked with some of the most high-profile companies in the world and has helped them see policies as opportunities to free the organization from uncertainty, risk, and internal chaos. Podnar’s approach brings in marketing, human resources, IT, legal, compliance, security, and procurement to create digital policies and practices that comply with regulations, unlock opportunity, strengthen the brand and liberate employees.
Podnar speaks regularly at industry conferences, contributes articles to publications, and delivers masterclasses on digital policy. Podnar is the Principal of NativeTrust Consulting, LLC. She has a BA in international studies and an MBA in international business from the Dominican University of California and is certified as both a Change Management Practitioner (APMG International) and a Project Management Professional (Project Management Institute).
The Power of Digital Policy: A practical guide to minimizing risk and maximizing opportunity for your organization is available on Amazon and through other fine booksellers. For more information, visit Kristina @ www.kpodnar.com and on LinkedIn and Twitter.