An old cliché in business technology says “nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM.” IBM was the original example, but in the years since people replaced IBM with Microsoft, Xerox and a number of other names. Ultimately what it meant was nobody got fired for making what seemed like a safe bet on an entrenched brand that offered a foundational technology.

The CMO of one of those “foundational companies” in the marketing cloud space recently said something at a customer event that sounded familiar. They said that everybody within a large enterprise should have their “software suite” — finance has SAP, IT has Oracle and IBM, and now Marketing has them.

It’s a striking statement — and suggests that marketing is like every other department in a large enterprise: one that should be normalized to manage data across a unified platform, governed at an enterprise level. At its surface it sounds good. Why wouldn’t the enterprise want one, holistic, suite-based solution that meets every marketing need?

Let's answer this question with another — does anybody believe that modern marketing behaves that way?

If the last 20 years have taught us anything, it’s that digital is — at best — unpredictable, chaotic and disruptive. New platforms emerge every day. New interfaces, protocols and content types demand that businesses have a firm grasp on how to adapt and change in a fluid environment. Marketing is the exact opposite of Finance and IT. Those practices demand stability, and thrive on predictability and scalability. Marketing, on the other hand, thrives and survives today based on its ability to flex and move as the situation on the ground dictates.

Great Customer Experiences Will Be Integrated

Earlier this year Forrester Research released its State of Digital Experience Delivery. One of the more striking results from this study is that when asked what the “biggest barriers to success” were for delivery of customer facing mobile and web initiatives, the top three answers were:

  1. Lack or resources
  2. Lack of agility / time to market
  3. Process challenges

These three challenges speak to the need for best-of-breed solutions that can be integrated together — despite their size — in an agile manner. In short: it doesn’t matter whether the integrated solutions are enterprise suite to suite, or small component to component — what matters is the ability to pull them together to get a singular view of the customer across channels. However, it also seems logical that moving smaller, more agile, solutions together takes less resources, and can be enabled with a more streamlined process, thus meeting all of those top challenges.

Bimodal is A Movement, Not Twice the IT

All of this is not to say there is no role for a comprehensive “marketing suite” that is a foundational technology. If the business needs are such that the digital experiences are highly governed, managed in a waterfall method, need IT-Centric and heavy development approaches, and will be largely unchanged over time, then these suites provide the stability, reliability and foundational support that a business needs. But if this doesn’t sound like any modern marketing or content project that you’ve embarked on recently — other approaches may be more appropriate.

Consider what CIO magazine concluded this year when talking about the “bimodal” approach that Gartner has been suggesting as an evolving technology strategy. It stated:

“Another way to understand bimodal IT, of course, is that Gartner has decided that traditional enterprise IT can’t change enough — or, at any rate, change fast enough to meet what it’s being asked for …. CEO’s are so tired of how poorly their IT organizations are performing that they’re setting up separate organizations to pursue new opportunities.”

In other words — yes, the traditional suite may still be necessary today, but for how long? And is bimodal just really another word for evolution into a more agile approach?

Nobody Got Fired For Being More Agile

Tomorrow’s success will almost certainly come from the ability to pull multiple, best-of-breed technologies together into a “suite-like” experience for both the user of the technology, and the end consumer of the digital experience. As marketing and technology work closer and closer together — marketing will NOT become more like IT, with governed, stable and homogenized solutions to develop competitive experiences. Rather IT will become much more like marketing — using flexible, agile processes and smaller best-of-breed solutions to create fast-to-market digital experiences.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  m01229