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PHOTO: Frida Bredesen

Another martech deployment = yet another battle between marketing and IT? 

These groups should be united in their efforts to achieve common business goals, yet all too often, business users and IT butt heads. The reason: they think their priorities are fundamentally incompatible.

Both sides' complaints will likely sound familiar. Business users often say of developers: “They don’t understand our time pressures.” “They move too slowly and put up too many barriers.” “They’re obsessed with security, performance and data integrity — all at the expense of actually getting things done!” On the flip side, developers gripe about business users: “They’re not realistic about how long it takes to do things right.” “They act too fast and loose, and don’t deploy technology with adequate QA and testing.” “They don’t care about site performance and security, and never think about long-term effects on our architecture.”

‘Solutions’ Compound the Problem

Rather than alleviate the tension, traditional martech solutions have actually fed and exacerbated it. Oftentimes, tools for email, A/B testing, chatbots and adtech, just to name a few, appeal directly and exclusively to the marketer. The allure: “Don’t worry about IT! Just pop a tag on your site, and everything will be great .…”

But what happens when there are 150 tags on your website? Adding yet another short-term solution to address a valid need can lead to a massive proliferation of point solutions, functionality overlaps, performance degradation, data silos and a highly fragmented view of the customer. What’s more, this messy data and equally messy environment make it difficult to extend and connect solutions, all compounded by a lack of central support.

Related Article: The Freemium Model Only Goes So Far With Your MarTech Stack

Unite the Business and IT for Customer-Centricity

The truth is, IT is right … and business users are right, too. The whole point of any martech solution is to enable and improve business performance. This is especially true with a personalization solution and a customer data platform (CDP). Business users have to be able to rapidly apply this kind of technology and have the ability to gather and interpret data, make decisions, engage audiences and analyze results in a self-service fashion. They also have to be able to iterate and address new needs too, nimbly and as they come up (not countless development cycles later).

Rather than being viewed as a hindrance, developers can help if they’re let in and able to work with business users in the same platform. More and more, successful long-term martech deployments hinge on the relationship between business users and the IT team (spanning software development, data analytics, data science, infrastructure/operations, systems management and security).

So if you’re looking to better connect with your customers — applying personalization to deliver on that mission — there’s one connection within your organization that’s critical to make first. Be sure to solidify the connection between IT and your marketing/business users at large. And the technology solution you choose can and should help facilitate that connection rather than drive a wedge between the groups.

Related Article: Understanding the Myths and the Realities of a True CDP

Extensible Platforms

The question arises: How can you do this? The answer increasingly comes in the form of open, flexible and extensible platforms, platforms that make it quick and easy to add functions, as extensions to the core system, without having to build custom solutions from scratch. These platforms are both easy for marketers and other business users to use, and for IT and developers to support and enhance – quickly adding new functionality that meets unique business needs, with minimal upkeep required.

In a whitepaper published by the CDP Institute and sponsored by my firm titled "The Case for CDP Extensibility," CDP Institute founder David Raab discussed the benefits of extensible platforms and CDPs: “Rather than trying to include every possible function, they offer users the option of adding their own functions. Because these functions are extensions of the core system, they do not require mapping one system into another via connectors or API calls. Nor do they require building a complete separate system, either through custom development or with a ‘no code’ platform …. Extensible systems … will let developers quickly deliver new solutions at a reasonable cost and with minimum burden on future maintenance.”

As the categories of personalization engines, CDPs, marketing automation platforms, content management systems and (in B2B) account-based marketing (ABM) solutions continue their collision course, companies have a greater need for an extensible, central and open hub when it comes to customer data management and activation. All these systems require capabilities for understanding customers and prospects, activating data at the segment and 1-to-1 levels, orchestrating customer journeys and delivering relevant content. Given the potential for overlap and data silos, a central hub can help process information, drive decisions and create cohesive, cross-channel personalized experiences.

And when a new need inevitably pops up? For example, as an organization collects customer data (e.g., from interactions with its digital experiences, high-volume activity by target accounts, anomalies in purchase volumes, etc.), marketing may want what it defines as an important activity disseminated immediately in a way that maps to organizational workflows (such as via Slack/messaging to the right salespeople, or a triggered email or SMS to a specific segment of customers). Open, extensible systems make it easy for developers to adapt that functionality, tweak an out-of-the-box integration, and/or piggyback on what others have developed.

Or let’s say you work at a retail or financial services organization. You want to enhance your website and mobile app with personalized, location-based recommendations. An extensible personalization and customer data platform would make it easy for developers to customize a store (or branch)-finder module, to intelligently display nearby stores and hours of operation to local customers.

Related Article: What Can You Do With a Customer Data Platform?

An Example of Extensibility in Action

A good example of how this flexible, extensible, platform approach is successful comes from the evolution of Salesforce. Salesforce’s AppExchange and enabled customers and partners to build complementary applications on a common infrastructure, and contributed to the $13 billion-plus giant Salesforce is today. Forbes called the AppExchange “the iTunes of business software,” and the marketplace model continues to deliver great value and agility, and extend Salesforce’s power beyond just a CRM.

Let's Get Everyone Working Towards a Common Goal

As it relates to personalization, CDP and other martech solutions, open and flexible platforms are mutually beneficial for business users and IT. They help organizations be agile in the delivery of experiences that meet their specific objectives and goals. And as new needs arise, IT is able to quickly add functionality, helping marketing to further support the business.

As former battle lines dissolve, and business users and IT work together to speak the same language, the company as a whole benefits from less friction and greater productivity. Having software experts work on software, and business experts work on business issues — while all moving toward the same goals — reduces inter-departmental wars and time-sucks, and instead sets companies and their customers up for success.