• Anand Rao

The Marketer’s Case for 3-Speed Development

To reach their audiences where they are, and where they will be, marketers have to be able to move quickly, experiment easily, and adapt content based on real-time data.

In 2016 several consulting companies put out competing points of views on digital and IT development speeds. McKinsey argued that two-speed IT architecture is imperative for changing business models and customer needs. Essentially, traditional IT can run at a slower speed. Digital experience development, on the other hand, runs faster leveraging cloud services like Iaas and Paas, agile methodology, and digital product management, with APIs as the clutchplate between IT and digital.

BCG and Bain argued that everything needs to be one agile speed and that two-speed IT was dead due to friction between digital and IT teams. This friction originated from a pull on talent and SMEs, architectural and data inter-dependencies, and operating model differences.

While there are strong arguments on both sides of the debate, I subscribe to the notion that record keeping back-end systems have slower turns for several reasons.

Here are a few:

  • The system may be outsourced and a vendor is involved in updating the system. For example, DST in the retirement industry, CDK and Reynolds & Reynolds within automotive.

  • The system runs efficiently on mainframes, and there isn’t a strong business case or a viable timeline to move it to more modern platforms conducive to agile development.

  • Updates required for regulatory and compliance changes carry high risk for mistakes. Thus, they require rigorous testing.

Digital teams need to move faster when designing and deploying mobile and transactional websites using agile. That said, marketers who operate agile marketing war rooms via daily Kanban to run A/B tests, make changes to website content, add new offers, etc. need even faster third speed.

Today’s marketing efforts, B2C in particular, require real-time decisions and intra-day digital development. Imagine buying ad clicks from Google or Bing, landing prospects on your site, but conversion cannot be optimized because changes need to be prioritized in a two-week sprint schedule. That just does not work.

The marketing team needs to be able to experiment.

For instance, it may require 100s of landing page iterations to successfully convert different customer segments acquired via Facebook ads. When one landing page isn’t performing, marketers need to be able to create another one on the fly.

Similarly, when making customer appointments, do you ask for customer contact information before or after the appointment? What works better for credit challenged vs. healthy credit customers? How do we know the answers to these questions if we’re only doing 1 or 2 speed development? Marketers need an operating model and technology architecture that supports intra-day development because a successful business values experimentation in customer acquisitions.

Having been a consultant myself, I find points of views are typically polarized towards operational efficiency or IT architecture, for instance. That’s likely because that’s what consultants know best. That duality between marketing and technology, however, is critical today. I wish marketers’ perspectives were also incorporated into the mix to provide businesses with a more holistic and nuanced point of view about what tech works best to meet consumer needs.