How I Learned to Stop Calling IT and Run My Own MarTech Stack

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Except for PR people, marketing staffers get the least respect of any part of the B2B ecosystem. They’ve been at the mercy of IT, product development or engineering in many tech startups, and some larger organizations, to implement and operate their martech stacks. But now the velocity of B2B has increased, and marketing has to fend for itself. Technologists can no longer wait on marketing’s beck and call.

None of this was unforeseen. Marketers were warned about getting tech savvy as far back as 2012, when Gartner predicted CMOs would outspend CIOs on technology, which Meagan Eisenberg, CMO of MongoDB, highlighted in 2015.

Devops for marketing

How can B2B marketers support their martech efforts? This situation has been thought through, and a methodology called development operations, or devops, for marketing has been developed and applied to marketers adopting technology.

Taking a page out of the software developers’ playbook, Eric Peterson, manager, marketing systems engineering, Tableau; and Josh Koenig, head of product, Pantheon, presented how using devops, marketing can transform its relationship with IT from one of antagonism to that of healthy coexistence at MarTech.

“What happens when marketing and IT collide?” asks Shep Hyken, customer service and experience expert, Shepard Presentations. “Sometimes there is conflict and confrontation. The best companies find a balance. Technology can drive operations and produce analytics and data that help illustrate customer and industry trends. Devops finds the balance between marketing and technology.”

Build, learn, measure, repeat

So much has changed in the last few years, and a whole new range of marketing technologies exists. And marketing departments have been adopting them, according to Peterson. As an example of how marketing has used devops to automate its processes, Koenig cited the analogy of how Toyota automated the manufacturing of cars but commented, “They didn’t just throw robots at it.”

It was part of an iterative procedure of building, learning and measuring that repeated. In this way, the minimum viable product of marketing is released and its real-world results inform the process to improve the next version. That’s the essence of devops for building and operating a high-velocity marketing organization, which needs agility to survive based on all the experiences of its practitioners, according to Peterson.

Marketing needs devops to counter product/engineering, vendors, IT and agencies that all have different organizational imperatives. And while not actively blocking it, they do not make marketing a priority, according to Koenig.

How to unblock marketing

Therefore, it becomes essential that marketing gets unblocked. But how to unblock is the question, according to Peterson. The best way to do this remains empowering those most accountable, he says.

For example, under this approach the demand generation function should do its own data analysis. But it’s not about marketing going rogue. It’s about internalizing empowerment of others, according to Peterson.

“Marketing—the folks with the most direct contact with your product audience—hold an important key to success,” says Lynn Nichols, Ph.D. and CEO, X Intellectual Property, a name development company. “Marketing should not be considered the end of the product chain but rather, in a true devops mindset, an essential integrated element.”

AdRoll: global leader in retargeting

As an example of devops for marketing, AdRoll was a company where marketers and engineers were the same kind of people. And its website and the application were the same technology. It became a Frankenstein monster, according to Koenig.

Pantheon worked with AdRoll to split the website into two applications for marketing and engineering. Eighteen months in, marketing now runs the external facing website by itself without help from engineering. This was a result of empowering marketing.

“We see significant need for an organizational reboot that redefines the role of front-end developers for marketing technology,” says Anji Taylor, director of marketing, Zesty.io, a SaaS-based CMS provider. “Front-end developers—experts in HTML, JavaScript and other tools—belong in marketing. Only when organizations understand that the makeup of marketing teams must change will they be able to harness the strengths of martech and free IT to focus on its expertise.”

Tableau: no quality assurance visibility

For the Tableau data visualization company, the marketing department was technologically inferior. That is until it learned about continuous delivery under the devops model, according to Peterson.

The problem started when IT built a system of dedicated servers for the Tableau website on which marketing could not conduct quality assurance, according to Peterson. Developers working around the clock could not unblock the website, and IT had no resources to help.

An outside vendor had to be brought in. The moral of the story is that not all IT departments or IT vendors are created equal, according to Peterson. He recommends evaluating vendors based on their open APIs.

Taking control, taking responsibility

In the struggle for control between marketing and IT, there’s a natural inclination to avoid responsibility. And implementing a devops culture does not happen overnight and cannot solve the blame game instantaneously. “People taking control/responsibility takes maturity and commitment,” Koenig says.

In the beginning, there were top-down data-driven business intelligence (BI) companies, according to Peterson. At these BI companies, marketing would throw its data requests over the wall to IT, which would spit out a marketing analytics report every two weeks or less often, he says.

Now marketing is more data driven as agile self-service becomes en vogue. Devops can be a culture carrier, making a place at the table for marketing, which can lead B2B practitioners to ask, “How can I enable more agile marketing?”

For more MarTech 2016 coverage, see the stories on martech vendor myths and business value creation.

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Derek Handova

Derek Handova

Derek Handova is a veteran journalist writing on various B2B vertical beats. He started out as associate editor of Micro Publishing News, a pioneer in coverage of the desktop publishing space and more recently as a freelance writer for Digital Journal, Economy Lead (finance and IR beats) and Intelligent Utility (electrical transmission and distribution beats).