Architect change before architecting martech

Any Gilmore Girls fans out there in my marketer community? One of my favorite recurring lines from the show is when Lorelai says, “I smell snow.” Change is kind of like snow: you can smell it coming. Well, you should be able to… if you can’t, you're likely to get run over by it.

In my recent article, Quit worrying about the architecture of your martech stack, I discussed what happens when the organization is not aligned. Alignment is a critical factor underlying the success of a marketing technology project. Change, in terms of your willingness to accept and work through it, is the next of my five areas to fix before you worry about your stack.

Preparing for change – self-awareness

There are two facets to this. First, if you are the person who hates change, I will give you some friendly advice. Second, if you are working with or managing people who hate change, I have some advice in that arena as well.

People who hate change can be easy to spot: it’s the sales person with a Rolodex (if you don’t know what that is google it, it is pre-internet) or the marketer who thinks nurturing via email marketing is synonymous with single-send, batch-and-blast emails. The first piece of advice I can offer you is simple: don’t let this be you. From a career growth perspective, you will doom yourself. From a stress perspective, you are going to give yourself an aneurism trying to fight the tide of change in our industry. Ease yourself into the process, but recognize that being a block to change does not offer a positive future. Accept the change and be open to learning so that you can move forward with your team.

As a leader in your organization, you also know who the people are that are resistant to change. We have many recommendations for how to manage change. The first thing I recommend is prepare your team early and often, explain what they can expect and why it is important to the larger objectives in the organization. Be prepared to offer training, moral support and resources so that your team can get up to speed and feel more at ease with what is coming.

Agility versus rigidity

Culturally, some organizations are better at embracing change than others. You often see the ability to function in an agile fashion in a smaller company or a newer company where they have had to evolve quickly to be competitive. However, that does not mean older companies are unable to move into an agile mindset.

In the last two years, I have had a unique experience of working with a long-term client that generally had applied a waterfall method for their projects. By this I mean that at the outset, they lined up exactly what was in scope and what was not. They left no room for change or question in the process. They then proceeded sequentially through each step in the process until they reached the end of the project.

As an established company, this approach had historically served them well and as their partner, we had worked with them in this manner over a few years. In a project that used this method, requirement changes often created a drag as we grappled with how the newly-discovered requirements would impact the established project plan. With one project that should have taken two months to complete, it took over a year and a half simply because the change in requirements meant we had to return to the start of the process each time they shifted.

A year and a half ago, they created a new product and a dedicated team, treating them as a start-up within the company. They were given freedom to develop from the ground up in ways they had never had. My company assisted this new group in setting up a new marketing automation Platform (MAP) for themselves as they implemented a new CRM. The timeline for the work was very short and the complexity level was high. The CRM implementation team forced the project to follow the Agile methodology, which had a positive side effect of pushing the entire project into a similar mindset. The project could shift and adapt as the requirements did, which was critical with a four-month timeline from start to finish for global deployments of both MAP and CRM.

Shifting an established mindset resulted in a much faster path to success for this company. This did not come easily, as initially there was a struggle for more established team members to adopt the new framework. Within a few weeks of drinking from the firehose, however, they had fully embraced the new approach.

Ability to adapt to change, willingness to learn and grow

What will truly determine whether your organization is willing and able to change is the ability for your culture and your teams to adapt, learn and grow as does your technology landscape. As a member of those teams, you must work through the process, not block it. As a leader, it is your job to provide the proper tools to the team to help them as they work through change.

Managing change is not simple or easy, but it will be a determining factor in your success with marketing technology. Changes you will manage include processes, data and your legacy environment. In my next post in this series we will talk about the impact of your technology legacy on creating a successful martech stack.