Posted 12th May 2015 by APSIS

Why Marketers Need a Two-Speed IT Architecture

If your marketing objectives or activities are being hindered by lengthy IT change programmes, then take a leaf out of today’s digital-focused organisations who seem not to suffer from this problem…
Regardless of the industry you are in, you will recognise the importance of being on top of digital marketing to have any hope of remaining competitive in this day and age. Social networks, ecommerce and digital channels have set new benchmarks for matters such as consumer engagement, relevancy, timeliness and user friendliness.
How do they achieve this? Basically by being agile and speedy; having the ability to react to whatever is affecting their target audience at the time through existing channels, while simultaneously being able to test, develop and respond to new market opportunities. That means the capability to respond in hours or days to specific knowledge such as price, product availability, responding to competitor initiatives, etc.
With today’s fickle, short-attention-span consumer, it can even mean responding to matters such as the weather, customer location, what was on TV last night, what’s trending… The list goes on. And the constant demand for change continues as a result, driven by the need to test and respond to new and emerging markets or channels, new social platforms, wearable technologies, the Internet of Things…
Some industries appear to have fared much worse than others in responding to this demand for agility. For instance, Leisure, Travel and Insurance markets have been saturated by aggregators becoming the ‘go-to’ brands, reducing the actual brand owners’ value and perception in the eyes of the consumer to that of merely a supplier, with the inevitable negative impacts on brand values, acquisition, retention and revenue margins.
In many of these organisations, this need for both structure in the back office and agility in the marketing or customer facing parts of the business drives a tension between Marketing and IT that is almost visible.
Marketers within more ‘traditional businesses’ are having to compete with new digital organisations that do not have legacy foundations. They are having to learn from organisations that have started with a clean slate, that don’t have IT departments, that don’t build complex infrastructure but that access low-cost, highly agile technologies, adding and discarding as they test, evaluate and progress.
In traditional businesses, the marketers have to go through lengthy transformation processes, where IT departments develop software, consider integrations with resultant lengthy phases of development and deployment. Very often, by the time all this is up and running and delivered, the market has moved on or the assumptions behind the initiatives are found to be wanting.
Today’s highly competitive, digitally driven markets no longer allow players to alter architecture and business models sequentially. These businesses have to think and act iteratively. This is not to say that structured back office systems are not important. They are essential and serve many purposes, but there is a necessity to blend the benefits of iterative development and continuous delivery into these more structured models.
A two-speed IT architecture, as suggested by McKinsey, enables organisations to deliver cross-channel, customer-facing capabilities at high speed in conjunction with traditional data and legacy systems. The modern marketer will be empowered to deliver an enriched customer experience, both by the access to legacy systems and the flexibility of digital architecture.
In addition, the iterative development capability that a two-speed setup brings can be absorbed into the back office IT infrastructure, so the ROI is known in advance. This levels the playing field between Marketing and IT and gives the marketing department considerable competitive advantage, both within the organisation and over its industry competitors.
With a Customer Data Management Platform, setting up a two-speed architecture is something that can be achieved within the marketing department in a matter of days and at a very low cost.