Technology Makes Digital Strategy Possible, Not Easy.

One of the most common sentiments I hear in my job, from digital marketing colleagues and from clients alike, is that technology was supposed to make digital strategy easier.  Its human nature, I get it.  I like fast, easy & cheap as much as the next guy, but usually you have to pick two.

For marketers, the onslaught of shiny new objects to play with can be distracting. What suffer are the adoption & utilization of tools already employed, as well as a managed expectation on what to do with them.  An analogy I use with others is that of buying a new car.  One wouldn’t pick up a new car from dealer in NYC and then in a few days wake up and wonder why you weren’t in Dallas, would you?  The car makes driving possible, but it doesn’t automate the driving itself.

Technology builds systems that solve specific problems. Really good systems solve more than one at a time. As marketers become so familiar with a concept or tool and how it operates, we begin to raise our expectation of the tool, without having any logical reason to do so.

For instance, Content Management Systems were originally created to do one thing: lessen the dependency on IT resources to manage a website.  There are all sorts of ancillary benefits of solving this problem.  Speed to market, system ownership, resource value and the list could go on.  But at the core a CMS is meant to take a website out of the hands of IT and put it in the hands of Marketing.  CMS platforms do this by creating a Graphic User Interface (GUI – pronounced goo-eeee) to allow a non-technical person manage various content in structured database tables.  The technical aspects of changing content is put in the code base, a layer Marketers don’t (or shouldn’t) see and instead they manage the content of the code ‘containers’ which are looking to the database.

This is oversimplified on purpose.

The challenge is that CMS and CRM systems and even some social channels have layered in additional functionality on top of the core competency.  Sitecore is no longer a CMS it is a Customer Experience Platform.  Adobe isn’t just CQ they are the Adobe Marketing Cloud.  Kentico has introduced Marketing Automation. Salesforce bought Exact Target to focus in on the marketing service needs of their customers.  And each of these, as well as competitors I haven’t mentioned, tout their products as an end to end solution; which I have no problem with, honestly.

But let’s take our car analogy a step further.  If our concept of a CMS can be likened to a car, then the tools available today (end to end) have us buying a vehicle that is part car, plane, boat, hovercraft and SUV.  Certainly much more tactically difficult to manage, more moving parts, more complexity.  What jumps out at me time and time again is our impression that the tool is supposed to make the thinking easier for us (marketers) when in fact it is just the opposite.  Because the technical capabilities are vaster, the level of planning and strategy need to be ratcheted up. The skill sets are changing.  Instead of technology always allowing for team shrinkage it is often demanding team expansion.  These are good problems to have.  Our customers are more savvy, our managers more demanding and our brands more on show today than ever before. But artificial intelligence isn’t here just yet, we still have to make decisions offline to determine what we want to do online, regardless of the channel, message or device.  Because technology is making it possible, but not easy.