Technology Takes the Helm

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Photo by Shane Kislack
Photo by Shane Kislack

Looking back at my first four diary entries, a question might pop into your mind: Why hasn't he talked more about technology?

My answer: rigor and discipline.

Those foundational principles have guided our technology investment and management approach at Mitel since I joined the company six months ago. This month I'll discuss the key tenets of our information technology (IT) management philosophy, recent investments in marketing technology, and the progress our marketing function has made (and has yet to make) on my half-year anniversary.

What technology should do

Technology should either improve the customer experience, or enable the efficiency and effectiveness of the business. It's ideal when an IT investment achieves both. That said, I firmly believe that if you do not have the rigor or discipline to effectively implement and operate processes manually, you should not expect the introduction of new technology to serve as an elixir to your ills.

Throughout my career I've found that technology can be used as an effective enabler, as well as an excuse for not doing things. For example, I've heard numerous times that “we cannot track and measure X, Y, and Z…because we don't have a CRM application.”

To varying degrees, these excuses may contain kernels of truth. For the most part, however, the inability to measure X, Y, and Z stems from a lack of underlying process rigor and discipline. I would much rather use a paper-based or hybrid tool first, before investing in supporting automation. A software investment should be the third action in a three-step process:

  • Design and develop the process;
  • Refine and strengthen the process; and then
  • Automate the process

As I discussed a few month's ago, many marketing functions, including ours, at times suffer from a “Ready, aim, aim, aim, fire!” mind-set. While the vast majority of marketing initiatives and activities benefit from more of a “Ready, aim fire!” approach, IT investments represent one of the few areas where it pays to procrastinate a bit. By doing so, your aim becomes more accurate and your return on investment (ROI) forecasts are more likely to hit the bull's eye.

Where we aimed our technology dollars

We've recently made several marketing-technology investments and related software applications. All of these investments, including the following, occurred after a rigorous analysis and review:

  • Digital platform

First and foremost, we reexamined our digital platform. My hypothesis was that we were under-serving our customers by providing a suboptimal user experience and failing to provide consistently relevant content, in addition to some other performance issues. To test this hypothesis, we reviewed our current Web architecture and decided very quickly to invest in a more flexible content management system; we're moving to a Drupal platform. Our new platform will help us rebuild our website to significantly improve the user experience, provide more relevant content, and enhance performance, while reducing support costs dramatically. This cost reduction will allow us to reallocate the funds to other programs.

  • Marketing automation

Our second investment was in a marketing automation system from Marketo. If we are to ascend to the next level in terms of driving more demand and more effectively tracking marketing effectiveness, we need a more sophisticated platform.

Marketo will help enable us to more skillfully nurture contacts over time, as well. We're integrating Marketo with our new Salesforce.com platform, and that integrated capability is scheduled to go live in June. The intention of this integration is to equip us with closed-loop lead feedback; we'll better understand and manage the value of the leads marketing delivers to sales, and also from sales to closure.

  • Hosted partner portal

Our third major marketing technology investment is a hosted partner portal. This portal is designed to empower our partners to obtain quicker service and insights on their own (i.e., via self-service). This portal will provide our partners with the latest marketing programs and assets that they use and co-brand. We've tested the portal in the UK and are in the process of implementing it in the United States this month.

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