Time For Marketers To Move To Adaptive Planning?

Marketing planning has changed little in the past century. It's essentially a linear process built on the development of rigid 12-month plans built around brand and channel metrics. This approach is coming increasingly under strain as the combined effects of the growth of digital marketing platforms and a volatile economy demand marketing plans that deliver clear business outcomes and can adapt and improve to meet evolving market dynamics.

Over the past 12-18 months, we have come across several marketing organizations that have decided to do something about this situation and look for new ways to improve their approach to marketing planning by adopting some principles borrowed from a relatively new methodology originally conceived for software development efforts: agile development.

From the interviews that we did with marketers that are experimenting with this new approach, several of the key principles of "agile" development looked particularly relevant to innovating their approach to marketing planning:

  • A clear definition of business outcomes and associated business metrics
  • A dedicated cross-functional team
  • A deliberate test-and-learn approach
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Conquering The Marketing/Technology Divide

The competitive challenge that companies face today is driven by new issues that transcend classic distribution, brand, and product challenges. In the world we live in today, which Forrester defines as the Age of the Customer, firms need to look at how they deliver marketing and technology solutions that have visible impact on the customer.

Just the other day I was reminded of that when, sitting with a client, he described their competitive threat as coming from software products. That would be normal were it a tech company, but this was an airline! Yes, an airline that required technology and marketing to come together to define a customer experience that would differentiate them beyond seat configuration and route system. This highlighted to me the challenge that many companies face in this new era of disruption (for another view of how to think about this product challenge, see my colleague James McQuivey's recent report "Innovating the Adjacent Possible").

Charles Rutstein, Forrester's COO, sat down with my CIO Practice Leader peer Sharyn Leaver and me to discuss the role that CIOs and CMOs play in this customer-obsessed new world. See what we had to say here:

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Application Delivery Must Enter The Age Of The Customer

To succeed in today's turbulent business environment, enterprises must drive deeper customer engagement, connecting empowered customers to the valuable services they want across multiple touchpoints. This crucial shift to an outside-in focus, however, brings new demands and challenges to the application development and delivery organization. On June 13, 2011, Forrester convened a group of expert analysts to discuss:

  • How application delivery should partner with marketing to drive deeper customer engagement through the entire life cycle across multiple touchpoints.
  • Best practices for application development to design and deliver improved customer experiences.
  • How to reconcile the need for stronger design with agile processes and continuous delivery.
  • How to optimize your mobile application strategy to serve empowered customers.
  • How to exploit emerging application platforms, including cloud, to empower customers and the business to enable rapid change.
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Mastering Customer Data: The Next EA Opportunity – And Challenge

Several recent Forrester reports home in on what we call “The Age Of The Customer” in which firms must seek to become customer-obsessed to build differentiation and loyalty. Those firms that embrace this will ramp up investment in four priority areas: 1) real-time customer intelligence; 2) customer experience and customer service; 3) sales channels that deliver customer intelligence; and 4) useful content and interactive marketing. All these needs are technology-infused – wholly dependent on technology and in categories where technology is evolving rapidly. Underlying these investments is the need to master the flow of data about customers: capturing/collecting data about them, analyzing it, distributing to those points of engagement, and, finally, integrating the insights into the customer experience. 

Companies can’t succeed at doing this without a close partnership between the business areas leading the charge and IT. The rate of change of your customers, markets, business opportunities, and technology is simply too fast. Forrester is exploring this theme in our first CIO/CMO joint forum

The reality, though, is companies flounder at this marketing-IT partnership. They flounder because of:

  • More ideas than capacity. A plethora of desired initiatives are constantly being surfaced – beyond the limits of available budget and with no mechanism to sort them into an achievable plan that IT can deliver on.   
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Are You Ready To Master The Customer Data Flow?

If you read my last research report and previous blog post, you’ll know that I’m working with Luca Paderni on a series of research reports examining the IT and marketing relationship. In particular, we’re examining what IT and marketing are doing to master the customer data flow (see Figure 1).

 IT and marketing must collaborate to master the customer data flow

At the upcoming CIO and CMO forum, Luca and I will be presenting a keynote examining the readiness of IT and marketing teams in today’s organizations to master the customer data flow. The really cool thing is that you can help shape the outcome by participating in a very short survey we are conducting in conjunction with Forbes. The survey asks a number of questions around the interaction between IT and marketing and can be answered by either IT or marketing professionals.

Don’t put it off, please take the survey now,  share this post, and receive a complimentary copy of the summary results.

If you are a CIO or CMO of a $1 billion+ organization, please also consider participating in our ongoing research by contacting our research associate Lauren Blackburn at +1 617.613.6500.