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How to Work Effectively With Your Tech Team

  |  August 1, 2008   |  Comments

Marketers don't have to become programmers, but they should have a clue about the technology running a digital operation. First in a series.

Marketers must be able to work closely and effectively with their counterparts who are responsible for managing an online business' technology. That's because technology is at the core of all digital operations. And the more a marketer understands what goes into successfully implementing the technology piece of a project, the better the marketer will be able to work in unison with her technology colleagues. And the more smoothly projects will go.

Of course, it's not necessary for marketers to learn to be programmers. Marketing and IT come from different worlds, but they intersect in more areas, especially in our world of convergence.

Keep in mind technology is:

  • A business enabler. Technology makes it possible to run an online business, deliver content and interactive tools, launch marketing campaigns, measure their success, understand your audiences, and many more mission-critical functions.

  • A business driver. Technology can allow you to create new online products that take your company into new markets and to serve your audience and advertisers in ways never before possible.

By understanding technology, you'll:

  • Increase team work. This will enable you to get mutual sign off on projects sooner, shorten the deployment time on various projects because you'll understand more of the considerations upfront, streamline project processes, and understand why some technology projects take longer than others so you don't get frustrated.

  • Avoid getting duped. Often marketers and non-technical people are duped by external technology salespeople and consultants on how long something will take to accomplish and how much it will cost. The more you know, the less likely you'll be taken for a ride by external vendors with crazy timelines and budgets.

Therefore, "core technologies" is the next of my 12 Cs for Thriving in a Digital World.

Depending on your organization, the online technology responsibilities may reside in different places. They may be the responsibility of a centralized digital or e-media team, managed by a centralized IT division or a departmental IT team, or outsourced to a vendor.

Key Technology Components

Understanding the scope and number of technologies and systems helps one appreciate the complexity of what runs behind the scenes. A large number of systems and technologies go into running an online business. We'll talk about some of the following in more depth in upcoming columns:

  • Content management systems

  • Ad servers

  • E-mail newsletter systems

  • Registration, subscription, and access control systems

  • Search engines

  • User-profiling applications

  • E-commerce stores

  • Payment systems

  • Web analytics

  • Video platforms

  • Campaign management systems

  • SEO (define) tools

  • Message board systems

  • Social network platforms

  • Ratings and reviews

  • Content distribution systems

  • Asset management systems

  • Customer databases

  • Content ingestion

  • Links to third-party ad servers, warehouses, enterprise-resource planning systems, sales systems, fulfillment houses

  • Version-control systems

  • Development environments

  • Quality assurance environments

  • Production servers

  • Firewalls and security systems

It's a lot. These systems need to have requirements defined, then be developed, configured, or customized. They must be installed, tested, deployed, and managed. And these systems must be integrated so they work together and support comprehensive reporting. They must also be fast and stay up 24/7.

Build vs. Buy

When evaluating systems and technologies, technology teams often have to decide whether they should build a system from scratch or buy something they can configure to meet business requirements.

The answer depends on many issues, such as whether there's a product available that can be configured to meet a business need or whether building a system will give an organization a competitive advantage. Organizations must also evaluate the cost for each approach and whether they have the resources, including staff, to build a system. Other issues include the time-to-market goals, marketplace pressure, integration with other systems, and security requirements.

In my next column, we'll drill down on a few more key technology concepts that will help you work more effectively with your technology counterparts. With this knowledge, you'll hopefully have an answer to the commonly asked question from the business side: Why does it take so long to do X? More important, you'll be able to partner with the technology team so you can proactively help reduce the time it actually takes to accomplish your business goals.

What's your favorite marketing tool or service? Which one made your campaign a success? We want to know! Nominate your choice in the 2008 ClickZ Marketing Excellence Awards. Nominations are open until August 14. Nominate now!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lee Huang

Lee Huang specializes in developing digital strategies that enable companies to monetize their digital assets, create innovative online products, and leverage emerging technologies to better serve their audience and advertisers. He is director of digital strategy and product development at NBC Universal. Before joining NBCU, he led the development of successful Internet strategies, Web sites, and interactive solutions for media and entertainment companies, including Billboard, Hearst, Scripps Networks, Hollywood Reporter, and Consumer Reports. Lee created The 12 Cs, a framework for thriving in the digital age that focuses on developing an integrated business and technology strategy, along with an adaptive infrastructure that enables rapid execution.

He serves on the board and leads the New York chapter of the Internet Strategy Forum, a professional association for executives who lead their company's Internet strategy and initiatives.

Lee lives in New York City. He can be reached at lhuang23@yahoo.com.

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