Translate What Your Tech Team’s Talking About

In the column “How to Work Effectively With Your Tech Team”, I emphasized the importance of marketers gaining a better understanding of technology. Here, I’d like to dive into some additional technology principles for you to understand to reduce some of the “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” confusion that exists anytime that marketers and technologists sit together at the same table.

Again, the goal is not for you to become a programmer, but rather to be at least talking the same language and be on the same planet. The end result of this improved collaboration is that you’ll be able to realize many benefits including:

  • Launch more successful marketing campaigns

  • Create better online products
  • Deliver better online experiences for your audiences
  • Better serve your advertisers
  • Reduce customer service calls and complaints
  • Generate revenue

Below are a few key terms and concepts to understand, and why it’s important for you. From a technology perspective, these items are all interconnected, as they all contribute to the technology ecosystem. A lot of technology planning, software, hardware, and sophisticated algorithms go into keeping the Web sites running and enabling rapid new development.

Performance

Not to be confused with “campaign performance,” performance for a technology team refers to the speed of the system and delivering on the goal of “we want our Web site to be really fast.” A Web site must quickly deliver content to your users, return search results, process credit cards, and so on.

Today’s systems are tightly integrated with other companies’ systems (e.g., third-party ad tags, automated data feeds from partners). If your partners’ systems are slow, then your Web site will be slow. It can even bring your Web site to a halt. Precautions can be taken but much of these problems with your partners/vendors are out of your technology team’s hands. That is why it is important for the technology team to be involved at the beginning of discussions with potential vendors so a technology capabilities assessment can be performed.

Scalable

A scalable system is one that can “scale” to handle increased traffic and usage, without degradation in performance or speed. Planning for and being able to handle increased traffic is critical from both site visitor and advertiser perspectives. Surges can occur during a successful marketing campaign or when there’s a product distribution deal. Spikes can occur when an article takes off virally or an unexpected product becomes a best seller. The system needs to be able to handle all the increased traffic, whether it’s expected or not.

High Availability and Redundancy

A key business goal is that your Web sites and digital products are up and running 100 percent of the time. Fact is, 100 percent is almost impossible to achieve but should be something to aspire to. This requires that there is “high availability” for the sites and systems. To achieve “high availability”, you need redundancy, which means being ready if one or more of your servers or networks goes down and is no longer available. You’ve got to have a “redundant” set of systems available to take over, without skipping a beat. Some companies will build out multiple data centers and have disaster recovery plans in place to support high availability and redundancy.

Security

Security is of paramount concern in today’s world of hackers, identity theft, and credit card theft. Security systems and measures must be in place to securely store customer information, allow only authorized log-in access to online account information and premium content, handle secure data transmissions with partners such as payment processors and fulfillment providers. Having the right security in place and properly promoting it will give your customers confidence in conducting online transactions with you.

Similarly, if you are sharing data and connecting with other companies, then you also need to ensure they have the right security measures in place. You don’t want to end up on the front pages for being the victim of a security breach, which will damage your brand.

Reusable

To enable rapid Web site development, reduce time to market, ease of site updates and maintenance, and to manage costs, software developers wants to create “reusable” components. These components, or pieces of programming code, are built once and then can be reused (with slight configuration customizations) on many different Web sites.

Extensibility/Integration

These terms refer to the ability to easily connect your systems with other systems so that you can perform various functions such as share data with each other, gain access to additional functionality, and support a single sign on. For example, you may want your core systems (e.g. Web servers, databases) to integrate with other external third-party systems (e.g., a content partner, a customer relationship management system, message board) that are hosted by an application service provider (ASP) or by a business partner. To support this, there are technical standards to follow and if you’re a big company with a lot of muscle, then you can create some of your own standards.

So whether you’re from Mars or from Venus, it’s nice to be able to visit each other’s planets and learn each other’s languages and cultures. Ultimately you’ll discover you’ve got more in common than you originally thought.

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