Continuous development (CD), also known as continuous improvement, is an iterative-based process typically used in the software development space.
The term is often used as a bucket phrase that encapsulates several design phases such as continuous integration, continuous delivery, continuous testing, and continuous deployment. You may also consider this a variation on Agile Marketing.
- Continuous integration, where the rule is for each team member to submit work as soon as it’s finished. Consequently a build is conducted with each significant work-in-progress change.
- Continuous delivery, which builds on continuous integration by testing each code update (called a “code commit”) as it’s added.
- Continuous deployment, which adds automation to the process. Each code commit is deployed into production as soon as it’s available, making changes delivered to end-users quick and without human intervention.
I believe marketing teams that deploy CD will be ahead of the game when it comes to marketing innovation. The sprint cycle times and incremental knowledge sharing enable teams to adopt new marketing practices and deploy dynamic campaigns.
Benefits of continuous
Based on a long-standing Japanese principle, Kaizen, which refers to making small changes for the better, CD requires agile management and a commitment to team building to be effective.
The benefits of implementing continuous development include:
- Immediate feedback – business intelligence acquired through analytics makes successful CD for marketing possible. We don’t have to “wait for the numbers to roll in”. We’ve got the insight to iterate within days, maybe hours. CD provides the means to respond quickly, pushing out fresh content ahead of slower moving brands.
- Greater collaboration – CD drives an engine with many moving parts: customers (external and internal), vendors, partners, organization, team; these moving parts can build a winning marketing campaign in a fluid way. Collaboration surfacing in real-time enables more efficient campaign development.
- Reduced downtime – waiting for a stodgy review process stifles creativity, whereas iteration inspires creative response, which often proves to be more effective.
- Shortens time-to-market – in software development, CD enables off-cycle releases, which leads to better product usage. The same could be said for creating and releasing assets as the numbers reveal a positive impact, instead of at the next planned campaign update.
- Greater innovation – software firms streamline development and QA using continuous development, leading to faster innovation. CD can also enable marketers to respond quickly to leading-edge audience sentiment and create ground-breaking campaigns.
- Better customer engagement – by continuously developing and refining our messaging, channel delivery, segmentation, data analysis, and predictive modeling, we’re undoubtedly going to get to a place where we interact in a natural and compelling way with our customers faster than traditional development lifecycles.
Are there risks? Sure.
Sometimes, a trend doesn’t develop or an anomaly occurs, so a campaign may not meet expectations. That’s part of taking risks and dealing with the consequences.
But, if you’re not poised to strike quickly when consumers move in a certain direction – especially with the digital marketing tools available – then don’t you risk missing out at being first-in? Improving search practices? Creating better customer engagement? Driving innovation in marketing?
By implementing CD, we get to quickly learn from feedback and send minor updates immediately into a fast development cycle. We can respond to changing sentiment rapidly. I think this approach beats the traditional waterfall model because of the early detection and response mechanism.
But without a well-structured and managed iteration process, you can be hit with downtime. Or get stuck in a loop of constant analysis and discussion with no action.
A CD approach doesn’t guarantee success, but it could provide a fluid marketing campaign development process that gets your organization first-to-market with innovative campaigns.
This doesn’t mean we act without analytics. I don’t believe you can effectively and efficiently improve without knowing what works and what doesn’t. Just-in-time improvement is likely to have immediate impacts on our campaigns, so data analysis is mission-critical. That’s where you need the best data scientists available to make it work!
Tips to implement CD in marketing practices
While a CD marketing approach can be as unique as your organization, there are a few best practices I’ve heard about that drive a successful CD process for software development that could be applied to campaign development:
- Start your planning with a clear vision for the entire lifecycle then work your plan backward to set up sprints (iteration cycles).
- Mitigate risks early in the campaign by deploying integrated tools that drive productivity, enhance collaboration, and serve analytics in a way that provides actionable insights.
- Push teams to focus on data integrity. Make sure data is as clean as possible, and hire talent that understands the importance of data analysis in the iterative process.
- Plan for scope creep. There may be influences that cause your campaign to expand into new audiences, geographies, etc. Make sure your team can accommodate cycle times if plans change.
- Seek reusability after the lifecycle is complete. The iterative review cycles enables the team to identify design elements, metadata, calls to action, web parts and other elements as they are being incrementally developed, so they may be quickly embedded in future campaigns.
Although Continuous Development may not be for everyone, applying the Kaizen get you better results faster, IMO. Have you implemented continuous development at your enterprise?