Last week we were visited by our client Randy Albert, a change management expert from Level Up System who focuses on helping companies that are no longer in survival mode, not yet in prosperity mode, and still have untapped growth potential. Over lunch he was recalling the story of a former client and the challenge of getting an IT group to respond to business needs. Of course, this doesn’t feel like anything new, but it was interesting when he shared that the then president of Boeing Computer Services, Mike Hallman, who asked his 4,000-person organization how long it would take to implement all-electronic airplane design, the answer was 10 years…but it would take them 10 additional years before they could get to it because of the backlog of projects already on the books – so 20 years total.
We frequently hear stories of marketers being told a project will take 300 hours to implement by the BPUs (business prevention units/CIO/CTO) when all it should be is a fairly straightforward tag or application programming interface (API) integration. The office of the chief marketing officer (CMO) and chief information officer/chief technology officer (CIO/CTO) can no longer afford not to be aligned even though their roles and skill sets are different.
Boeing ultimately got it done in one year after the chief financial officer (CFO) shared that the company was only making about 2 percent return on sales, which at the time meant it would have been making more by putting its money in a passbook savings account instead of building airplanes. That worked because it followed a key change management framework that Randy likes to teach:
Dissatisfaction x Vision x First Steps > the Resistance to Change
Given the nature of the equation, if dissatisfaction, vision, or first steps do not exist or barely exist in the group’s or individual’s perception, their product will be zero or near zero, and resistance to change will not be overcome. Focusing on the left side of the equation (dissatisfaction, vision, and first steps) is more effective than focusing on the right side of the equation (resistance).
Even where there is agreement on a project like an e-commerce re-platforming, the average delay for it is a staggering 3.9 months according to a recent Forrester study commissioned by Monetate. New platforms and site redesigns are often planned to launch just before the holiday season or perhaps a major brand-marketing event. A four-month project delay means that any customer experience, feature, or business case benefits will not only come after these planned events, but also that the risk associated with launching the new platform may be significantly amplified.
It’s important to understand the thinking process of most CTOs. It is certainly true that the CTO at most companies isn’t the final decision-maker, especially when it comes to working with any marketing technology. In fact, it’s often the case that the business decision to go with a marketing technology has already been made by the time a CTO becomes involved. Yet, this is also the key juncture where deals that seemed “done” often get bogged down and stall out.
It’s vital, then, to understand the sorts of objections a CTO will make to marketing technologies, and how to address these concerns. By meeting these objections when (or even before) the objection is raised, we stand a substantially better shot at deftly moving the process forward and being seen as a solution that is easy to work with.
As my former CTO John Quarto-vonTivadar explains:
“First things first: A CTO is near the top of the local technology food chain. These are intelligent people, although they may not always display deep business savvy. But by and large, they are smart and aware of being smart. Often their self-value is tied to an evaluation of their smarts, especially vis-a-vis other technology people. Further, they have become used to meeting a wide variety of business people, some of whom are smart and some of whom are more challenged in that regard, at least perceived by the CTO. From the tech perspective, the ‘standard deviation’ of smarts on the business side of the equation is far wider than it is on the tech side.
Second, they are often in a position of managing multiple projects concurrently, all of which have ‘priority #1’ tagged on them from business types who don’t seem to see anything inconsistent with an entire list of projects all having the ‘highest’ priority for completion. CTOs are very used to being pulled into conversations with executives about exciting ideas, who rarely have an appreciation for the efforts involved in going from ‘talk’ to ‘done.’ CTOs don’t mind a good argument – it’ll often be used to test whether your prospective vendor knows their stuff – and their objective should be to portray themselves as understanding the demands the CTO is under. If they ever get into a situation where the CTO perceives us as too ‘marketing fluff’ on one end of the spectrum or the other end’s ‘we’re so much smarter than you, you cannot argue with us,’ we run the risk of being tuned out. A tuned out CTO can drag out any project he wants to drag for a sufficiently long enough time to kill most deals. The role he plays is one of risk management; given things like scope creep, etc. he has to promise the least he thinks you will accept in the most amount of time that you can stand.”
If the function of his job is to reduce risk, your job is to go to them with the smallest possible projects that have the greatest possible impact. Because a small scoped project that gets completed quickly is a success, and nothing breeds success like past successes. This plays into the “first steps” part of the change management framework Randy shared. We need to clearly articulate the goals and KPIs so we can express the vision for improvement, and then be clear about the opportunity costs and resources consumed by not moving further quickly.