Don’t Pave Cow Paths

As most readers probably know, ADAM Software sells technology that supports several critical marketing functions, including digital asset management, product information management, marketing collateral localization, and catalog publishing. It shouldn’t be surprising, therefore, that many of the posts I write for this blog discuss the vital role that technology now plays in marketing. Today, technology touches almost every aspect of marketing, and it has become an essential enabler of effective and efficient marketing operations.

It’s important to remember, however, that enterprises need more than technology to optimize marketing operations. Technology is never a ‘silver bullet’ that magically solves all problems. Unfortunately, many companies use technology to automate unnecessary, poorly-designed, or otherwise ineffective business processes. When companies use technology to automate bad processes, they are, in effect, paving cow paths.

The acquisition and implementation of marketing technology should be treated as a catalyst for rethinking and redesigning the business processes you use to manage marketing.

At the most basic level, re-engineering marketing processes is no different from other process improvement initiatives. In fact, companies have used a variety of process improvement methodologies, including lean and six sigma, to address marketing process issues.

While both lean and six sigma have been successfully used to improve marketing processes, I suggest that a simpler framework can also be effective. This approach is known by the acronym USA, which stands for Understand—Simplify—Automate.

The basic message of the USA framework is clear. Before you automate any business process, you first need to thoroughly understand how the existing process works and then, whenever possible, you need to simplify the process. Only after understanding and simplifying do you apply technology to automate a process.

The USA approach to process improvement employs many of the same techniques that are used by lean and six sigma practitioners. For example, one of the best ways to really understand a process is to create a map of the process. In one form or another, process mapping is an integral part of most process improvement methodologies.

When it comes to simplifying processes, one very useful step (taken from lean manufacturing) is to look at each step of the process and ask whether that step adds value for your customer. In many cases, it is possible to simplify a process considerably by eliminating the non-value-adding components.

Technology-enabled process automation can drive dramatic improvements in the efficiency of marketing operations, but to get the most from your technology investments, understand and simplify your processes before your automate them.

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Author:Jan Dejosse

CMO - ADAM Software

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