January 25, 2012

Introduction to the Process Playbook

Covalent Marketing’s Methodology for Marketing Success

The traditional systems development lifecycle is a tried and true method of creating or altering information systems.  Most IT organizations use this approach.  It looks like the graphic below, beginning with requirements gathering and ending with the solution’s acceptance.  All very neat and tidy:

And while that all seems fine, starting from Requirements, it’s broken when it comes to marketers.  Why?  It’s not user-centric.  The whole SDLC construct is about the system’s design.  The solution.  That’s not bad in and of itself, however, solutions do not operate themselves.  They are used by Business people (in our case, Marketers).  So, why do so many companies and consultancies start the process from an IT perspective?  A group of individuals – who don’t know the business nearly as well as the Business – come in and ask frequency, function and application questions.

And then, most IT -oriented professionals are still surprised when Marketing users don’t see the question in the same way.  Unfortunately, most times the organization that is implementing the solution is not the same organization that will ultimately be using the solution.   To take requirements without understanding the users and the context of usage is akin to that because you know how to post a status you can create Facebook.

Secondarily, everyone who does requirements does at least a small level of process update, but there’s another wrinkle there.  When automating a process there are three ways to go:

  • adapt the process to the tool
  • adapt the users to the tool
  • optimize the process to the users highest and best goals  and then figure out what goes in the tool

That last one is obviously the most challenging – since it means the Business is in the driver’s seat, all the way.  However, we’ve seen many a failed implementation around the first two.  After all, change management is hard enough without having to deal with a solution that isn’t intuitive for the user.  Ultimately the best way to increase adoption rates is to design a process solution that has the end user in mind.  Every organization deserves a business centric, scenario based solution design to address questions such as:

  • How does our organization currently operate?
  • What should we change?
  • How would it look to new users?
  • What would that solution look like in a new tool?
  • What is the solution in terms of specification and design?
  • How do we integrate the solution?
  • How do we test, educate, and adopt with actual business cases?


The primary difference in this approach is to start with current state scenarios.  Covalent Marketing’s clients are, by and large, really smart people.  We ask them to walk us through – at a detailed level – how marketing operates specifically for them in the context of producing marketing efforts.  Asking our clients how many campaigns they produce is not specific enough.  Asking about a variety of specific campaigns and then scaling up gives us a much better picture of where the pains are and the nitty gritty components that can derail an effort in development.

Additionally, if you look in the depiction above, we use the words “we” – as in “what would we change?”  We are there alongside our clients.  We bring experience and expertise to their knowledge of their business operations and strategy.  That’s one of the reasons we hire marketers and technologists.

Yes, it’s extensive up front.  Yes, it requires consultants who like to unravel the difficulties and assemble the components in a Business-oriented fashion.  For example “How does our organization currently operate?”  is often an unfulfilled answer for many systems integrators.  However, for us, as marketers and consultants, we need to understand where the business is going In order to engineer in process flexibility and stability. And doing this at the beginning makes educating users on upcoming changes less painful.

To that end, change management begins on day one. Your organization does not want to feel “in the dark.” By actively placing marketers at the center of communications, your organization will have a clearer stake in the improvements that are coming.

The SDLC still holds in some cases.  However, a business-centric, scenario based solution design is necessary to create a better solution and effectively manage change.