Breaking silos

Breaking silos

Today I am going to diverge from the typical, more technically-oriented posts I have written in the last few months. Most of the companies I have worked with in the last 5+ years had the same issue: different Adobe tools where used by different and disconnected teams. Although this seems like an obvious issue, I wanted to put it in writing.

Origin

In order to tackle the problem, I think it is important to understands where it comes from.

For the typical case, I will use Adobe’s recent history and how it actually mimics how our clients have been working. What we know today as the Adobe Experience Cloud, comes mainly from acquisitions. It all started 10 years ago with Omniture. Since then, Adobe has purchased many other companies: Day Software, Efficient Frontier, Neolane, Demdex, Magento, Marketo… Besides, originally, these tools had no integrations between them, with very few exceptions. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that each tool is owned by a different team within a company. It could well be that our clients purchased the licenses before Adobe acquired these other companies.

There is another, more obscure reason for these silos: internal politics. If you are working for a large organisation, I am sure you have seen or even suffered them. I do not want to take too much time explaining this case. In general, we see that team A, owner of tool X, does not work or even communicate with team B, owner of tool Y, even if tools X and Y are from Adobe. It is very unfortunate that we have to deal with this situation, but it happens too often.

Problems

Since I have not studied psychology, I am not going to cover the human aspect of the problems. I am sure you can name some and, if you need solid arguments, your HR department may help here. I will concentrate on the technical and marketing consequences of working in silos. The picture that comes to my mind to explain these problems is a canoe, where each oarsman rows at a different pace. Yes, they are all pushing in the same direction, but they are bothering each other and the canoe progresses slowly.

Audiences

Audiences are a key part of a marketing campaign. It is who we send a message to, so audiences should be the same across the company. However, with siloed teams, each will create its own audiences. For example, “high-valued customers” could have a different definition for the DMP and email teams. Even if these teams could agree on the definition, the data each team has available, may not be the same. In either case, the consequence is that the audiences will be different per team.

Assets

You can use an image in a magazine ad, on a landing page, in a personalisation, in display advertising, in an email, in a direct mail… Typically, each of these activities is mapped to a different team. Therefore, it is very likely that each team will create its own assets repository. The first obvious negative consequence is inconsistency: depending on the channel, a different image is used.

There is still another consequence: increased cost. Typically, 3rd party agencies create these assets and a single corporation will use many of these agencies. So, if different teams request the same type of assets to multiple agencies, the total cost will go up with no additional benefits.

And all I have mentioned also applies to other assets, like videos.

Messages

The last thing a company wants is to send contradictory messages to an individual. If you now put your consumer hat on, I am pretty sure you have suffered this issue: you receive an email with an offer, which you cannot find online in the website; or you see a banner with a message, but, after clicking on it, the landing page shows something different.

I should remind here that we are in the marketing world, which is all about messaging. Even if you manage to have exactly the same audience and assets, if two teams create different messages, the consumer will get confused. A confused consumer is less likely convert.

KPIs

I understand that different teams will have different KPIs, but they should all be aligned. Otherwise, you will have teams fighting against each other because of their KPIs. Going back to the oarsmen picture I mentioned earlier, it will likely end up in a fight between them.

I remember a story I heard from a large online retailer, where the call centre had as KPI “total number of calls per time period”. The consequence was that members of the call centre would just hang up if a call took too long, even if they had not help the consumer. I am pretty sure not everybody in the company was thrilled by this behaviour.

Campaigns

For starters, the very definition of “campaign” will differ from team to team. What I have found in my experience is that a team will only call a campaign to activities they do, excluding  activities from other teams. The best example in the Adobe world is that the owners of Adobe Campaign will think that only they create campaigns and that the only channels are those supported by Adobe Campaign. But, what about display or the website itself? Can you create a display campaign and is the website a channel in itself?

IMHO, a campaign is any marketing activity, which has a goal and a cost. This is a very broad definition, I know. You can also think of a campaign as a combination of the previous points: an activity that consists of sending a message (including assets) to a specific audience and its success measured against certain KPIs.

Think about the following campaign briefing: “send an email to all customers who have purchased product X and if they have not visited the website in 7 days, target them in display”. Would this be possible in your company? Or are the DMP, email and tagging teams so distant that it becomes a project in itself to create something like this?

Integrations

This area is the most dear to my heart, as I have been working as an Adobe multi-solution architect for the past 3 years. In my ideal world, all tools should be interconnected and sharing data or content, whatever makes sense in each case. However, the reality in many Adobe customers is that these integrations have not been implemented. Again, it should come as no surprise: if different teams do not talk to each other, why would the tools they use need to do so?

On the other hand, there are very good reasons to create these integrations. For starters, individually, all Adobe tools have their own set of features. However, when you interconnect them, you unlock additional features at not extra cost. For example, with A4T, you get all Target metrics in Analytics and it is already in the license.

Another reason is to lower the costs. A couple of weeks ago, while speaking with the CIO of and Adobe client, he told us that any time they wanted to do something sophisticated that needed multiple Adobe tools, because of their setup, it required a project in itself. If properly configured, these activities should be business as usual.

Solutions

Unfortunately, there is no simple solution. If you were expecting a technical-only solution, I am afraid there is none. Do not get me wrong, the technical part is the foundation of any modern digital marketing and it must be included in any digital transformation project, but it will not solve the organisational problems. Remember that tools are “things” used by humans. Not only the tools need to talk to each other, but the humans need to do the same.

A few years ago, I was with a client, which had many of the issues mentioned above. While presenting the benefits of the integrations, I casually mentioned that the teams were working in silos. The immediate reaction of our sponsor was: “this is why we have hired Adobe!” This response took me by surprise, but I later understood it. He knew that the technical foundations were important, but the human aspect was as important, if not more. And he needed help to get their teams working together.

To finalise with and using again the canoe example, we want all teams to work like the best oarsmen do, perfectly synchronised. There are a few ways of organising the teams to achieve the best results, but it is beyond the scope of this post to talk about solutions. All I want to say is that it is a project in itself and there needs to be willingness to do so. If personalities get in the way, failure is guaranteed.

 

Image based on “La Pallice (17)” by YBINATS is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

3 thoughts on “Breaking silos”

  1. Very interesting article

    Does adobe consulting recommend business best practises to clients as well as tools best practises? Both are dependence.

    Do you have a list of best practises for businesses who use our tools?

    Thk you

    • Hi Ravinder, thanks for your comment. Yes, Adobe consulting now offers services to solve the issues I mention. I do not have a list of best practices, but digital strategists do.

  2. I agree that this is a problem. I think it is also a bigger problem than what you describe. There are people working with Adobe applications that we will never work with (AEM vs AAM, for example).
    I’m actually fine with that, because sometimes, there is no need. And often, noone can have a full overview or understanding of all the different aspects, needs, or technical realities of all the stuff that works with the Experience Cloud.
    But here is another aspect: If we (Adobe) send a bunch of consultants, and we start to work towards making them work together, do we not effectively apply a standard from the outside? I’m thinking that for the business, it must be very difficult to see this, if they’re not trying to do it themselves.
    So, either this is what we want to do, or we should be careful doing it, and only in very close cooperation with whoever could handle integration on a process level at the customer.

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