4 Steps to Explain Technical Debt to Your CMO/Marketing VP

TLDR: Technical debt arises from rushed responses to problems created by poor planning. Think long-term about your projects, and you won’t have to choose between speed and execution. 

Technical debt describes the implied cost of making “quick fixes” to your tech stack or IT infrastructure.

Technical debt accumulates when the people building your software take suboptimal shortcuts to complete projects over more effective approaches that take longer. Doing so entrenches flaws into your tech that become more troublesome to fix as time goes on, leading to higher rework costs later.

In this Tough Talks Made Easy, you’ll learn to discuss the causes and consequences of technical debt with your CMO and suggest cultural changes to prevent it from building.

 

Why technical debt builds

During projects like platform migrations and implementations, a CMO and VP generally focus on contract negotiations.

Their efforts to get the best deal. This focus can, inadvertently, eat into the time needed for the technical work.

When projects start too late, those responsible for building the project will face pressure to make up for lost time and choose “quick fixes” to hit deadlines and achieve results.

While CMOs aim to make the most cost-effective decisions, they often account just for the purchase cost of a new application or platform.

For instance, your CMO may choose a marketing automation platform license cheaper than its competitors without considering the extra admin, consultation, and custom development necessary to make it work.

Add in the cost of training personnel and additional support, however, and you could well face a higher total cost of ownership. Especially if you don’t plan from the beginning to bring these resources on board, or if the project is already running behind schedule.

Short-sighted thinking leads to these negative outcomes:

  • compressed timelines
  • bloated costs and scope, and
  • increased project vulnerability due to mistakes and substandard workarounds.

These decisions compromise a project’s execution and encourage technical debt, making subsequent improvements more challenging to make.

 

Preventing technical debt

Influencing upwards is an impactful approach against technical debt.

Depending on the dynamics of your organization, a direct line to your CMO or Marketing VP might not be possible. In that case, look to your Operations Manager or Marketing Director as allies with the access and technical expertise to impart the urgency of starting on time.

While it’s impossible to identify every gap a solution has until it’s in-house, you can confidently speak to the consequences of a late start.

Here’s how to sell your boss on the respect the project deserves:

“If negotiations drag out and leave us behind schedule, it will impact our ability to deliver this project on time, on budget, and to the level of competency you want. X will happen if we don’t start as planned, and it’ll take Y additional costs to fix.”

 

Implementations and migrations

Implementations and migrations are demanding initiatives. The planning phase is crucial to map out all your anticipated costs and labor needs.

Your CMO/Marketing VP can’t expect key contributors to carry their full workload and give their all to an implementation or migration—people who are stretched take shortcuts, and that just leads to technical debt proliferating.

Freeing up key team members to commit and provide the necessary focus to the project gives them space to contribute to the best of their ability, without incurring rework costs.

For instance, sales and marketing leadership could reduce the quarterly targets of the sales reps involved, or lessen the day-to-day campaign execution responsibilities of contributors from marketing.

 

Create a change management team

The creation of a change management team is a particularly progressive solution to technical debt.

Technical debt arises from rushed responses to problems created by short-sighted planning.

Advocate for a dedicated team of people to support the project from conception, mapping out the ramifications of any change in:

  • costs
  • timelines
  • resource requirements, and
  • post-implementation training.

This increases the project’s resilience to disruption and lessens the risk of technical debt.

 

Long-term thinking

If projects are delayed at the early stages, you’ve ultimately got a choice between paying upfront or later on.

Do you use the most effective methods to build a new implementation or migration, accepting you’ll be up and running later than planned? Or do you take shortcuts to make your initial launch date, at risk of introducing flaws into the project that carry large rework costs and compromise how effectively it works?

Between the two, it’s not an even trade.

The cost of technical debt often outweighs the agility of completing a project as fast as possible.

Steps to avoid technical debt:

1. Reinforce the importance of making a plan and sticking to it with leadership.

2. Scope out your timelines, labor needs, and total cost of ownership upfront—when things need to progress to meet your deadline, the people you’ll need to be involved in the project, and its real financial cost.

3. Advocate for a change management team to reinforce the consequences of starting late or making changes, and to find solutions in a proactive, planned manner.

4. Take the demands of your project seriously, and you shouldn’t have to choose between speed and execution.

Need more guidance? Get in touch — we’re always here to help.

 

P.S. Like this post? Follow us on LinkedIn to never miss an update!

Considering Pardot? How to help your CMO decide

TLDR: Pardot is one of the more powerful marketing automation platforms available, but is it the right fit for your goals and organizational maturity?

Pardot is one of the more prominent marketing automation platforms available to businesses. While its capabilities are more sophisticated than others on the market, being suitable for Pardot requires a certain level of organizational maturity, goals that align with the functions that Pardot provides, and realistic expectations about what it takes to get up and running with the platform.

In this Tough Talks Made Easy, we’ll unpack what Pardot offers, how to assess if your business is compatible with the platform, and the practicalities to account for if you decide to go ahead. If your leadership is interested in implementing Pardot, this is a conversation you need to have.

 

WHY PARDOT?

Pardot differentiates itself from more basic email service providers (e.g. MailChimp) with its support for more complex campaign structures. You can send mass email blasts and build landing pages and forms, but you can also create lead scoring models, lead lifecycles, and lead nurture campaigns in Pardot, using templates to clone and reuse these more advanced systems at scale. 

Compared to platforms of similar stature, like Marketo, Pardot offers a more accessible UI that users can navigate with relative ease and with less complex backend configurations to establish. Pardot is owned by Salesforce, which brings some notable benefits if your company uses Salesforce as its CRM—a more seamless integration than other marketing automation platforms, and a discount on purchasing Pardot.

So, where do you sign? Not just yet. Before onboarding any marketing automation platform, your CMO needs to communicate a clear direction for the near future. What strategic plans do they have for the next year or five years? How suitable are Pardot’s functionalities to help the company achieve them? Is Pardot the platform most compatible with those goals? 

These are the level-setting questions leadership should answer to determine whether Pardot is a sensible choice. You don’t want to spend the time, money, energy on onboarding a complex platform only to switch direction in a couple of years. The clearer your CMO’s strategic intent, the better chance you stand of making an effective decision about Pardot.

 

KNOW YOUR MATRUITY

Another essential consideration: is your company mature enough to handle the cost and complexity of Pardot? The general growth journey that companies follow with marketing automation starts with an email platform at an early stage, progressing to a mid-range tool like Hubspot at a medium size. To make the jump to Pardot, you’ll need to have more substantial resources.

The least expensive subscription option for Pardot comes at $1250 USD a month—and that doesn’t include the cost of hiring at least one dedicated expert to own the platform.  If you already have Salesforce or are considering Salesforce then bundling both can lower the price significantly.  The financial difference can mean $1000s of dollars in savings.

$1 million in revenue is a healthy approximation for when the investment makes sense, but your database size is also crucial. A database with hundreds of contacts is better served by a lighter and more economical email platform—scaling your tech upwards while your database is still in its infancy is putting the cart before the horse. At a ballpark of 10k prospects and customers, you’re in the zone to take advantage of Pardot’s more advanced features.

For leadership: evaluating whether you as a business are ready for Pardot is just as important as sizing up the opportunities that the platform’s functions can provide. Encouraging your CMO to think clearly about where you are, and where you’re heading, will help your company make the right decision.

 

EXPECTATIONS VS. REALITY

The complexity of the technical infrastructure that powers marketing operations is often lost on leadership. Lead lifecycles look nice and simple in diagram form, and campaigns of just a handful of emails can seem like not much work at all.

If your CMO expects to quickly get up and running with more ambitious projects and see fast results, this is where you offer a reality check. Completing the likes of advanced lead scoring models and lifecycles can take months of work on the backend, not including the organizational dependencies at play.

Web and IT also require close involvement to build the necessary systems and load Javascript code onto your site so that Pardot can capture visitor data. The turnaround time here is wildly variable, depending on how robust your approval process is for technical changes.

The most sensible piece of advice to offer leadership here is that your requirements should start small. Templates for landing pages and emails can be created in days, and with them, your Marketing team can make progress on simpler campaigns with a view to begin more advanced projects in several months’ time. This is how success becomes achievable.

 

THE TAKEAWAY

Pardot’s applicability depends on your maturity and goals as a company. If you’re a Salesforce organization with healthy revenue and a large database, that’s a good start. If your CMO has also expressed a clear strategic intent for the platform’s functionalities and will invest in the expertise required to run it, you’re in a position to seriously consider Pardot. 

If any of these pieces is missing, there’s probably a more suitable solution for your needs. For any advice you need with assessing marketing automation platforms, Revenue Pulse is here to help.