How to Choose a Marketing Technology Stack, Part 6 of 7: Common Errors

In this series, we’ll unpack our marketing technology deployment strategy. We’ll learn how to properly plan a marketing technology stack rollout, develop a sensible governance model, examine what could go wrong, and succeed on the first try rather than patch and duct tape a disaster repeatedly.

Part 6: Four Common Marketing Technology Deployment Errors

Marketing technology projects – and indeed, technology projects in general – go off the rails in ways we often don’t anticipate. We start a project with a budget and timeline, and are surprised when we exceed both. Why? Four common mistakes cause projects to go awry.

Poorly Defined Goals

The first and most dangerous mistake we make with marketing technology projects is not defining goals clearly enough. An unclear goal means we won’t know when the project is done, or more likely, the project won’t be done anywhere close to our budget or timeline.

For example, if our project is to roll out a new website, and we only have a due date and budget, we’re likely going to fail. A project like a new website necessitates milestones, because there are so many potential delays/chokepoints along the way. A web server or cloud server might not support our technology of choice. A design might need multiple revisions. Approval processes take longer than we expect.

Incomplete Requirements Gathering

One of the causes of poorly defined goals in marketing technology project management is incomplete requirements gathering. We set goals based on what we want the project to achieve. However, if it turns out that we didn’t fully grasp what the project was supposed to achieve, then our goals will be meaningless.

For example, if our new website is planned out, with goals, milestone, budget, etc. and about a third of the way through our CEO says, “Hey, will this have an intranet for employees?”, what will that do to our project plan? It will blow the plan up, or at least cause a significant delay as we reboot the project to accommodate the new requirement.

If we thoroughly gather requirements up front and interview as many stakeholders as possible, we’re much less likely to run into incomplete requirements gathering problems.

Conflicted Governance

One potential complication which often accompanies incomplete requirements gathering is conflicted governance. Put more simply – multiple people want to be in charge of the project or have significant input. Suppose in our website example, our advertising director crashed the weekly meeting and insisted that the new website must have a full complement of ad options for his team to display ads. Suddenly, we have an incomplete requirements gathering problem and arguably, a goals problem as well.

Another type of conflicted governance problem is the opposite: no one wants to be in charge. This is common for projects which coworkers perceive as pointless or without value to them personally. In projects like this, even when roles are defined and assigned, stakeholders may delegate so far down the chain of command that eventually the work gets lost in the organization and the project never moves forward.

The antidote to conflicted governance is the same in both cases: a clear governance plan and mandate which defines roles, ownership, and impact. Once the project is underway, people who want to add their two cents can be instructed to wait until the current project is done and add their ‘improvements’ to the next version.

Scope Creep

The last and most common error in marketing technology project rollout is scope creep. Scope creep is the blanket term for when the above conditions all happen simultaneously. A project with unclear goals, insufficient requirements, and conflicted governance is guaranteed to creep beyond scope, turning what was supposed to be a straightforward deployment into an endless quagmire. With sufficient scope creep, a project may never see the light of day.

When faced with scope creep, our antidote is to determine which of the three components is most problematic. Do we have poorly defined goals? Do we lack necessary requirements? Do we have conflicted or unclear governance? By isolating the most broken part of the project, we might be able to salvage it and force the project back onto the rails. Fix the most broken part first!

The most powerful antidote to scope creep is a strong project manager, the “project quarterback” whose job it is to constantly push the project forward. The role of the project manager is to execute the requirements as they align with the pre-established goals – and to call a halt to the project if goals, requirements, or governance have gone awry. In concert with the project stakeholder, a great project manager ensures that scope creep is kept at bay.

Next: Wrapping Up

In this series, we’ve stepped through all the major parts of a marketing technology project. In the next and final post, we’ll wrap up by looking at where project management might be going and how the evolution of project management will impact marketing technology.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology


Keep in Touch

Want fresh perspective on communications trends & strategy? Sign up for the SHIFT/ahead newsletter.

Ready to shift ahead?

Let's talk