I attended Adobe Summit 2019 to research the intersection of DevOps and marketing. Below are insights from my interviews with leading marketing technology experts.
Is DevOps making its way into marketing? In a short answer, a soft “Yes.”
I recently attended the Adobe Summit, held March 26-28 in Las Vegas. This year emphasized digital customer experiences, and I was curious to take a peek into this world of marketing tech to see if DevOps was having any impact.
Many of the people I talked to described how marketing technology is adopting a more agile, DevOps-inspired mindset. But is marketing actually driving product change? While Adobe and proponents would like to have us think so, some are not as sure.
At Adobe Summit, I had some eye-opening meetings with professionals invested in digital marketing, retail and analytics services, most of which are using Adobe products in some form. In this article, we’ll highlight what they had to say on the intersection of DevOps and marketing.
What is the Role of DevOps in Marketing?
The need to break down data silos was a common theme among keynotes, sessions and throughout my meetings at Adobe Summit.
When large digital marketing agencies take on clients, for example, a common disability they find is a disparate and dysfunctional customer data storage system. In our meeting, Alex Kelleher, managing director at Deloitte Digital, noted, “Data needs to be available, and integratable. That is the first thing we typically fix for our clients—we’ll fix the data in silos, get it in the same place, and usually simplify it.”
Deloitte Digital’s process involves three D’s: first, they consolidate data silos, then build data-driven decisions, then deliver agile products. In doing so, Kelleher is seeing more and more developer practices making their way into marketing and sales.
“We’re seeing CMOs manage their teams as agile teams, recruiting agile and scrum masters,” he said. “That’s very cool for CMOs to be involved in … those worlds colliding is super exciting.”
Is DevOps Eroding Traditional Boundaries?
DevOps principles encourage shared knowledge and open communication between teams. Now, it appears such ideas are affecting how marketing technologists architect their teams and delivery cycles.
Rachel Lane, solution principal customer experience at Medallia, sees a trifecta of forces working in tandem. “Development, Ops, and Marketing must work together,” she said. “If one of those doesn’t link up, then we see extended lead time to launch, and it can become problematic.”
Medallia’s goal is to meet customers where they are to gather actionable feedback through push notifications, surveys, embeddable surveys, Net Promoter Score (NPS) systems and other means. Engrossed in this world of customer feedback, Lane reminded us: “You should never ask a question that you already know the answer to.”
Unfortunately, this still happens often. User data is often locked in silos and if multiple teams (sales, marketing, support engineers, etc.) are using separate user data repositories, customer interaction can suffer. Thus, user conversation data must be de-siloed and unified.
For Lane, having tight customer experience-driven feedback is critical for reiterating the overall product. However, customers typically hate filling out surveys. To decrease friction, she foresees more passive voice-driven feedback through home AIs.
Rearchitecting the Digital Footprint for Agility
By now it’s evident that unclear data initiatives and messy data storage can hinder digital transformation. So, what are organizations doing to de-silo and open up data?
Anheuser-Busch (AB) is a huge beer corporation, overseeing brands including Budweiser, Busch, Elysian and many others. Each has unique online eCommerce storefronts to sell ancillary swag, such as T-shirts, drinkware and other products.
With public-facing sites for hundreds of brands, maintaining data standardization across its product lists was a nightmare. Disparate data structures can also inhibit directing change from within, slowing corporate-led growth.
John Faviano, director of demand and integrated marketing technology at Anheuser-Busch, described how AB solved the issue by creating a consistent data structure from which all online stores can pull content from.
“We’ve standardized the tech stack in the last three years to enable the business to run more efficient … You have to think from a platform perspective, not a single siloed technology,” he said.
AB’s web APIs now grant incredible scalability, as the content is now delivered agnostic of client or brand. AB brands retain independent facades yet are fueled by a unified content storage and delivery process. “Our API strategy is a build-once-and-scale mechanism,” Faviano said.
Digitization with IoT and AI
Sreedhar Bhagavatheeswaran, SVP and global head of digital business at Mindtree, believes that every part of the enterprise needs to be digitized. He sees a wealth of untapped data that enterprises can leverage to transform user experiences.
Having built digital presences for big-name consumer brands including Marriott, P&G and Kellogg’s, Mindtree understands the advantages of using a DevOps approach for software cycles. Though it may require a cultural change, “The probability of project success in a DevOps environment is much higher than in a non-DevOps environment,” Bhagavatheeswaran said.
Release automation is integral to Mindtree’s process. Coding checks and CI tools such as Jenkins bring quick releases, enabling business teams and clients to see the impact on a daily basis. They also privilege API-fueled microservices designs for increased agility.
“From an agile program management perspective it gets challenging, but that is the nature of the beast,” he noted.
Bhagavatheeswaran is excited for the potential IoT has to evolve industrial, business and consumer-facing touchpoints. For example, industrial engineers could conduct remote servicing using digital twins of real physical equipment. He also described developing mobile IoT apps for his clients: Push notifications triggered by removing caps from makeup bottles, for example, could empower consumers with advice on how to apply makeup correctly.
To sum it up, Bhagavatheeswaran described our current paradigm with a simple, powerful sentiment: “The experience is at the confluence of edge, humanity and intelligence.”
Approaching the Developer Experience
But digital transformation doesn’t stop with open data, APIs and IoT. Developer experience (DX) has become an important factor in maturing countless digital services.
Jason Woosley, VP of commerce product and platform at Adobe, founded the Adobe-acquired Magento, which began as an open source project on GitHub, welcoming pull requests to alter product features (with the proper vetting in place, of course).
By investing in open source and developer communities, Magento over time reached a critical mass, democratizing how developers build online storefronts.
Woosley estimated that 50 percent of Magento code was built by third-party developers. One such feature is multi-source inventory, which, he said, accounts for 70 percent of the Magento code base. Naturally, he has a deep appreciation for the power of developer communities.
“You can’t buy a developer community. You can’t steer or create a culture,” Woosley said. “Code custodians are actually participants, and to deserve that role DX needs to be delightful and empowered.”
To improve the developer experience, Magento has hosted countless events, increased developer support staff, annotated its APIs, adopted GraphQL for extensibility, invested in optimizing developer portals and more. With the inclusion of Magento in Adobe Experience Cloud, more capital is available to further DX enhancements—something Woosley is excited about.
DevOps is Kicking Martech to Innovate
Deloitte Digital’s Kelleher noted that “nowadays, your competitors are any digitally active application,” regardless of whether they’re even in the same industry.
This means that a consumer will judge a mobile digital experience with an airline with the same scrutiny as calling an Uber or making a PayPal transfer. Users hold the same lofty digital expectations from any business, forcing us all to adapt dramatically.
Fueled by the relentless pressure from users, marketing technologies are adopting DevOps principles to improve their offerings in a few ways:
- Continuous releases: Martech uses DevOps strategies to release quickly. User-facing mobile app release cycles, for example, routinely adopt CI/CD.
- De-siloing: User data and consumer conversation information are being distributed with greater alacrity across enterprises, improving end UX.
- Open data initiatives: With web APIs, new platform-agnostic content distribution architectures have emerged. Development procedures are standardized across an enterprise, quickening the release cycle.
- Cloud architecture: By adopting cloud-based management tools, martech is improving the asset management condition of supporting many user-facing touchpoints.
- Developer experience: By embracing open source and supporting developer community, leading e-commerce groups are improving their offerings.
While marketing is critical to the whole, it may not be the No. 1 business driver. When I asked Bhagavatheeswaran whether marketing was really driving the creation of new tools, he responded: “Is marketing driving the tools? Are they influencing? Not quite yet. However, it has the ability to influence the developer’s quality. Probably not their job.”
Even if marketing is not directly influencing product development, we’re still seeing DevOps seep into traditionally non-technical environments, which is exciting.
It was eye-opening to enter the world of marketing technology to see firsthand how these institutions—such as Ansira, a 100-year-old company—are using agile means to streamline digital transformation initiatives.
With an emphasis on both creating and managing quality digital customer experiences, Adobe Summit 2019 shed light on many unique strategies being undertaken in the realm of martech.
Whether it’s leading the development of user-facing apps, overseeing expansive brand catalogs, using a cloud-based single source of truth for content management or building developer communities to reap huge R&D benefits, the intersection of marketing and technology has never required more strategic action than it does now.