Brand agility must not be sacrificed in the name of best practice

Even in a Ferrari, you can't push the engine above 80% capacity
Even in a Ferrari, you can't push the engine above 80% capacity

Adherence to marketing and technology best practice is important within an organisation, but cannot be allowed to become a drag on the agility of the business, writes Graham Oakes.

Marketing and technology are becoming increasingly intertwined. The CMO Council's 'State of Marketing 2012' report identifies that digital marketing would be high on most practitioners' agendas this year. Spend on customer analytics is growing dramatically, as is spend on mobile and social media.

So why isn't marketing working hand-in-hand with IT? The same report identifies that intent to spend more on technology rarely translates into a desire to work more closely with the IT department.

'Best practice' is at least part of the problem. In many organisations, IT has surrounded itself with a fence of PRINCE2, ITIL and ISO standards.

The bureaucracy can be overwhelming.

These standards have a purpose, however. Read PRINCE2, for example, and you'll find sensible stuff about how to run projects. Likewise, ITIL contains good advice on how to provide solid, secure, reliable IT services.

The problem is change. The heart of most IT best practice is controlling change, keeping things stable in a constantly changing environment.

In a world where the entire technology stack is changing - the Cloud changes your infrastructure; big data changes your data; BYOD (bring your own device) changes the device; mobile adds a whole new layer - the ability to impose some sort of control seems pretty appealing.

Unfortunately, it's also illusory. Controlling change degenerates rapidly into creating stasis. Marketing teams, driven to engage with these new technologies, simply bypass the stasis and do their own thing. And that new technology stack makes it easier for them to do so.

Of course, this has consequences. People reinvent the wheel. They fail to negotiate volume discounts. With a fragmented patchwork of solutions, they leave gaps for security breaches.

IT is not entirely wrong to seek stability.

There is another way to deal with change, however. Rather than control it, we can build our ability to drive it.

Graham Oakes is a technology consultant. He can be contacted via or His book Project Reviews, Assurance and Governance is published by Gower.


Don't ignore best practice. We need solid, secure, reliable services, but look for ways to build agility.

  1. Deploy cross-functional teams
    Encourage multi-skilled teams to work together. Central pools of 'resources' may increase efficiency, but they also increase response times. Efficiency is a mirage if people do the wrong thing, or do it too late.
  2. Reduce communication overheads
    Don't work in separate rooms - co-locate your teams. Maximise use of collaboration tools and social media.
  3. Free up capacity to experiment
    You need capacity to monitor trends, try new approaches, and improve and automate existing ones in response to change. Even in a Ferrari, you can't push the engine above about 80% capacity without doing long-term damage.
  4. Reduce work-in-progress
    Trying to do too much at once creates overheads and delays. Do less to do more.

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