In my fourteen plus years with Unica, I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with some incredible projects that delivered outstanding achievements using our software. My personal favorite example was when one of our customers consolidated over two hundred newsletter campaigns for individual newspaper publications into a single lights-out campaign. Let me repeat that- from two hundred individual campaigns to one. That is a serious amount of time and money saved every week, week-on-week.
Another favorite example of mine is when a major UK retailer invested a couple of million dollars in building a completely new data warehouse and implementing Unica. The uplift attributed to coupon redemption in the very first campaign paid for the entire project. When these tools are implemented right, the rewards aren’t just observable and tangible; they’re staggering. And my experience in the vast number of cases is overwhelmingly positive.
But what I want to talk about in this article are some of the obstacles to achieving these results. There was one occasion where I encountered a situation where, despite doing our best, adoption of the suite was only partially successful, and some modules were ultimately replaced. Why? Because in being aware of these situations, we can watch out for the markers in the future and hopefully intervene in time. Those that don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it. Failure is only absolute when we learn nothing from it.
So what was different in this particular case? The Unica delivery team was the same. The software was the same. The customer’s senior management team’s appetite to make the implementation success was there, and they were active and present. The appetite from the users to make the project a success was there too. The main representative from the user team was skilled, intelligent, and inventive. The partner team was talented, dedicated, and approachable.
All of the building blocks were there to make this endeavor a roaring success, yet it wasn’t. In one key area, the adoption of the digital messaging module, it was an abject failure – why? I’ve spent over five years thinking about this, and there are several factors. Each party contributed to the failure in its own subtle way in their own area. The initial implementation went well, and the solution went live as planned. My role was as Technical Account Manager, providing at least one day per week of my time solely dedicated to this customer’s success over a couple of years.
The solution was remotely hosted, administrated, and managed by a partner organization. They were responsible for ingesting and transforming the data, ensuring that this was available to the customer’s data team that would create campaigns within the Unica Campaign. The partner’s problem was that their service had a single point of failure. A particularly talented individual in their team was responsible for data loads and correcting problems. When he decided to leave the firm to set up his own consultancy business, the technical knowledge of the ETL and data layer of the solution left with him.
The customer user team was under a severe amount of pressure – they were expected to deliver day-to-day production campaigns on top of implementing new ways of working. Over time it became increasingly difficult for them to adopt new ways of working. They’d often find a way of doing things and stick with that way, even though there were huge opportunities for automation. When I wrote a report that proposed clear recommendations on how to make the most of their automation opportunities, the Data Manager claimed that they were “not there yet.” A couple of defects in the digital messaging software gave the team a negative impression – despite these defects being quickly fixed and straightforward workarounds being provided, there was an air of negativity about the product that was understandable at the beginning, harder to understand as time went on.
Pretty soon after going live, a new Chief Marketing Officer was appointed. His marketing strategy was understandable, achievable and innovation was a key factor of this strategy. He pulled people together to influence a successful outcome, but it soon became apparent that the marketing automation space was new to him, and he gave the impression that he just wanted it to work without being bothered by the details and fully understand either the pressure on his team or the potential of the technology. My own personal failure was being unable to gain buy-in to adopt the most powerful productivity features. The customer’s leadership team had an appetite for the software to be used innovatively, and the right recommendations were made, but the Data Manager simply refused to commit to implementing the recommendations and ultimately influenced the management team to look for a new digital messaging tool.
Despite the right building blocks being in place, the right recommendations being put forward, the right strategy being communicated, the writing was on the wall for that module. So, what was the key factor in this instance? After thinking about this for over five years, I believe the answer to be the mortar. In this case, the mortar that was lacking was strategy implementation.
The marketing strategy contained the right words. The software demonstrably could achieve what the business wanted it to achieve. The users were clearly capable and could have made it work but were unable to invest the time needed to implement the most powerful automation features that really made the product come alive. What was absent was any monitoring of strategy implementation. This created a gap between senior management and the user base.
Part of strategic implementation is the continuous monitoring of strategic objectives. You want your team to be innovative? How do you plan to measure that? You want your team to understand the customer? How do you plan to measure that? You want to grow faster than the competition? How do you plan to measure that? If you’re not willing to invest in and then monitor strategy implementation you might as well not write the strategy in the first place.
No software tool is perfect. Every tool has its strengths and weaknesses. Unica Deliver’s core strength is its automation and productivity features. If you leverage these features, you will save money. To learn more about Unica Deliver you can reach out to the Unica team and we would be happy to help.