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The Operations of Getting to Improved Operations
Robert Hannan, EVP Managing Director, Operations, Carat USA
With advancements in technology and the advent of AI/ML solutions, there seem to be daily requests from external technology providers to review the ‘newest’ and ‘best’ platforms to help our teams unlock actionable insights for media placements leading to optimization of media spend and increased impact for brands. We are continuously automating in many areas of our business, not only improving client service quality, but empowering our people to reduce and replace non-value add tasks with those that create more strategic value. New tech solution pitches are always enticing propositions, but how do you find time to keep up with all the latest options as you manage your day to day business requirements? According to MarTech Today, we have seen an increase from 150 tech providers in 2011 to well over 5,000 today.
So, what is a busy marketing professional to do?
Within Carat, we have put processes in place to stay up on the latest in tech advancements and hone our focus to solutions that solve for current and future business challenges for our business and improve our service to our clients.We do this through some very simple mechanisms of technology assessment, total cost of ownership analysis and system testing. No groundbreaking concepts in and of themselves, but together their discipline and focus allow for more laser focus on where we want to spend our time and testing budget.
It all starts with a technology assessment process that each potential tech provider completes and submits to the agency. This is designed to capture the a broad understanding of the provider, business challenges the solution solves, supplier commercial model, implementation requirements as well as product, process and, most importantly, people impact. The tech assessments are reviewed by a multi-disciplinary team comprised of technology, product, operations and finance representatives to evaluate the offering from all perspectives and approve a more detailed review, which leads us to the next step.
Within Carat, we have put processes in place to stay up on the latest in tech advancements and hone our focus to solutions that solve for current and future business challenges for our business and improve our service to our clients
From the information gathered on the assessment, we determine interest and, where appropriate, engage in more detailed evaluations to fully understand all aspects of the offering. Instrumental to this is how we outline the total cost of ownership. Will we need integration with other systems? Is there a negative workflow impact in one area for benefit in the overall flow? Does this require new skill sets and training for our team? All leading to the ROI evaluation for a go/no-go decision on the final step. Total cost of ownership is such an incredibly important part of our process, not imply because it looks at the financial cost, but also the human impact as well. Our business is driven by one product: our people, so understanding how they are impacted is vital.
As with any technology, new or existing, there are always unknowns that only rear their ugly heads once users are working within the system. It is critical at this stage that scope is well managed as this is where real trouble can arise. We strive to keep teams focused on ensuring the original objective is not comprised and that the end solution meets the objective defined up front. Only when thoroughly tested can a tech solution be evaluated with proper ROI calculated.
By following this process, we have seen a decrease in wasted effort up front through simply understanding the solution, confirming the business challenge it solves, and aligning that with our overall business priorities for the year.
Additionally, the Total Cost of Ownership analysis has provided deeper buy in from all functional groups within the agency, eliminating the previous issues of mixed enthusiasm and engagement. A balanced view on TCO is essential to ensure stakeholder buy in before getting too far down the road on the program.
Lastly, through a thorough testing phase, we uncover additional learnings – to better understand the impact of a full-scale implementation to our entire organization. A recent example of this in practice was testing a newly developed local media inventory availability system leading into our activation functions. The final stage of the process was testing with actual end users and all parties impacted proving out the value proposition and confirming design delivery and business needs without negative impact. Not only was the testing and implementation successful, the program led the team to broaden the scope for future development and design an end to end solution for all media activation, leading to a solution that will ultimately transform our business operations for years to come. With this approach, we have been able to apply an iterative learning program while increasing the skill sets of our workforce in areas of technology solutions and automation efforts.
Potential technology suppliers appreciate the process, honest dialogue and diligent evaluation in helping them not only understand our business priorities and decisions but provides for opportunity for them to improve their solution in the marketplace.
In the end, there isn’t any rocket science here, but I’m always surprised by organizations that don’t focus on the basics for success. A few simple processes and tools allow you to spend more time on the technology solutions to improve your marketing results, drive your business forward, and empower the asset that matters most of all to us:our people.