Methods for designing and communicating Marketing Technology architecture
In this post I’ll review four frameworks that digital consultants can use in developing and documenting marketing technology architectures.
I’m a huge fan of Scott Brinker’s work to champion the cause of the Marketing Technologist. Scott recently invited companies to submit their marketing technology architectures into the “Stackies” awards. From these entries I’ve pulled out some important lessons on how to draw marketing technology architectures.
Before proceeding, it’s worth noting that drawing out an architecture is a means of creating clarity around the applications deployed in a business. It’s a means of communicating how systems are related, where data is stored, what each component does and how they are integrated.
As a digital consultant the architecture diagram will enable you to both understand business systems and then communicate challenges and problems. Therefore the diagram is typically at an application level, showing the individual systems and their purpose.
Design for your audience
However you choose to draw the diagram; it must be suitable for the audience.
The Open Group Architecture Framework (commonly known as TOGAF) separates architecture into four domains:
- Business architecture – strategy, structures, governance and processes that drive the business
- Applications architecture – the individual systems at a high level as they are exposed to end users
- Data architecture – logical and physical data structures
- Technical architecture – lowest level of services, modules and hardware that host the data and run the applications
Marketing technology architecture tends to focus at the application level. Given the number of cloud based SaaS products its not always necessary to roll up sleeves and dig deeper into the physical technical architecture domain (although Information Security teams often want to).
Outside of the MarTech “Stackies” entries, I’ve often found it useful to work with clients on their logical and physical data architecture.
Even in a very simple business, there can be a huge number of siloed pools of valuable data. For instance Storm81 has multiple tools that hold customer data (WordPress, Mailchimp and PayPal to name a few).
Drawing out Marketing Architecture
Having reviewed the Stackies, I identified that there are several frameworks that Marketing Technologists are using when describing their architecture.
These approaches create a set of logical groupings that make the diagram more intuitive and provide a clearer understanding of purpose.
1. Customer life-cycle oriented architectures
As a customer moves from unknown visitor to a lead/prospect and then to fully fledged customer they will pass through defined phases in the customer journey. Often this is drawn out as a funnel or a framework (see this example of a visualised multichannel customer journey).
Technology solutions are aligned with each stage in the funnel as in the example below taken from the Stackies awards.
The strength of this architectural approach is the ability to connect the technology with the outcomes it drives rather than the function it serves.
Great for convincing those making investment decisions.
The Reach, Act, Convert and Engage (RACE) is another good model to reference. Dave Chaffey at SmartInsights just recently launched this rather cool visualisation of tools:
2. Marketing purpose oriented architectures
Several of the Stackies entries linked technology to each marketing function.
The framework is grouped by marketing activities such as SEO, conversion rate optimisation, lead nurture or content production. By grouping the technology in this way it displays the work-flow of tools without considerations for technical integration.
What I like about this approach is that the technical integration decisions are left behind to create a conversation about business processes. One where individual tools and insight they provide are considered.
The framework ensures that all types of technology are considered. Eventually this could lead to a check-list approach that ensures that all necessary digital marketing technologies are covered.
The Marketing Technology Landscape is another great method for looking at what technology could be required.
3. Channel oriented architectures
This is the typical framework I work with.
Starting with a list of all marketing channels, the technology is aligned with each outbound or inbound channel.
As the architecture progresses from the channel into the technology that manages the channel, there tends to be a closer grouping of the technology (e.g. all of the channels flow into a central CRM database or analytics tool).
4. Functionality oriented architectures
CACI’s own technology framework follows this model along with parts of the channel oriented architecture.
As a system integrator specialising in marketing technology it helps us plan for the implementation with (or in some cases around) the technology that our clients already have in place.
You can download a copy of CACI’s white paper on marketing technology blueprints here: http://research.caciconsult.co.uk/marketing-tech-white-paper/
Working out where to start
Part of a consultant’s job is to communicate complex information simply.
Selecting the right architectural framework will be crucial to getting across the point you’re attempting to make.
So how do you work out which marketing technology architecture framework to use:
- What message are you trying to communicate? Focus in on the crucial part and leave out unnecessary details. Unless of course you’re trying to convince someone of how complex the situation is
- Who is the audience?
Are they from marketing or IT? Are they supplying financing or hardware? Are they concerned about security, scalability or ROI? Knowing the audience is crucial to selecting which framework to use
- You can use multiple architecture layers.
Starting at a high level is often an appropriate point to begin. Then as approval and agreement is gathered, you can work into different frameworks to ensure that everything has been covered adequately
- Work with vendors’ architectural patterns.
Vendors often have their own patterns for integration with databases or enterprise systems. Make use of these in guiding your own design
- Get expert support.
I’ve been fortunate to work with some incredible solution architects and their input is invaluable. They understand the implications of each technology from training and experience. Use the time exploring the architecture on paper to avoid costly errors later
- Make it easy to update. Picking the right tools to draw your architecture is crucial but it’s even more important that the architecture is easy to update and work with.
Good marketing technology architecture tools
- Yed – an unusual tool but very good for quickly sketching out architectures as you collect information. It also has very clever routing and automatic layout tools built-in.
- Visio remains ubiquitous and a common choice for drawing out diagrams of all kinds.
- PowerPoint – can be tricky to diagram with as it lacks the routing and grouping features of other tools. However what I like about PowerPoint is that it forces me to consider the visualisation from an end user’s point of view.
- Technology Icons – Iconography can help simplify the complicated and allow you to remove a lot of words from the architecture
Conclusion: Practice makes perfect
Learn from other architectures, ask for feedback on the architectures you’re drawing, and involve others in the process.
Ultimately the success of the marketing architectures you develop can be judged by how easy they are to understand and implement. Furthermore, the success of the architecture in achieving business outcomes is important. This may be an ROI number or providing new functionality to customers or the digital marketing team.
If you have specific questions, please ask away in the comments or contact me.