Five ways to identify that a platform is dying


Like with an old pet it can be really hard to know when you are reaching the end with a web platform.

Like with an old pet, it can be really hard to know when you are reaching the end with a web platform.

 

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Sometimes a CMS, CRM or back office system is embedded in the way that you do things. They can be trusted, everyone knows them, and they aren’t breaking right at this second so we put up with them, but we suspect they get in the way of progress. This article is to help client side marketers and IT professionals to identify when old platforms need to be put out of their misery.

The ‘oh we can’t do that’ moment

I’ve attended a few trade shows with our platform partners and invariably you see this two or three times a day. Somebody who didn’t know they needed something until they see it.

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A great example of this at the moment in the CMS space is tools that facilitate web personalisation. For many people using old or legacy systems, the capability to offer tailored content to users is miles ahead of what they have and it opens up old questions which had previously been put to bed. For example ‘we only optimise our website for the audience group which makes up the majority of our users because we can’t change the messages’ no longer applies. There is a tool that can help them to communicate more effectively with all of their customers.

 

It is important not to just go chasing features…. All platforms have their own peculiarities. However if technology has advanced to a point where you are able to make changes to your business that could dramatically increase your performance you would be a fool not to explore the opportunity. If you don’t, your competitors probably will.

The upgrade costs for maintaining your infrastructure are enormous

We see this a lot and it is a product of three things:

  1. Your supplier or in house team doesn’t want to work with crappy technology so don’t cost it up competitively
  2. Frequently the junior members of staff do not know old technical platforms very well so senior technicals (who cost more) are required to do the work
  3. The technology is difficult to work with and therefore a contingency has to be added

In these situations, as the budget holder or project sponsor, you are screwed. It is often very difficult for you to challenge the costs (because you don’t know the technology) and very difficult to justify the additional budget to do something which in business terms, is relatively minor. We’ve seen a number of clients get stuck in this situation and the best advice we can give is to get out early. It might seem like you should persist but there is no point putting a new roof on a house that is knackered from the ground up. Take the pain and change early.

Mistakes happen which cost money

Patched up legacy systems are like old footballers. They look fine when in possession but can crumble under pressure.


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Technology mistakes can be catastrophic. In any business downtime or poor performance can cost both revenue and brand reputation. It is impossible to avoid technical issues after they have happened but you can do your best to make sure that you don’t end up in that situation.

Our most sophisticated clients complete regular reviews of their software and constantly test it. It should obviously be secure but should also help to eliminate the potential for back end users or customers managing to cause disruption in your business. This is best achieved by keeping the lines of communication open to both customers and staff to voice any issues before they become a full technical epidemic.

IT and marketing start fighting

In most businesses, IT and marketing have very different priorities:

  1. Marketing are targeted on leads and sales. Technology is either a vehicle or a hindrance to achieving the goal
  2. IT teams want to manage risk and to ensure that the business systems perform effectively

Frequently we see that marketing teams are the first to make demands about bringing new technology into a business. There is normally a period of time after the first voices are heard where IT can bat away the requests based on other priorities. What normally happens is that the momentum behind platform change gathers pace over time.

Often, business analysts, customer services or commercial get involved and all of a sudden there is a business case to consider whether new technology is needed to achieve organisational objectives. This is where you see a fight! Marketing are adamant that they have the required authority to make demands. IT say not on my budget.

If this does happen a full and frank discussion is definitely needed and more often than not some change will occur. This could be significant updates to the existing platforms or a new system in its entirety.

Staff training becomes a real pain in the a**

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“Before your change goes live just go back into the opportunity tab, change this field to mandatory, upload your photograph, set the change to go to test, validate the validation message, untick the third box on the left hand side and then reopen the whole thing in Internet Explorer and press save”

Teaching your staff to do anything counter-intuitive or complex due to technological limitations is bad. It is annoying for them, difficult to learn and therefore adds a lot of cost against administrative activities. ‘Quirks of the system’ are frequently hidden administrative costs. Our advice on this is to try and get people to timesheet accurately against administrative tasks so that you can see what it costs your business to use your platforms. If a platform takes a long time to train people on and is difficult to update, it should produce a lot of value for your business. If it doesn’t, it is probably time to change. 

Summing up

  • Be open to new technologies that offer the potential to expand your business or customer offering
  • If your systems are costing a lot to maintain it is probably time to replace them
  • When broken systems start to cost money due to mistakes it really is time to change. Try to avoid this by testing regularly
  • If IT and marketing start fighting over technology you need to have a frank and open discussion
  • Systems that are hard to use should produce more value than the effort they take to administer. If they don’t, replace them

 

 

07 Dec

2015
Jon Eaton
Estimated read time:
 words,  minutes

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