This is usually the time of year where people bust out their crystal balls, reviewing personal progress, and preparing goals and objectives for the upcoming year. I have consistently used my birthday (14 December) as an excuse to reflect on how I have/have not changed or matured and evaluate what I have achieved in contrast to what I thought I could achieve in prior year. I have a tendency to judge myself harshly in these annual reviews and never feel as if I have accomplished enough (gasp). 2016 has been my year to really come into my own – upon reflection I have become more confident and discovered my professional and academic voice. It definitely has not been a dull year.
A year ago this month, I made the leap from community management into marketing technology. The response from others within my company about this job transition was mixed – what made this community gal qualified to manage the plethora of marketing technologies at a Fortune 150? In my mind, the chasm was not impossible because over the past several years, I have been questioning and researching (professional and academic lenses) how social media, community practices, and data collection and use meshed within the larger digital ecosystem. Rather than go into the position with an agenda, I incorporated what I have learned when launching / managing communities or tackling a new piece of academic research: I listened.
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
-Lewis Carrol, Alice in Wonderland
During the first 45 days, I interviewed over 60 individuals and teams across the business to understand their business challenges, needs, desires, and determine what technology they were using and why. I briefly outlined my role and the categories of technologies my team would be responsible for selecting and maintaining, but focused the interview on listening for short and long term action items I could take back to my team and deliver on throughout the year. In addition to verbal interview questions, I asked each interviewee to complete a maturity survey of all the technologies used (internal and external) by their department.
The first 100 days are critical for any person entering a new job, despite the fact that they may have held a previous position with the company. Using the interview notes and self-assessments, my team crafted a maturity grid for each technology within the Marketing Technology Stack (9 categories and 48 capabilities). The maturity grid is comprised of 16 components across six categories and each component is scored and then rolled up into a weighted percentage score for each category. The grid is a living breathing resource acting as a benchmark to assess technology strengths and weaknesses, as well as, spot gaps and opportunities for investment. Within the first quarters, our team had identified what (and why or why not) technologies would be included in the final 2016 Marketing Technology Stack, the contracts requiring consolidation or termination, and the state of documented strategy and governance for each technology asset.
Inspired by urban planning principles, I reimagined the organization of the digital ecosystem and enabling marketing technologies, and used this metaphor to help visualize the changes we would propose. Rather than organizing around internal function, the ecosystem is designed in clusters of activity centering on the customer experience. (Take a second and roll eyes or groan on the mention of customer experience, but this work goes beyond the hype – and must be continuously informed by the disparate data inputs and outputs from all systems and interactions.) Beginning with the panoramic view of the current state, we dove into each cluster to tease out the marketing and communications pathways and governance serving the many:1 and 1:1 interactions.
Any transformation effort is a slow burn. Yes, it is important to build an environment of experimentation and get some quick wins, but the accountability required to make these wins stick and scalable is a bit of a slog. I have long said that governance is unsexy, yet it is the keystone for transformation. I learned the value of governance in the trenches of social media and community development and found these lessons portable to marketing technology – and actually gave me an advantage because I had a repeatable structure and mature relationships with HR, Compliance, Legal, and Procurement. We started the year without any documented governance or onboarding resources for the majority of our assets and ended the year with a first version of a social contract, policy, and processes for each asset within the Marketing Technology Stack. This is a never-ending project. Internal and external factors are consistently impacting policy and process. Also, many of these categories and capabilities are complex and the policy and process is a twisted web that must be parsed apart into snackable materials compelling constant and consistent internal communication and education endeavors. We took a page from Creativity, Inc. and adopted their Brain Trust in the form of an internal blog/dialogue we have named TechTrust. My team groaned and probably cursed me behind closed doors, but these resources gave us teeth and context to influence 2017 (and beyond) planning.
Along this professional odyssey, I am beginning to discover my academic voice. I have chronicled my intense self-imposed writing deadlines on Facebook. Picture a human trapped in a cage with a very hungry lion à this is me during the writing process as I struggle to transition from my professional/consultant voice and style to the objectivity and depth requisite of a researcher. I haven’t mastered my academic voice yet, but as a result of a massive writing opportunity (details divulged at a later time) with an aggressive completion schedule, I had to stop questioning my abilities and just DO. I cringe when people label me as a serial student. Being in the role as a student and teacher over the past 16 years has afforded me the opportunity to continuously question and challenge the status quo or my own opinions, and most importantly, remain curious.
I am no longer young or yet an elder. I am somewhere in-between. The brashness of my 20s has been tempered with my successes and failures. Don’t worry, the vim and vigor of Lauren is still bubbling just beneath the surface, but I don’t feel the need to resort to theatrics to get my way. There is so much I wish I could tell my younger self. There is so much I still have to learn and want the Dr. Who version of Lauren to jump in her TARDIS and reveal all of the secrets. Until this year, I have never been exactly comfortable in my own skin. I still care what people think…just not as much.
I don’t know what 2017 will bring – I only aim to tackle each challenge and opportunity with grace…and six impossible things before breakfast daily.