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Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2011 at 9:14 am

Who Is Your Testing Champion Within IT?

By Brendan Regan
March 23rd, 2011

At last week’s Conversion Conference West, I attended an interesting panel discussion, moderated by our own Howard Kaplan, called “Large Company Optimization from the Trenches.” In it, representatives from larger companies (Blue Shield of California, Symantec, Mattel, Inc., and RealNetworks) shared the struggles and successes of trying to build an optimization practice within a corporate structure. They all talked in part about how they had to “build bridges” to other departments in the company (e.g. Sales, IT, Legal, etc.) in order to successfully optimize their marketing efforts.

The panelists didn’t come out and say it, but I feel that marketers who want to reap the rewards of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) at their companies need to build the all-important bridge to the Information Technology (IT) department in order to be successful. Time and time again we’ve seen clients stumble because the Marketing group tried to do CRO without laying the proper foundation with the IT organization. And they wonder why tests take so long to implement? Why usability issues can’t be fixed more quickly?

Think about the mandates that IT folks are generally given: security, speed, redundancy, Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, etc. But testing in a continuous fashion to gradually increase conversion rates and get better ROI on Marketing’s investments? “Never heard of it.”

If you want to really get rolling with Optimization in your larger company, ask yourself and your colleagues if you’ve done the due diligence to understand IT’s world–what are their charters? what is their code deployment schedule and process? what are their KPIs? And most importantly, who is your testing champion within IT? This doesn’t have to be the CTO, and probably shouldn’t be. If you don’t know the name of this mid-level “champion,” now would be a good time to pause your ‘campaign’ to start an Optimization practice and go adopt a “seek to understand” mentality for a week or two.

How To Find Your Testing Champion Within IT

Don’t worry, I wouldn’t scold you about this topic without providing our pointers for how to remedy the situation :)   These come from my own observances from FutureNow’s client work as well as a few late night discussions with Conversion Conference speakers and attendees (Thanks for the refreshments, Tim Ash!).

Ways to find your testing “champion” in IT:

Tip #1: Send a few emails into the IT organization asking a technical question about testing and/or experimentation. Note who responds and how they respond.

Tip #2: Invite lots of IT folks to a “lunch and learn” about marketing optimization. See who shows up, who asks questions, and who participates.

Tip #3: Ping your project managers. They work across the whole organization, including IT, and they may point you to IT people who are fascinated by controlling variables and calculating standard deviation. These IT people may be your champion(s)!

Tip #4: Find out who in IT helped set up and customize your web analytics software. If they’re “data heads,” they’ll likely also be interested in experimentation.

Once you’ve found your champion, nurture the relationship and start asking for insights about the CTO or other IT leadership. What do they know about optimization? How do they feel about Marketing? Maybe you can even have your new friend in IT make a few introductions. Drop his or her name when you start talking to the CTO about testing software, e.g. “Well, Jane and I were talking about testing the other day, and she said that to work with our shopping cart, the testing software would probably have to be server-side.”  You get the picture :)

We’d love to hear from readers on this topic. Drop us a comment if you’ve struggled with/against IT in your Optimization efforts, or if you have any tips to add about building bridges from Marketing to IT. If you’ve recently started to clear these types of hurdles, and want to jump-start your Optimization efforts with folks who are arguably the best in the ‘biz, ask us how »

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Comments (10)

  1. This is very interesting. Mostly this is what people don’t really understand regarding organizations. All parts of the company are important to be able to succeed. The better the organization units work together, the better all parts are going to be successful.

  2. In my experience, and maybe I’m just lucky, I’ve always had stellar relationships with IT in relation to testing. Maybe I’m just an IT nerd at heart and it’s easy for me to extend the bridge between departments. I’ve had much bigger headaches getting everyone in marketing on the same page in terms of choosing KPIs and testing options.

  3. I’m glad I just read this! In the coming week I am planning to assemble a testing team for a stats project and this article has given me a great insight on how to go about it, thank you!

  4. @FinallyFast – great point! It’s not always the IT team holding things up! Bottom line: if you work at (or with) a company that has multiple groups contributing their expertise to make your marketing a reality, everyone has to be on board in order to make changes quickly and effectively.

  5. This is very interesting. Mostly this is what people don’t really understand regarding organizations. All parts of the company are important to be able to succeed. The better the organization units work together, the better all parts are going to be successful.

  6. Organization can’t stand alone,it is compose of at least ten or more members,It really needs understanding within each members.and of course each members must have their assign task to be made.

  7. This is very interesting. Mostly this is what people don’t really understand regarding organizations. All parts of the company are important to be able to succeed. The better the organization units work together, the better all parts are going to be successful.

  8. I particularly like this tip Tip #2: Invite lots of IT folks to a “lunch and learn” about marketing optimization. See who shows up, who asks questions, and who participates.
    this definitely helps with the rapport building as well.

  9. I agree with srinvas! When all departments can work cohesively they will absolutely have better results as a company.

  10. It’s tough to get the leader that can make the team work and achieve the goals in a feasible manner.
    Most of the time you get the skills, but no the leadership or the other way around – that’s why team building it’s such a critical part of each project.

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