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26 July 2018

Taming wild ideas into a well-prioritized roadmap for your marketing automation implementation

The decision has finally been taken, you are about to invest in a marketing automation tool! Now the fun part begins: discussing wish lists. It can be quite complex for a decision maker to go from the wildest ideas for a new tool to a concrete prioritized list of tool requirements.

Getting your priorities straight is very important in order to build a tool that has got the basics right but might also come in handy for future improvements. Doing this in an objective way can be even more challenging. People who shout the loudest often get the highest ranking for their wish list. Sound familiar? Then you might want to read on.

How to create a prioritized roadmap for your marketing automation implementation?

The wild wild west of marketing automation

Deciding on what features your marketing automation tool must/should/could have in order to deliver its intended purpose is not easy. All requirements seem to be ‘high priority’, but in reality less than 60% of your requirements should go to must haves, without which the tool can’t exist nor function. It should be very clear that not including a must have, means you might as well cancel the project.

Should haves
, on the other hand, which are nice to have and painful to leave out are not vital and should only take up 20% of features. The remaining features are desired but less important and are categorized as could haves. Some desired features will also not make it this time for various reasons, which are won’t do’s. So, just set up your prioritized list and off you go, right?

In theory you should have cross-departmental, objective discussions about what is truly indispensable for a tool. However, marketing usually brings up the wildest ideas (we’re good at that), while sales needs other features, don’t forget legal, customer service etc. And then there’s the IT department that also has its own ideas and often takes the lead in these implementation projects. Did I mention that all of their lives depend on their wish lists? You might have noticed that besides different views on functionalities there are often politics at play that can have a big impact. Recognizable? So where do you begin?

From untamed wishlists to a prioritized implementation roadmap

You need a good roadmap which you can use as a permanent guideline. So how do you go from a big bucket list of ideas to a concrete prioritized implementation roadmap? It’s all about getting these features prioritized in an objective way. Let’s see what the outcome might be after going through a prioritization workshop and using the The House of Marketing prioritization tool:

The House of Marketing's prioritization tool
You can see the ideas are mapped as bubbles on the graph. Every required feature gets a grand total score, that we calculate based 3 different dimensions

  • Gain score (X-axis)
    Takes into account the feature its added value, like revenue, raising brand awareness, customer experience, speed, etc. 
  • Pain score (Y-axis)
    Takes into account the pains, like cost, maintenance, required tool personalization, etc.
  • Amount of workload (bubble size)
    How long it would take to implement this feature.

The closer you get to the bottom right corner of the graph, the more benefits you reap from implementing this idea. E.g.: Idea 8 (ID8) has a large gain, with a small pain and a small workload and should get the highest priority. The more you move up to the upper left corner through the diagonals, the less priority the ideas should have. While moving up, you’ll see your roadmap come together automatically (ID8 -> ID3 -> ID12…). This will set you off for a good prioritized roadmap when you start the implementation phase of your project.

Hold your IT horses

Of course, it’s not -that- easy. You will still need an IT architect to tell you what is possible within your company’s IT architecture, for example. This will filter out your won’t do’s. IT should also tell you what ideas/features are related to one another and need to be considered in a specific order. You simply can’t place windows without having walls first. Also the features’ workloads (bubble sizes) should be determined with their help. But don’t forget, IT might also have its own interests. That is why it’s interesting to ‘arm’ yourself with a prioritized objective list of requirements and a well thought-out approach for your implementation.

Riding off into the sunset

Your roadmap does not stop once you have a good implementation roadmap. Along the way, you will better get to know the possibilities of your tool, or new requirements will pop up. So, this roadmap is a living thing. That’s why the scoring tool can also be used in the improvement phase, when you have assembled all the newly emerged wish lists. On a footnote: if you want to do it completely according to best practice, you can use the scoring system earlier in your search for the right tool. You can set a threshold score to features that your new tool should be able to deliver. This doesn’t have to be in a certain prioritized order yet though.

If you are able to build a good roadmap for implementation, it will help you to keep the path clear and to tame this wild marketing automation horse and ride off into the sunset. As a summary, below are phases for which you can use a good prioritization model:

  • The search for the right marketing automation tool
    Use the scoring model for setting a threshold. All your ideas will receive a grand total score (see above). Where its score is too low you should not use it as a hard deliverable that a tool should be able to offer. Your provisional must haves will pass the threshold score which you can use to build your request for a proposal to different solution suppliers, and you can also use it to start comparing different tools. How many requirements above the threshold could it bring compared to another tool, for example?
  • The implementation phase
    Once you get to know the different tools that can meet your needs, you will also learn about extra possibilities, or something you never thought of. That’s why your list of requirements can be properly prioritized for implementation once you’ve chosen your tool.

    After this, you can give your priorities to the implementation team according to the roadmap you have obtained. This might be split up in different sprints (number of work weeks that can contain a certain work load that can be delivered in those weeks). If it’s an agile project, features might be reworked in the next sprint until they are as implemented exactly as required, before moving further down your roadmap and implementing the next features.
  • The improvements phase
    Setting priorities for could haves or even new requirements that emerge once operating the tool. The road continues...

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