Let’s Talk About Technical Extensibility – Making Things Better

One of the things that technology is supposed to do is make things easier, better, faster, cheaper, stronger (okay it’s not the bionic man here but you get the idea).  Technology is also supposed to be adaptable to our lives so that we can become more efficient with what we do and more free with our time as a result. 

Which technologies in our space can we leverage to improve how we do our jobs, service our clients or achieve our goals?  We’ve visited them before and we know the most common ones.  SEM tools, ad servers, rich media servers, site optimization, web metrics, search metrics and so on. 

But which of these tools and the ones I failed to mention are adaptable?  Okay what am I talking about?  Technology is being developed all around us, for us and being pushed on us.  “Here – use this, its good for you!  This product will make you better at what you do.”  But how?  SEM automates bidding, I get that.  Ad serving consolidates campaign management, optimization and reporting.  I get that.  Site optimization and dynamic content serving improves product placement and proper navigation.  Got it.  Analytics for every tool set creates knowledge.  Fine.

But what pulls it all together?  More importantly how do these tools integrate with the way we do business already?  Technology is developed by technologists, vendors.  These people may have 1 person on the team who used to do the job that you do but for the most part they are developers or visionaries that come at what you do from an external perspective.  So that may explain why MediaVisor from DoubleClick does not fundamentally follow the best media planning workflow for most agencies.  Or why Zedo’s ad server still feels like a publisher’s ad server and not an advertiser’s.  It may explain why Atlas reports downloaded into Microsoft Excel have to be reformatted every single time, even though you may use the same report over and over again.  The providers of these technologies have not spent time looking at the way you – you being an agency or an advertiser – do your job today.  They looked at the way you could do your job and thought they could make it better by changing it – their way. 

Change its good right?  Well, improvement is good.  But if change is met with resistance then change is bad.  Media planning software integrated with an ad server is bad if an agency uses more than one ad server.  A SEM tool is no good if it only handles Google and Yahoo!  There are many search engines out there.

Back to the top.  Technology has the ability to improve how we do things if the starting point begins with how we do things already and then moves forward from there.  What I mean is that many of the technical solutions in our space came at the problems with solutions already in mind without regard for how things were already being done. 

The dominant ad servers created their applications and interfaces for the industry and expected the industry to conform to their new way of doing things.  SEM tool sets have done the same thing.  Vendors have not come to the agencies and listened to the problems.  They did not listen or understand what already worked and build their tools to fit within that workflow.

Okay, I have to acknowledge that most of the agencies out there are not that efficient to begin with (laugh).  They are manual and discombobulated.  But let’s look at the investments that have already been made – the significant ones.  Like DDS, Advantage and CoreMetrics.  The major accounting software is the backbone to these companies and agencies are stuck on them.  If the online tools do not offer some level of integration or some path to integration – shame on them.  Duality of operation is a breakdown for an operation.  Workflow automation is what technology offers in our modern techno-business environments.  Integration is the next chapter.

So what am I really getting at?  The solution providers out there, that we are all relying on in the online space, need to take steps to help their customers build bridges to the other systems that they already use.  They need to enable their tools to adapt to how business is already being done.  The next generation of technologies should not be about forcing the vendor’s way of doing it but rather should be developed based on the customer’s way of doing it.  Adaptable technologies is indicative of integratable opportunity.

My blog has a title bar on it that instigates this topic.  I believe that the technologies we need for the future are already here.  I believe that if we re-examine how they are applied and break-them into their parts we can re-build solutions that will better adapt to the customer’s needs.  Not all of the systems are modular or capable of being broken down into their parts and used in other ways, but some can. 

Agencies and advertisers need workflow automation for their processes to integrate with their online advertising management.  The time drain on this aspect of advertising is excessive.  The result is more time is spent managing the process and less time reserved for making strategic decisions.  The result is time wasted formatting reports; time wasted manually entering data into ad servers, SEM interfaces and Google or Yahoo!  The result is wasted time.  Less time is spent evaluating performance and determining what to do about it.  What is left is time chasing the next budget not time optimizing the current one.

Technology is meant to improve how we do what we do, not complicate it.  Advertisers and agencies have the potential to be so much better at what they do.  Vendors have a responsibility to introduce technologies to empower them.  But they need to know the existing processes and build tools that will work with and not against the industry efficiently.  They need to be adaptive.  They need to strive to integrate with each other.  The next generation of solutions does not have to innovate, they just need to break apart the pieces of what’s there and put together solutions that better meet the needs of how people do their jobs today and solve today’s problems so that the customer can be successful. 

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