Insights, The Marketing Technology Office

Continuous Everything: The Modern and Agile Experience Delivery Model for Marketers

Brands are investing in digital experiences to compete for customers and revenue. Those digital customer experiences are made up of the latest features and functions delivered and deployed as part of a software development lifecycle. With so much at stake, these companies must minimize time to market and address their customers’ expectations more frequently than ever before, continuously.

As Forrester notes in their recent research, DevOps Makes Modern Service Delivery Modern, the required automation to quickly meet consumer demands must not introduce risk; “To meet this demand, developers are making use of Agile practices to create small, targeted releases. An increase in speed, however, must not result in software quality and production environment issues. Customers today expect reliability, quality, and a continuous stream of additional functionality.”

For leading brands, automated, rapid and no-risk releases require a collaborative focus by infrastructure, operations, application development and business leaders to organize into an agile and modern service delivery model. This organizational discipline is often referred to as “DevOps” (Development + Operations) and has given rise to concepts like “Continuous Deployment”, “Continuous Delivery” and “Continuous Integration”.

Behind the buzzwords and confusion around the definitions, your take-away should be simple; just about anything “continuous” is important to enable an agile marketing operation.

What is it? Continuous Delivery, Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment

Continuous Delivery is the practice of ensuring that code can be rapidly and safely moved (aka “delivered”) between development, testing and staging environments. Every application/code change is delivered to a “production-like” environment through rigorous automated testing. This system for testing code incrementally and frequently to ensure quality is referred to as Continuous Integration. The value lies in the practice of continually integrating changes, so the system can catch errors and failures while they’re still small and manageable. Your automated, continuous integration system provides a level of confidence that the application can be deployed to production (in theory with a push of a button) when the business is ready.

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Continuous Deployment is the next step in this model. Every change that passes the automated tests and is approved for “go live” is deployed to production automatically. Continuous Deployment should be the goal of most companies, however, few have their network, development, operations and business teams in sync to facilitate that level of agility. With modern tools like Docker, Tutum, Jenkins, Puppet and dozens of advancements in related domains like CDNs and front-side caching engines (ex. CloudFlare, NGINX, Varnish Plus), today’s DevOps teams have a lot of capabilities at their fingertips and are advancing these disciplines to realize the most common benefits:

Speed & Agility. Short time to market delights your customers with the latest features and functions. Business stakeholders seek the agility to meet market demands and compete for the customer’s attention.

Scope & Scale. Automation testing mitigates risks by testing every new iteration of your code, instead of testing once a day, or once a week. That limits the damage that can be done if something breaks. Testing incrementally also makes it easier to identify and remediate errors.

Governance & Quality. Fast changes, and lots of them, require organizational alignment. Automation, when designed correctly, facilitates communication and workflow across diverse teams. Automation eliminates — or at least vastly reduces — the opportunity for people to cause errors.

Let’s review some of the specific tools we have been working with to establish modern application delivery, integration and deployment processes. In the following example, we highlight the use of Hippo CMS with Docker and Tutum.

 

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Insights, The Marketing Technology Office

What You Can Learn From Walmart’s Big Tech Bets

 

 

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On July 23rd, Walmart announced that it has completed an acquisition of Chinese ecommerce giant Yihaodian. Walmart, who had previously acquired 51 percent of the company’s shares, plans to invest in both accelerating e-commerce and creating a seamless experience for customers across online, mobile and brick-and-mortar stores, according to a statement.

While a partial acquisition of a Chinese e-commerce brand may seem like no big deal for one of America’s largest global retailers, Walmart’s purchase is just the latest  in a list of activities that are telling of a coordinated strategy, with designs on speeding globalization, growing product supply and lowering prices, all without sacrificing customer experience. The strategy involves a series of engineering innovations, a unified marketing technology office and smart technology selection.

Through Walmart Labs–the company’s IT innovation center–ecommerce engineering leaders have been unveiling this strategy in pieces. While combing through their past innovations and reading them alongside interviews with marketing and business leaders from the organization, some lessons began to emerge. Continue reading

Insights, The Marketing Technology Office

What We Learned From Forrester in the First Half of 2015

 

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In addition to our hands-on craft of architecture, development, and delivery, we like to stay smart on all things digital marketing, content and technology oriented.  We invest in relationships with analyst firms like Forrester (and others), to find trends within trends, for that little bit of extra inspiration, and for that added level of validation when we’re innovating and blazing trails.

As the first half of 2015 comes to a close, we are compelled to look back at the 850+ research reports – yeah, that’s a lot – Forrester produced so far this year.  Consuming and making sense of all that insight is more than a full-time job, so we thought we’d save you some time to bubble up the themes that stand out most. Continue reading

Insights, The Marketing Technology Office

Strategy Vs. Tactics: Where To Focus Your Marketing Technology Office?

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It is an age-old question business leaders have asked for generations: when facing limited resources, is it better to focus on tactics that can help you in the here and now, or strategy improvements that set the foundation for a more efficient and prosperous future?

Which would you rather have applied to your marketing and IT operations? The tools that help you prepare for and see into the future, or the tactics to help you more successfully navigate the present. Let’s consider the trade-offs of both options:

Continue reading

Insights, The Marketing Technology Office

Black(out) Friday: How To Prevent A Best Buy Blunder

holiday_ecommerceFor retail giants across the U.S., the stakes don’t get much higher than Thanksgiving weekend. According to reports from ComScore, Thanksgiving day and Black Friday broke online sales records this year with $1 billion and $1.5 billion, respectively. Cyber Monday remained the largest online shopping day of the year, and surpassed all expectations this year to become the biggest online shopping day in recorded history, with over $2 billion in online sales.

Basically, Thanksgiving weekend is the Super Bowl. You run drills for it; you test and retest rich content elements for efficacy across multiple screens; you increase your server space. But inevitably, some retailers still fumble the ball. This year, it was Best Buy’s turn. Continue reading