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Schrodinger’s Software

Tuesday June 11, 2013

Flock’s Content Calendar Creator sounds like a tool built to tackle one aspect of the hectic and eclectic campaign ecosystem that marketers live in. From the clients I speak to I can clearly see that this type of collaboration/scheduling tool with budgetary visibility attached would be a welcome addition to their toolset in managing multiple content producers and campaigns. There is however a paradox that arises in my mind whenever I see clever, macro tools like this and I want to try and explain it, it goes something like this;

In order for an advertiser to fully exploit the benefits of Clever Widget A, it effectively needs to be an App bolted into a OS. In plain English; it needs to be able to quickly and seamlessly integrate with other, wider-reaching technologies. It needs to be an App bolted into an OS for two primary reasons. Firstly, the further your software tools reach - the more potential it has to provide top-line returns to the business. From C-level this looks like potential to gain key ground; for example increased speed to market - a high priority but often abstract target. Secondly, and transversely – in order to realise the wide adoption by marketers of any software (and in turn ‘switch on’ the potential outlined in my first point) you must meet them where they most need assistance. Almost without exception this is best achieved with a clever, focused macro tool (see Widget A) that identifies and fixes a common problem in an intuitive and agile way. Therein lies the quandary.

So, I suppose that until an enterprise level software house that can speak marketing arrives at one end or the other of this situation, advertisers will have to keep investing in clever, macro tools like this and just hope that eventually they can form part of something bigger and entirely more useful. The problem there is that organisations like Flock need to make sure they never become software houses, because that change in direction begins their journey away from ‘getting’ marketing on the ground, and ultimately will remove their innovation. For the same reason, software houses don’t really speak marketing for any length of time - the commercial and operational agendas they must work within prevents it at source. Advertisers need an enterprise ecosystem or ‘bus’ that they can buy and bolt innovative apps into. Salesforce do this in the CRM space and they are busy shuffling over into the production space however only time will tell if their size and position enable them to meet marketers real needs in this area.

Opportunity has already been identified here as illustrated in part by companies like Flock and reinforced by the M&A activity in the wider content management technology space (Content Vendor Technology Map 2013). There is a chance to meet the macro needs of the marketer while delivering the wider needs of the business but as yet it hasn’t been realised (despite the marketing materials telling you otherwise). 

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