IT is fundamentally different to marketing. Sure, they need to work hand-in-hand, be integrated and be part of the team, but when is IT/Software/Legacy Systems responsible for choosing the right advertising agency? Why then are they so needed for helping you choose the right digital marketing agency? Asks Prakash Patel (@PrakashPatel_) of Prezence Digital

Prezence Digital>RECENTLY I HAVE witnessed a number of requests for proposals (RFPs) that appear very strongly to have been written or driven by brands IT departments or their legacy system requirement `must be…’.Net or you must be JAVA or PHP or whatever their preferred language/system is. What most IT driven strategies based solely on systems or language lack is understanding the full digital landscape offering that is required to meet your business or marketing objectives from a solid digital strategy, social media, SEO, analytics, mobile, augmented reality, apps and so on… These products/techniques don’t necessarily require any integration with any specific system and if they do it is relatively easy to do.

For me, this is quite literally marketing, and indeed the entire business, being held ransom by IT systems. Don’t get me wrong, I love IT and love what they do and if we didn’t have them, we wouldn’t be able to interact online e.g. bank, shop transact etc. ­ but that’s where the line ends as far as I am concerned with regard to digital marketing.

So don’t be fooled into thinking that if you choose one vendor over another simply because they fit · in with your IT department’s preferred language, that you are getting a better solution. In most cases it can be argued that you are not getting a better solution, merely that you are limiting your scope of possibility and, therefore, a technical vendor exercise and not a strategic choice.
DRAFTING A DIGITAL RFP So, what’s the answer for a business looking to make the right choice but afraid to annoy the tech guy? Here are some critical thoughts and questions you need to be asking before you draft a digital RFP.

· Choosing a digital agency is not the same as choosing an IT specialist. It is a marketing agency that specialises in digital and that doesn’t just mean backend. It means the whole digital landscape from strategy, usability, SEO, e-marketing, mobile, apps, creative, development, deployment and ongoing management through to technical specification and functional flows and build documents to then hand over to your IT specialist of choice.
Which maybe the same partner or another company.

· Any good digital agency needs to understand your IT systems, the back end, platforms, servers and all those other shiny little boxes up and above the big idea and take your IT infrastructure into account. It doesn’t have to be limited.

· Don’t allow IT systems and languages to dictate or narrow down your agency choice. That’s like saying if you don’t speak we don’t want to do business with you. If you choose this route, you will be limiting the number and types of agencies that are able to pitch for your business and not necessarily the right agencies that meet your marketing or business requirements. But an agency that meets your IT requirement fi rst. · Any digital solution can be integrated with any IT backend, albeit some more seamlessly than others. After all Facebook wouldn’t adapt to your technology so why should the right strategy and solutions. The building of solid API’s (Application Program Interface) allows any code to talk with your system removing language or platform barriers.

·If you are looking for a technically led RFP ­ then state it upfront or better still have two separate RFP’s. One aimed at meeting your IT’s needs and the second about digital marketing, driving innovation and great ideas to business problems.

· IT is purely an enabler and differs to technologists, who are the incubators of ideas and coders of innovation which help push the digital boundaries and not be limited by IT systems, languages or legacy.
GOOD TECHNOLOGY If one thing is crystal clear here, it’s that these two branches of your business are symbiotic and each should understand the other as far as possible.

But at the end of the day don’t worry about the technology and don’t let that dictate your digital agency. Good technology can easily integrate with anything and shouldn’t be a barrier based on the system you have or language your IT department use (when have you ever heard someone complaining that they cannot integrate with Facebook).
So, If you are looking to appoint a digital partner think about what the agency offers in terms of creativity, innovation and understanding of your business needs and not just about ensuring that they match your existing IT infrastructure. The sheer beauty of digital and technology is that there are always ways around it. To limit the scope of solution providers based on technology platforms alone is to do your business a disservice and limit your `return on innovation’.

– This article first appeared in the May 2012 issue of Advantage.


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