Tuesday 2¢: Where’s Your Typing Pool?

Arguably the first casualty of digital transformation was the secretary and the typing pool, an established business practice for decades. But to have that friction in modern business now seems absurd. In this weeks Tuesday 2 cents, I suggest marketing leaders stay current on marketing tech and data to spot the next typing pool…

In the olden days (or in Mad Men), if you created a communication to a client or even to other people in your business, you hand wrote a note, handed it to your secretary (if you were important) or the typing pool who would then create a legible and correct piece of prose to be sent to intended recipient via the mail room.

At the same time, if you wanted a computer to do something, required a memo (probably typed by someone) to the systems analysts, who would interpret the question, pass it onto a programmer, who would create the necessary query on punch cards or tape. Sometime, much later, maybe days, a fanfold report, was delivered by internal mail with maybe the answer to the question. If it didn’t or maybe you changed your mind, you start again.

This business friction is unimaginable today.

Our bulging email inboxes testify that we’ve all learned to type, most professional folks would be expected to be able to string together an excel query, our smartwatches giggle at the computing power that was available in desktop machines two decades ago and any executive is a CRM login away from a sea of consumer data.

The typing pool was standard business practice for decades, the role of the Systems Analyst was not quite so long-lived, but both were dealt a swift death as the digital world turned and within half a generation what was normal became archaic.

This is a transformation that happened decades ago, but how is it relevant to CMOs today?

Today, most modern marketers don’t need to trouble the IT team to create a web page. In fact, anyone with a credit card and an eye for design can create a fairly decent website, complete with an email campaign tool, promoted with social media advertising. A sophisticated multichannel digital experience, to use modern parlance.

It took a while for marketing computing to move from the typing pool, computer room and being beholden to IT to us running our marketing wherever we find Wi-Fi and an Americano. But at each iterative step, there were winners in the early adopters and losers in the laggards.

As a CMO how can you avoid the friction?

Imagine being one of those executives that lost their secretary, gained a personal computer, but refused to learn to type?

This march of digital transformation, the democratization of data access and the simplification of tasks that once required the highly skilled is not ceasing.

We have to, therefore, assume that there will be winners and losers today, as a CMO, if you don’t adapt, change your playbook and are not aware of these changes you are going to be at a disadvantage, as your operations will continue to carry the friction, either through outdated processes, tools, or unnecessary third-party services.

Be an intelligent client and leader

Do you really need an expensive enterprise solution, when $100/month cloud subscription service has evolved so far?

Does reaching your target audience need anything more complicated than a quick LinkedIn campaign?

Maybe it does, but a CMO needs to be an intelligent client to their agencies and technology vendors (not to mention an effective leader) by understanding the technology and data, the possibilities it has and the level of effort required to do the work today.

After all, there are plenty of ninjas, growth hackers, and marketing snake oil salespeople only too eager to make it complicated and oversell the ‘magic’.

So, whatever is today’s equivalent of the typing pool is, it’s creating friction and it’s dying – and marketing leaders need to stay current and find these efficiencies.