Yes, There Is Such A Thing As Too Much Integration
For well over a decade, “integration” has been the holy grail of marketing. Integration means many things. It means coordinating multiple channels. It means cooperating as teams, agencies, and disciplines. It means coherent communications around holistic ideas. Ultimately, it means a unified customer experience that delivers more than the sum of its parts.
Marketers have tried long and hard to deliver on integration within their organizations. They have revised processes, workflow, organizational charts and floor plans. They have created positions dedicated to facilitating internal and external integration. Time, energy, and money have been invested in the quest -- all too often resulting in highly produced, thoroughly documented integration processes that simply do not work the way humans are wired.
One of the chief concerns that marketers bring to strategic business consultants is the struggle for smart, efficient and effective integration. Many are overwhelmed and fear they are doing too little. In fact, it's just as likely that they are doing too much.
Yes, there is such a thing as over-integration. Here is what it looks like:
One of the common pitfalls is trying to employ a unified, highly structured, thoroughly documented process that looks great on paper, but never works in practice. It is not how the work gets done that needs to be super-structured. It is how people work together. A framework that defines how completely independent processes come together can be very simple and yet very profound.
One team in name only
Some marketers create a new organization by collapsing many different groups with a new name, but the same old ways of doing things. Consolidation is not integration. Teams that share space on the organizational chart do not always work well together. Teams that share principles and priorities do.
Technology as panacea
Implementing a big software solution that forces everyone to share one system is not a cure-all for poor collaboration. Automation helps drive structure and standardization, but you need agility and adaptability to integrate well.
Integration for its own sake
Integration is not an end in itself. Too much focus on how marketers do work can be a fatal distraction from how the marketing actually works. Internal alignment is important, but fixating on the logistics and mechanics of how a team functions should not take precedence over effectively marketing and enhancing the customer experience.
Effective integration will remain the goal for marketers. Those who achieve it will leave their competition behind. The companies that are most successful at integration have a philosophy and checklist -- more so than time-consuming, exhaustive processes with multiple steps. These effective marketers and innovators work against a framework rather than an automated step-by-step process. For example, Apple has a laser focus on humanity-driven and intuitive design. GE strives to make life easier. These mantras color everything they do, from the way they work to the output they produce. And it works.
The key is to integrate what matters, and only what matters -- the defining ideas and the experience of the customer.