Help! - Getting IT Support for Your Landing Page Test

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The information technology (IT) people in your company may be concentrated in a department of the same name. But they can also encompass anyone with a primarily technical background or role. This potentially includes the webmaster, programmers, system administrator, and your hosting company (if you outsource this function).

IT people like to say no, especially to marketing people.

The gulf between marketing and IT within a company can be wide. The mindsets of the two groups of people are fundamentally different. IT people often see themselves as the high priests of technology and try to keep marketers completely away from their domain. IT staff members are often legitimately busy and overwhelmed. Since their support is often requested (or demanded) by many people in the company, they have developed a multilayered defense strategy. Even if they don't directly refuse a request for assistance, they can effectively block progress by a series of escalating responses. Common policies and tactics include:

Technical feasibility determinations: If the IT staff doesn't want to work on a project, they can examine the proposed underlying technology and declare it unfit for some reason. They might insist that it cannot be effectively integrated with existing technologies or systems. In landing page optimization, this approach is commonly used to disqualify the testing tool technology. Since the reasons for the objection are often highly technical, few marketers can muster the necessary ammunition to counteract it. Common reasons for rejecting technologies include incompatibilities, noncompliance with security policies, additional load placed on networks, increased page load times, and dependencies on the testing software company's servers for serving some of the landing page content elements.

Luckily, most testing companies have come up with noninvasive approaches to testing. The only underlying technologies required are JavaScript (a scripting language available in all popular browsers) and the setting of first-party cookies (allowed by the vast majority of Internet users). With many approaches, the alternative tuning elements can remain in the client's original Web server environment (created server-side), without adding any JavaScript to the page itself. Uptime levels and response times (collectively referred to as "availability") can also be guaranteed or effectively addressed.

Scheduling and resource allocation: IT staff may insist that since your project wasn't scheduled during the last planning cycle it will have to go to the back of the line. In addition, IT managers may insist that since no resources were allocated, the project will have to wait until the next budget cycle.

Operational policies: Most landing page optimization projects don't require a lot of IT support time, but they often involve a number of small interrupt-driven tasks. IT has the power to bring the project to a virtual standstill by insisting that detailed, time-consuming, and labor-intensive systems be used to interact with their staff. There are many names for these systems, including "change requests," "trouble tickets," and "issue tracking." Their use is appropriate for larger projects (so component tasks will not be overlooked), but they can be overkill when the required changes can be addressed within a few minutes by the IT staffer. In such cases, a small request for help can be tied up for days or weeks in the system without resolution. If this happens repeatedly, it can throw off a landing page project by many weeks.

Common ways to proceed in the face of IT-delaying tactics include the following:

Work on a landing page outside of IT control: It's often difficult to get permission to change parts of a company's main website. However, many marketing programs use standalone landing pages or microsites that aren't connected to the main site. In many cases, such landing pages have significant inbound traffic and are controlled by the marketing department. Since you can control many of the traffic sources for the landing page test, you can redirect their traffic to anywhere you like.

Get a project-based support commitment: You can often get a specific IT staff member assigned to you for the duration of your project. As long as you can guarantee that the individual will be used at only a small percentage of the person's total time availability and for a short duration, you can often get IT approval. These kinds of arrangements transfer the person nominally to your team (or have that person remain under joint jurisdiction). This allows you to bypass many of the IT procedural requirements and have the IT staffer complete your tasks with minimal delay.

Prioritize projects based on financial impact: If you properly lay out the financial case for your landing page test, you may be able to show the potential for a large profit impact on the company. In many cases, IT projects are prioritized based partially on this criterion. By focusing on the financial impact, you may be able to reprioritize your project to the head of the IT queue.


This article originally appeared in Tim's ClickZ column July 19, 2010