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The Tyranny of Orchestration

By Noah Elkin | September 29, 2016 | 0 Comments


Not long ago, my colleague Jake Sorofman wrote a post about the “tyranny” of words. It was a reminder — in the context of digital marketing — of a lesson we’ve seen repeated in many arenas this year: words matter. Looking at the multichannel marketing landscape, I’m struck by the pervasiveness of one word in particular: orchestration.

Orchestration is the hallmark of multichannel campaign management. In our “Critical Capabilities for Multichannel Campaign Management” report (Gartner client subscription required), orchestration is one of four core use cases on which we focus, comprising planning the channels through which a campaign will be delivered as well as its timing and sequencing. Not surprisingly, orchestration pervades vendors’ marketing collateral. I even heard it mentioned in a recent TV spot for a business printer. (I confess I can’t recall the brand, which is as much a commentary on my memory as the ad’s effectiveness.) This is an instance where, as Jake noted, “meaning … isn’t somehow encoded into words themselves, but discerned through a mutual agreement on context and intent.” Marketers and their audiences — and even those of us in the analyst community — are all party to that agreement.

Now, at first glance, orchestration might seem little more than a fancy word for coordination, but there’s more to it than that, just as multichannel marketing is more than the agglomeration of other channels. Think of it this way: multichannel marketing success relies on each component channel playing its own specific role, while, at the same time, all channels working together seamlessly to provide a unified customer experience.

It’s a classic example of the whole being more than the sum of its parts, only one that is deceptively harder to execute than might appear. In this context, multichannel marketing entails the orchestration of distinct, but often overlapping, channels and activities that touch customers at various points along their buying journey. Based on the kinds of client inquiries we see, if there’s anything that marketers struggle with, it’s getting that balance right.

Gartner’s 2016 Marketing Organizational Design and Strategy Survey indicated that multichannel success correlates to a clearly defined leadership role, something lacking among the majority of respondents. In an effort to extend the metaphor of orchestration, in my research note, “Survey Analysis: Multichannel Success at Risk From Undefined Ownership” (Gartner client subscription again required), I suggested that marketing organizations need a leader responsible for both the vision and tactical execution of multichannel marketing programs, describing that person as a “conductor knowledgeable in the unique benefits each channel brings and skilled in their orchestration.”

Multichannel marketing success depends on effective orchestration.

I left it there for fear of exposing the limitations of my own knowledge of classical music, but the fact remains that in virtually any topic related to multichannel marketing, it’s difficult to escape questions involving orchestration. It came up in my post on the emergence of account-based marketing as a marketing discipline and again in relation to distributed marketing, which in many respects, hinges on orchestration. In effect, anytime multichannel marketing expands its boundaries, as with the Internet of Things, for example, the number and variety of marketing touchpoints increase, making orchestration more complex but also that much more essential.

You might call it the “tyranny of orchestration.”

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