3 steps to building a three-star marketing technology function

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Marketing organizations are using less and less of their martech stack’s capabilities. Gartner research suggests around 42% of the stack’s potential is utilized, startlingly down from 58% in 2020. There’s a significant cost too associated with paying for technology resources that stand idle. There’s also a shortfall in user satisfaction.

Against this background, Gartner principal analyst Tia Smart described how to build the kind of efficient, focused martech function that can get much more out of the technology.

1. Getting prepped

The three first steps to getting your martech function on track are:

  • Identify the product owners (with overall responsibility for a particular solution) and the solution’s daily users.
  • Audit the stack (find out what’s there and what is and isn’t being used).
  • Assess the results of the above and proceed to the next steps.

Smart believes it’s crucial to define staff roles clearly. “Is this person a daily user, so they can give you candid feedback; or is this the product owner, based on a specific product like Salesforce or Adobe; or is this person the leader of a category of products like advertising solutions or direct marketing channels?”

It’s also important to align the audit with business use cases. “Is this tool meeting specific use cases it was intended for, or is it not? That will start informing the next steps you’re able to take,” she told us.

2. Developing a robust roadmap

Times have changed. Just in the last year, the pendulum has swung from a preference for best-of-breed stacks to a preference for integrated suites (60% to 25%).

There remain challenges with both approaches. Paradoxically, marketers find integration and configuration challenges within the integrated suites themselves, especially those built from a series of independent acquisitions. On the other hand, it’s difficult to recruit and retain the talent to handle a wide range of point solutions.

DIg deeper: Marketers need a unified platform, not more standalone tools

“The biggest driver of the shift to integrated suites,” said Smart, “is that marketers don’t have the right talent in place, they have difficulty integrating their current martech ecosystems; I think there’s a perception that an integrated suite is going to solve for some of those challenges and complexities.”

A decision has to be made whether to be integrated suite-first or best-of-breed-first. Then take steps to build the roadmap:

  • Identify business needs and the marketing tech needs that align with them.
  • Develop a roadmap aimed at filling gaps (and eliminating duplication and waste).
  • Communicate the roadmap to stakeholders.
  • Continue to evolve it (this isn’t “one and done”).

The truth is, Smart explained, that at the end of the day the martech function is not going to commit fully to an integrated suite approach or a best-of-breed approach. “It’s understanding that it’s going to be a balance,” she said. “You’re going to need a blend, it’s just what is going to be your primary focus?”

3. Making sure you fill the talent gaps

There are four possibilities to evaluate here:

  • Develop and utilize existing talent that understands the business and its needs.
  • Get support from IT.
  • Outsource elements to consultancies or agencies.
  • Hire new talent.

Of course, challenges exist with these approaches. IT may have limited capacity, outsourcing can be expensive and there’s a widely recognized talent shortage.

Finally, pay attention to the actual users. “Sometimes marketers focus so much on the technology that they forget about the people who are planning to utilize the tools. If we think about the reason for the talent shortage, burnout is a large push for wanting to leave a company. Being sure that your team is not frustrated with the tools will help to overcome some of these challenges.”


About the author

Kim Davis
Kim Davis is currently editor at large at MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for almost three decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space. He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020. Shortly thereafter he joined Third Door Media as Editorial Director at MarTech.

Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.

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