5 steps to mapping your martech stack (and knowing the risks and benefits of your digital ecosystem)
Contributor David Booth explains how to get a handle on the myriad tools being used in every corner of your organization.
The vast array of available data and the evolution of insights and activation have given rise to a marketing technology cornucopia. But while most organizations have plenty of solutions, products and vendors, they are typically lacking a single view into what they’re using on which digital assets, who bought it, what it’s integrating with or why it’s there.
In this era of data privacy, enterprises can ill afford to ignore runaway technology that may be collecting data outside the lines of regulations. But it’s more than just a compliance risk. Understanding — and strategically planning — exactly what martech is in use across the organization is critical to maintaining a sound data and marketing strategy.
It’s not really about the technology. It’s about what the technology is enabling. It’s about understanding how the data is being collected, passed between systems and platforms, stored and used (or not used) to add value (or not) to your business.
If you’re fed up with not knowing what data is coming in and how it’s being passed between platforms, not to mention whether you’ve got some glaring gaps in your governance and compliance practices, read on to discover how to tackle this complex but highly rewarding project.
1. Know your stakeholders
The best way to deliver this strategically important technical mapping of a martech stack is to understand the needs of each stakeholder group.
- The C-suite will appreciate something visually impressive to clearly communicate the stack that currently represents a whopping 22 percent of the marketing budget, according to the Gartner 2017-2018 CMO Spend Survey. And this number is down by 5 percent over the previous year, as marketers rein it in while they “improve their martech capabilities and prove their technology chops,” says Ewan McIntyre, research director at Gartner.
- Manager-level stakeholders will require a little more detail. They’ll need to know who owns each piece of the puzzle, what third-party vendors or service partners are involved, what data is flowing in and out, what dependencies exist between other components of the martech stack, and what specific functionality and benefits are being provided.
- For developers and those dealing with the deployments and detailed use of each component, this is a great place to provide locations of detailed solution design documents, product roadmaps, support documentation and more.
2. Take an inventory
Take a comprehensive inventory of what tools, technology and systems are in place. An enterprise organization can easily have dozens and dozens of tools in place, and those with a tendency to grab and deploy the latest and greatest will have likely acquired a legacy of many more. The best way to locate everything that’s in use is a combination of technology and interview-based approaches:
- Technology. You’ll want to use enterprise-grade website and app scanning tools to identify all the pixels, tags, scripts and more that are currently deployed across your digital footprint of websites, apps, kiosks and anything else you have in use.
- Stakeholder interviews. To get at the tools and solutions deployed behind the scenes, you’ll want to talk to your IT teams, marketing departments, sales groups, third-party agencies, vendors and partners.
3. Establish the details and relationships between systems
As you proceed to document all of this, here are a few questions to ask yourself and your employees:
- Who owns which components internally, and what vendors/partners are involved?
- Which tools and solutions are integrated, and which way does data flow?
- What specific information is being passed between them?
- How is that being validated?
- Are there data privacy concerns?
- Is there a consent (and consent removal) mechanism in place?
- Where are there duplications of the same data sets, and which will be the source of truth?
- If you remove a tool, what are the implications?
4. Build the visualization
Create clear visualizations of the tools and the relationships in a concise, interactive manner. To ensure that this mapping is clear, meaningful and accessible to all those who can benefit from it, it should be a living, breathing entity.
As an example, when we do these for our clients, we develop an interactive visualization that begins with the high-level overview.
From this holistic, categorized view, hovering over any part of the stack will clearly show interactivity between different components, and clicking into a tool drills down into all the detail you’ll need.
5. Governance and maintenance
It’s worth saying twice that this visualization of your technological ecosystem needs to be a living, breathing application. Technology is rapidly advancing, with an acronym alphabet soup of new and ever-expanding capabilities and solutions.
This stack map should have a defined owner and be governed by a change control process. This document should be updated as things change, and it should be easily available to marketing, IT, sales, third-party partners and any other relevant business operations.
Mapping your martech stack is a key step in understanding what benefits and capabilities you have, what duplications or inefficiencies may exist, what gaps need to be filled and what data risks may be present.
Hopefully, these five steps will help you map your digital ecosystem and make the most of your martech investment.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.