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When Did Martech Get So Complex and How Ecosystem Thinking Can Help Fix It?
By Richard George, Global Head, Digital, User Experience and Marketing Technology, Refinitiv
The consolidation of MarTech applications has not happened to the same extent as in other parts of a company’s business systems stack. The core stack is often made up of tens, if not hundreds of different applications, covering Web Content Management, Digital Asset Management, Campaign Automation, Social and Workflow & Enablement and more. Take your website for example, you are likely running multiple Web Content Management Systems for your corporate & marketing sites, portals, international sites, legacy, careers and press room.
In addition, these applications are reliant on broader business technology infrastructure, whether it is your CRM, finance systems and a myriad of different data sources, some of which may sit in your Enterprise Data Warehouse, some may sit elsewhere, and some may be available through third-party data management platforms.
Specifically for companies who have grown through acquisition or operate separate businesses within a group, you will likely have this scenario repeated multiple times.
Aligned to this, the business is likely looking at opportunities for continuous innovation, sometimes leveraging smaller, newer tech provider entrants, who promise quicker time to market, but can further add to this complexity.
So what can we do?
I believe the answer lies in repositioning this space as a single Digital and Marketing ecosystem. Ensuring this ecosystem of different technologies is foremost customer-centric, agile and integrated is key.
More so than in other areas, these technologies are directly touching the customer, whether through websites, emails, messaging etc.
Set the boundaries for continuous innovation, allow and enable the business, but have a plan to integrate permanently
Now that the experience has been mapped, we can start to think about the process and capabilities required. This can be a broad ask, but using a basic MarTech capability framework and working through your digital experiences, this should quickly come together. Although a North Star is valuable, thinking with agility and building out the stack over time is fine. You may know you have multiple sources for digital assets (images, copy, etc.), but this area is low priority versus what can be done in your campaign world. Building around a shared ecosystem means you can build capabilities once and expose in multiple places through a shared digital front end. If you have blog content, for instance, making this available through a single front end for new and existing customers, on-site and off-site makes more sense than having content siloes.
Now we can think about the technology. Many providers sell their visions of Marketing Clouds, proving capabilities across the MarTech Spectrum. Although definitely part of the solution to simplification, previous acquisitions of other businesses/platforms in these clouds, meaning although marketed as one integrated cloud, the reality is this may not have been realized yet. There is also the need to understand where not having best in class is an acceptable compromise to purchasing a less compelling product with similar features that forms part of an existing vendor solution. Webchat can be a good example of this where a compromise is acceptable for your service chats, but for sales chats, you need a solution with enhanced targeting. The Payback, in this case, may also be more justifiable as it lies to revenue generation.
By operating as an ecosystem, your agile delivery model will likely become easier to manage. Multidisciplinary scrum teams will give you the flexibility to assign resources to different parts of the ecosystem over time, without the need to stand up and down teams. If using a third-party vendor for build support, this will be easier as you will be able to swap different skill sets in scrums more easily. The flexibility applies in all areas from business ownership, product ownership, and development. Shared support areas, such as UX and analytics work particularly well in this ecosystem model.
This flexibility in resources also enables more integrated innovation in the ecosystem, rather than it being dealt with by separate teams. Set the boundaries for continuous innovation, allow and enable the business, but have a plan to integrate permanently.
As Employee Digital Experience and Customer Digital Experience converge more and more, there is further opportunity to remove and simplify.
Overall, lower licensing cost vs other business systems have made the need for consolidation in the MarTech stack less appealing. The complexity businesses now find themselves in, along with a continued drive to simplify customer experience will make reform of the MarTech stack a higher priority for the c-suite over the coming years.