The promise of technology to enable faster, more cost effective and more innovative working practices has long been a driver for investing in and implementing everything from accounting systems and enterprise software to marketing technology. The very nature of technology means it does not stand still. This constant evolution means most companies have, over time, acquired solutions based on their promise to fill gaps, speed up processes or keep up with new trends.
However, no matter how well-intentioned buying decisions are made, pressures to deliver projects on time, increase audience engagement, improve customer satisfaction or simply to avoid being left behind can sometimes drive quick decisions and compromises when it comes to technology.
Defining MarTechnical Debt
Using marketing technology as an example, a mid-sized or large company is likely to have upwards of a hundred technology providers in its ‘MarTech’ stack.
These span across functions such as marketing automation, customer experience, content management, CRM, programmatic advertising, SEO and social media, to name just a few areas where a business’s needs have led them to seek out innovative solutions all in the name of transforming their marketing efforts.
What began as a sound investment in best of breed technology has – through no fault of the business – likely led to a tangled web of software solutions with overlapping features and functionality.
This situation is due in large part to maturing technologies and mergers and acquisitions, as the breadth of industry leaders like Salesforce and Adobe’s offerings illustrate clearly.
These historical decisions of integrating and interconnecting marketing technologies can lead to hidden costs, known collectively as ‘MarTechnical debt’. In the current climate of cost-cutting and tightening budgets, understanding where these costs are – and how to reduce or eliminate them – can make a big difference to future marketing investments and strategies.
Identifying the Challenges
Whether as a business you need to unravel your web of legacy technology or are looking to invest in a new marketing transformation project, it is important to be aware of – and plan for – the hidden financial impacts of change.
To help avoid MarTechnical debt eating into current and future marketing technology investments as well as activities and strategies, planning for both the short and long-term is required.
Before any marketing transformation is agreed or implementation takes place, businesses need to gain a clear picture of what is working, what isn’t and what technology they have, and what technologies to invest in.
Key decision-makers across procurement and other areas of the business should discuss the following challenges and look for potential answers to the related questions that they present:
- Gaining an understanding of the costs beyond the initial implementation and MarTech software licensing. To help get you started, have a think about what factors need to be considered when it comes to defining the baseline costs and ongoing operational challenges.
- Planning your “MarTech/CXTech Directory”. Ensure you understand the capabilities of your existing tools (used or otherwise) prior to investing in any new technologies.
- Identifying, and managing your MarTechnical debt. Explore and evaluate the approaches you should undertake to ensure that incremental value is generated, gaps in technology are closed and overlap and redundancy are reduced.
- Managing ongoing returns, and delivering the operational ROI. Ensure you establish what “done” looks like ahead of time. Is it the completion of the software implementation or when the business case ROI is delivered? How will you measure these? What does success look like?
Planning for Change
Exploring these challenges and identifying others can help businesses to gain a clearer picture of where hidden costs may arise, helping to support strategic planning and the management of costs when it comes marketing transformation.
As with any investment in technology, it is also important to remember that software is not a magic bullet that will solve all of your problems and make your business run more smoothly.
Technology is only as good as the people and processes that surround it, so in addition to understanding where the hidden costs may lie, ensure you have the right team, skills and procedures in place to make the most of your investment.