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PODCAST: Why marketers fail at technology selection

Welcome to another episode of Podcasts by Digital Clarity Group. In this segment, Cathy McKnight and Connie Moore explore some of the big challenges marketers run into with technology selection, as well as procuring, and integrating complex new marketing technology platforms.

Why marketers fail at technology selection: Transcript

Connie Moore (CM): Hello and thank you for joining us for this podcast on why marketers fail at selecting technology. It’s a provocative subject and we have Cathy McKnight (CMc) from Digital Clarity Group who is here to share her insight with you.

Cathy is the executive who was our advisory and consulting organisation. I’m Connie Moore, I’m the Senior Vice President of Research at Digital Clarity Group and I’ll be the moderator for today.

It’s a great title, it’s a great question, why do they? And I think it’s really relevant because increasingly we find at our client that marketing staff, marketing executives are more and more involved in technology decisions and actually deciding which products to bring in, which vendors to partner with and so forth, but do you think the cards are stacked against them because that’s not really the area of their expertise? What do you think?

Cathy McKnight (CMc):So, I totally agree with you Connie. I think part of the challenge that marketers are facing is that technology and the demands on what they need to do have changed so drastically. I mean over the last 10-15 years, but particularly over the last, you know 5 to 7 years with the changes in technology, the new channels, the demands, all of that has changed, yet what hasn’t changed is the way they buy technology. They’re still very much in that old frame of mind, procurement process where you know, they make a request to the procurement team and say, “I need to be able to do this”, the procurement goes off and does their own thing and they don’t get a chance to get involved, and not to slag procurement teams because they serve a great purpose and they do a great job in a lot of cases, but the traditional procurement process really tends to favour legacy relationships, not innovation or merit when it comes to evaluating new options and as you and I both know, the technology out there are evolving so drastically. You look at the latest Scott Brinker Marketing Technology Landscape, there was close to 3900 technology brands listed on that. The proliferation of choice is just so amazing that going back to the old way of doing things to pick one of these new technologies just really doesn’t make sense.

And I think one of the other big challenges that they face is that, you know, traditionally our piece from a procurement perspective really tend to be a one size fits all. You know they’re very structured, there’s very little room for innovation, accommodate new business practices, new needs or even new technologies and they’re very much structured such that is limits the opportunity for the vendors that they’re reaching out to, to actually stow their virtues on those things like innovation and where their technology may differentiate from what other more traditional offerings have to give them.

Technology Selection is Only Part of the Battle

CM: You know, that was some mind blowing numbers you just shared about the number of products and vendors and the services that are being focused right at the marketing organisations and picking a product, let’s say a software product, maybe something that posteriorly new technology that hasn’t been around very long, that’s only part of the story. Don’t they also have to pick who’s going to deploy it, who’s going to support it, who their service providers is going to be and what that whole post-sale support looks like?

CMc: Absolutely. So at Digital Clarity Group, we stress the importance of that partner. The person and team that is going to help implement the selected technology. Many of the technologies out there from an architecture perspective and particularly on the smaller end, they do their own implementation. They haven’t grown to the point where they have an extensive partner network like some of the bigger you know, web content management or marketing automation or digital asset management systems might have.

When you start looking at some of the unique and smaller more specialized offerings, they’re often reliant on the vendor to do the implementation, but what the RFP doesn’t allow them to do or the traditional RFP does not allow them to do is to vet their capabilities in implementing into their landscape. So they know their product absolutely, you know, stone cold hard, there’s no question there, but what you need to be able to gauge is their knowledge and experience in having it connect and interact with the other systems that the marketers have in place, that they don’t want to displace necessarily, that there needs to be that cohesive interoperability that becomes increasingly important as the landscape, the technology landscape becomes more complex and the language unfortunately, the new business language and marketing language and practices, just don’t get reflected in the RFP.

Understanding the Real Business Problem is Key

CM: Yeah I am sure you’ve seen that over and over again. So what do you think they should do differently to have a different outcome?

CMc: So I think one of the things, you know they really need to shake up what they do. The traditional RFI request for information followed by a request for proposal or RFP just doesn’t work in these situations anymore, it really, really needs to start with an inward looking self-assessment. So connecting with stakeholders and assembling some requirements. What is it that they’re really looking to achieve, what’s the business problem? Not the technology purchase, but what’s the business problem they’re looking to solve for?

Once they really have a handle on that and they’ve really looked at they need to do and what they want to accomplish, both present and near future because of course technology is changing so quickly, you don’t want to plan for something you might need three years from now. They also need to take a look at what’s happening or what they have in their current technology landscape. There are many cases where we’ve gone in and they actually have a similar solution that’s being sought already in place at a department level. So why not look and see what they have and see if it can be extended, is it a good use case? Is it being well used? Is it integrated into the system? Is it being effective? You know don’t recreate the wheel if you don’t have to. If it comes down to then that yes they actually do need a new piece of functionality or technology to solve that business goal.

Then they need to decide, okay so of the requirements that they’ve gathered and you know sometimes there can be hundreds, I walk away from clients with worksheets and worksheets of requirements, is it prioritise them and it’s based on that prioritisation both from a technology functional perspective, but also from an implementation process perspective. Take a look at the skill sets you have in-house, do you have what you need to be able to execute and leverage the tool that you’re implementing because if you don’t, you either need to hire or train and finding a partner who can facilitate that is really important. So looking for both pieces of the puzzle, the technology and who’s going to help you implement and integrate that solution into your landscape is really, really important.

Once you’ve got all that together, then it’s time to start sending out and reaching out to possible partners that meet the criteria. So looking at the vendors, looking at their partners if they have them or their implementation team and figuring out the best way of approaching. At Digital Clarity Group, we’re all about not casting a net too wide. So really narrowing down, trying to identify three or four that will really fit the need and dig deep into those and then move on to an RFP selection and eventual selection from there.

CM: I have a question that may be a little from left field, but I know that we as a firm, bidding in the marketplace, are increasingly running into automated systems that kind of put us at an arm’s lengths from the buyer and I think that this is all being done in the name of efficiency and as a buyer I can see why I might want to do that just to protect my time and so forth. What do you think of the role of some of the automated procurement solutions being brought into the buying scenario.

CMc: You know what, I think a lot of that depends on the size of the organisation. The larger the organisation, I think the more important it is to ensure that you have, maybe not IT’s blessing, but certainly giving them awareness. When you look at cloud solutions things that don’t need to be installed on premise and particularly if there’s little to no interoperability. If it’s a one-off solution where it really doesn’t need to tie in with the rest of the systems, then going off and procuring and executing on the new platform as a marketing team, you know it’s not going to cause too many ripples, but marketing platform tend to work best when they’re integrated with other solutions. So whether it’s a content management system, where it’s a digital asset management system, eCom, PIM, you know and whenever you start crossing the lines from an interoperability perspective, when you start needing to connect systems to together to talk one, understanding the difference between the systems of engagement versus the systems of record, it’s really important to make sure all of the stakeholders, not just those who are going to be the end users of the tool, but those who might have to maintain and provide some of the support are involved in the decision-making process.

CM: So sometimes marketing and IT are like oil and water or cats and dogs, choose use your analogy. Do you think that IT needs to be involved in these kinds of technology decisions?

CMc: Yeah, I think they do and as I mentioned just the larger the organisation and the more interoperability, the more connectivity between different systems that the new platform or solution is going to have to have, you absolutely need to connect with IT. To go off and do it rogue, is only going to cause problems in the long run. We’ve seen really good relationships being built between the marketing and IT group. Marketing doesn’t want to own technology, they want to use technology, they want to have the technology they need to execute, but they’re quite happy to have IT actually maintain, so it needs to be this symbiotic relationship where they’re working together to achieve the goals of the business partner and in this case marketing. So engaging them in what they’re doing in the selection process, but driving the process themselves as opposed you know, kowtowing to either IT or to the procurement team to make sure they get the solution that they need is really important.

CM: Well thank you so much, Cathy for sharing these insights today. I think you’ve given a lot of very pragmatic, well-grounded advice to marketing teams that need to bring in technologies. The rate of this is going to be ever increasing as it has for more things like competitive computing and big data and just so many technologies that are coming to bear and marketing’s role in making technology deficient is only going to go up. So we want them to do it well and to select products and vendors that support them over the long run and in a very comprehensive way. So thank you so much for these insights, I know you have other podcasts that you’ve done on related topics. So we want to encourage our listeners to look at our full selection and turn to other podcasts by Digital Clarity Group, thank you so much.

CMc: Thanks Connie, have a great day.

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