- Many b-to-b organizations are plagued by “shiny new car syndrome” and purchase new technologies that they don’t have the resources to manage
- Buying new technology is only the beginning – organizations need a sound strategy for implementation
- Marketing operations can take the lead on driving the tech roadmap, helping the organization understand its needs and make decisions appropriately
These days, b-to-b marketing operations teams have a wide range of responsibilities, from overseeing lead management processes to leading analytics and measurement. Another essential part of the team’s job is often to own and optimize the marketing technology stack – and with the dizzying array of tempting tools and convincing vendors out there, many organizations struggle.
Along with Jacques Begin, research director at SiriusDecisions, I recently spoke with Tom Kahana about the vital role of marketing operations and how b-to-b organizations can optimize their technology through sound purchasing decisions and strong implementation processes. Kahana, who is currently senior director, marketing operations and demand generation at Boston-based data automation science provider DataRobot, believes that marketing automation and other technologies are the ticket to improved processes – but only if supported by solid strategy.
In what ways do organizations commonly fail when acquiring and implementing new technologies?
Tom Kahana: “Shiny new car syndrome” is a real problem. When considering a technology, you need to understand what you are acquiring and why you need it, and you must develop a strategy around the technology’s acquisition.
Once you’ve bought the technology, you need to execute on that strategy. I see many companies sitting on pieces of technology that they have but cannot properly implement because they lack the necessary bandwidth. In general, you’re better off not putting that new technology in place than attempting to do so and failing miserably because you didn’t have the right resources.
Too many people rush it. They haven’t thrown the right resources behind their new technology implementation to make it successful, and that’s a recipe for disaster.
To select the right vendors, I definitely do research and leverage companies like SiriusDecisions to narrow down the list before even speaking with any providers to make sure I’m approaching the right ones. I also spend a lot of time talking to peers whose opinions we value to get a sense of what they are doing, why they are doing it, and what struggles they face with their technology purchases.
How should a marketing operations organization establish itself as the gatekeeper of technology, process and strategy?
Tom Kahana: Ideally, the marketing operations organization already serves as strategic advisors to the rest of the organization – helping the Web team by noting potential areas of improvement and advising the demand gen team on a possible new approach to try, for example.
In one of my previous roles, my team was able to fill this need. We had great support from organizational leadership, which made it easy to then make the argument that all technology decisions should come through us as the single source. The transition happened quickly and seamlessly because everyone saw the need. For example, we had three separate video platforms purchased by different teams and used in different ways. This duplication can be prevented by having marketing operations serve as the gatekeeper.
What are the keys to building a great technology roadmap?
Tom Kahana: Of course, the answer is different at every company because everyone has different needs. But usually, the first thing I want to do as the leader of marketing operations is get an understanding of the company’s goals. Then, I need to develop an understanding of how the marketing organization can support that, as well as an understanding of what infrastructure needs to be in place beforehand.
As an example, in a previous role we started an initiative to start doing account-based marketing (ABM). However, we didn’t have necessary structure in place to do reporting on ABM. We needed to assess our needs, then build priorities around that before getting demos from vendors. In this case, we had very limited lead scoring, manual assignment rules, and no data cleansing or data automation.
Building a technology roadmap is always a balance – you must have all of the basics in place before you can buy the fancy technologies. Understand where you are and what your needs are – and build out from there.