In "The Art of Choosing", Columbia University Business School professor Sheena Iyengar has written about the potential analysis paralysis when faced with too many choices, and the dilemmas we face when having to make decisions. "We're often called upon to make decisions for which there are no clear 'right' or 'best' choices…What are we to do when we're not able to act, or all the answers are wrong…"
A few weeks ago, after having a delicious meal at a highly-rated Disney restaurant in Orlando, it was time to decide on a dessert. There were so many choices, that it became difficult to arrive at a decision. Should I go for the Tiramisu or the Crème Brule or both? Ultimately, I assuaged my small concern by reminding myself that I could revisit the dessert area of the buffet (masked up of course) without this continuing to be a source of consternation.
And while I'm adding a tad of hyperbole to the decision around my vacation dessert, I realized that what I experienced was something that we as human beings have the potential to face whenever we are confronted with a plethora of choices - some degree of analysis paralysis.
The complexity of the modern martech stack threatens us with a similar level of paralysis. A smaller Marketing budget doesn't equate with a Digital Marketing leader having to make fewer choices when deciding what areas of a martech stack to invest in. The annual Gartner CMO Spend Survey showed Marketing budgets being squeezed in every industry in 2021. And yet, with diminished Marketing budgets, how does a leader ensure that (amongst a sea of choices), all her choices are not wrong when deciding what's next?
One approach is to use a framework to identify the capabilities you desire rather than trying to achieve functional parity with competitors or peers. For marketing technology, three areas are key to consider:
Capability: Do you have the resources to leverage the technology effectively today and are you building these resources for your future needs?
Data: Do you have the data that martech needs to operate and are you able to access it?
Utilization: Are you buying and using technology to meet defined business outcomes, and are those goals aligned with the broader business?
For greater detail, see "Identifying the Most Critical Components of Your MarTech Stack", (Gartner subscription required) for recommendations for creating a structured approach for defining success of new capabilities. It also provides a recommended plan for how your organization can develop new or advanced capabilities.
Did you know that only half of respondents to the martech survey perform an audit before updating their martech roadmap? This single process is impactful - those who routinely (always or most of the time) perform an audit prior to updating their roadmap were much more likely to report that their martech stack was effective at meeting business objectives and that technology is aligned with desired capabilities.
This isn't something that should be a daily activity, though the precise cadence for auditing your martech stack is up to you. Our experts advise that organizations should aim for 2-4 times per year as the "sweet spot." Beyond the value that your audit will provide to maintaining your martech roadmap, it can help streamline vendor selection and identify areas to target for cost optimization.
Gartner's toolkit for performing an audit of your martech stack (Gartner subscription required)provides a template that you and your team can populate to conduct such an audit. Once you have conducted your audit (using our toolkit or your own format) and have an inventory of your martech tools, a Gartner expert can review this artifact and provide feedback in a document review inquiry. Contact your service partner to arrange such a discussion.
Budgets can wax and wane depending on the vicissitudes of an economy, industrial outlook and individual organizational performance. A pressure-tested martech strategy that 'stands the test of time' requires that one embraces the present martech configuration, along with its respective strengths and weaknesses. And yet it is equally important to adopt a forward looking perspective that acknowledges a continued focus on data discovery, analysis, and integration so that one can scale and deliver ROI.