Technology has been transforming every aspect of our working and personal lives. Now we find ourselves entering a new pace of change that requires us not only to react but also fundamentally change the way we operate. Whether we like it or not, it’s huge, scary, and unavoidable.
This poses a number of tremendous challenges for CMOs. They need to understand the impact of new consumer-facing tech, but, besides that, they also need to adjust their marketing strategies to the new technology and services available to them.
Clients are rightly pushing us, and we’re pushing ourselves, to be the best we can be. To stay ahead of the competition, we have to adopt technology that makes us better and more efficient.
And it’s not just a case of figuring out what you need and looking through reviews. You need to implement the technology within existing working practices, which makes the choice of tools not just a question of quality, but of whether it actually fits your specific needs.
If you get it wrong, it hurts—potentially millions of dollars are wasted; your employees have had to get to grips with a new tool, only to find that it doesn’t fit and they’re forced to fall back onto existing processes; and then they cynically await the next “shiny new thing” they’ll be forced to use.
To avoid getting burned, you need an effective framework—a process through which you can weigh up the technologies out there, figure out their suitability, and ask the right questions. And you need the right partners, who can guide your decision making as a second pair of eyes.
Building A Framework And The Power Of Checklists
When you’re inundated with technology vendors, service providers, and consultancies all promising you “the next big thing,” you constantly run the risk of buying something unsuitable, incompatible, or even broken.
Looking beyond the surface claims of the vendors, the opinions of strangers on the internet, and what it says on the box is a crucial part of managing this risk. Having a framework you can apply to every project and new technology you acquire allows you to do this in a structured and consistent way.
The beauty of our industry is that it’s evolving into a data-driven industry. We can use data science to prove our decisions are the right ones. If you’ve got a list of criteria you can match the tool against, you can not only identify potential problems, but also quantify the level of risk involved.
At the simplest level, it can take the form of a checklist. You could have a list of questions to ask the vendor and yourself so that you can tally up how useful and relevant it is.
- Where does this decision fit within our wider business strategy?
- Do I know exactly where this tool will fit in our existing working practices?
- What kind of support do we have?
- What problems do other people face when using this tool?
A more advanced process would include liaising with key stakeholders, running trials, and evaluating the wider market.
A global study found that doctors who use checklists when treating their patients saw serious complications drop by 4% and death rates drop by 0.7%. It goes to show that having a consistent process is a life-saver, both figuratively and literally.
Finding The Right Partners
CIOs are only successful at around 40% to 60% of their projects … Think about that for a second. The technology experts who have built a career using and implementing technology, who have reached the most senior level of their craft, fail about half of the time.
When CMOs enter this territory, the success/fail ratio is much worse. Technology people tend to think and speak in a different language to the rest of us, and if you don’t share that understanding, you’re going to struggle to weigh different tech options.
Failure isn’t just a possibility in this space. It’s actually pretty likely. And we need to be conscious of this.
You simply can’t go it alone with million-dollar decisions. Even if you are tech-savvy enough to code a C compiler with your hands tied behind your back, you simply can’t make these decisions without a second pair of (knowledgeable) eyes.
You need partners—people who are both experts in technology and who deeply understand your organisation and its needs.
Finding people who meet both those criteria can be difficult. But start with expertise, and focus on locating someone who knows uniquely about technology within your field (i.e. martech). Then get them to liaise with someone who truly understands your organisation, your marketing processes, and your staff.
That fresh perspective from a third-party expert can help you break down assumptions that you’ve consciously or unconsciously made and opened up options that you didn’t know existed.
And sometimes it’s as simple as having that second pair of eyes that can make sure you’ve covered all your bases. Having someone who can interrupt you and ask: “What’s your plan for this?” prompting you to re-evaluate where this decision fits within your wider strategy, can be immeasurably valuable.
New technology is inherently risky. Its complexity makes it somewhat of a “black box”—you understand what it does, but you don’t necessarily understand how it works or how it fits.
Combining a strong risk framework with effective and engaged partners is the best way to avoid getting burned by “bad tech” and staying ahead of the curve on this fascinating, ever-changing journey.