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Martech Must-Read: Taking Stock of Your Stack

Stark Stack Realities
Frequently, our more technically focused client engagements start somewhere between your systems of record (or core IT*) and your systems of engagement (or fast IT*). Your systems of record include your enterprise resource planning (ERP), product information management (PIM), and the data associated with how you connect your supply and logistics to put products in a customer’s hands. Your systems of engagement, like your website, marketing automation, and so on, are how your customers interact with your brand and hopefully your systems of record somewhere down the line. And so, your martech stack is born.

Wow, that was easy—or was it? Probably not. For most large businesses, decisions about the systems of record and systems of engagement are made in two different rooms by two different groups of people. Imagine, if you will, that you were digging a tunnel with two groups of people starting at opposite ends and a plan to meet in the middle, but somehow, when both groups get to their midpoint, they are not lined up with the other group. Disastrous! I know, right?!

For smaller businesses, the decisions might be made by a committee of the same people but at different times in the business’s lifecycle, and as things gradually evolve (and they always evolve), suddenly everything comes undone. The undoing, which is often subtle, starts to break down your martech stack in small ways. Repetitive tasks to maintain the status quo, seemingly small customer complaints, slow performance, increased troubleshooting—they all add up.

Stacking Up!
There is a light at the end of this tunnel, and it doesn’t have to be an oncoming train. There are simple but effective planning exercises that can help you understand where you are and where you want to go, and always be mindful of those two big things: delighting your customers and growing your business. The process would go a little something like this:

  1. Invite the right stakeholders from across the business, and remember that tunnel that didn’t meet up. This will help prevent you from re-creating that scenario. You will want this to be a safe and honest space.
  2. Decide what you want and determine the requirements. (They might overlap, and that’s OK.)
    1. One set to delight your customers
    2. One set to grow and serve the business
  3. Map out your current stack. Create a map of how your stack (martech stack, digital ecosystem, whatever you would like to call it) is set up currently. Don’t forget to connect the systems with lines that show the data relationships.
  4. Identify the gaps. Where are the requirements not being met? How are the systems holding you back?
  5. Draw the ideal or future state stack. What would it look like if you were nailing every requirement?
  6. Review your options. What technologies will help you put your new stack together in a way that will be feasible to scale and maintain while delighting your customers and growing your business?
  7. Roadmap your priorities. When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority, so establish what will have the biggest impact with the least complexity. Do those things first. Then continue to evolve based on the requirements.
  8. Iterate. Get the band back together as often as you can to continue evolving the plan. Your business will change, the market will change, and your customers will change.
  9. Keep delighting customers. Keep growing your business.

 

1. Andy Singleton, “Unblock! A Guide to the New Continuous Agile,” http://www.continuousagile.com/unblock/ea_fast_it.html.