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You have found yourself at a crossroads when it comes to your marketing technology. The existing systems are not providing the intended results and you suspect you either need to add a new piece of technology or you need to replace one of your current systems with a different brand.

The vendor landscape for marketing platforms such as Customer Data Management, Content Management and Channel Orchestration is very competitive and vendors are constantly adding new functionality to compete; resulting in overlapping functionality between platform types. This overlap in functionality along with inconsistency in the terms used to describe system functionality is impacting the ability of marketing organizations to determine the functionality they actually need.

Additionally, we at Transparent Partners are seeing a trend where marketing budgets are constricting due to economic uncertainties and the justification criteria for technology investments has increased. More and more CMOs report that they are being expected to deliver more results with less resources. In either case, the ability to substantiate the need to invest in capital or operational improvements comes from having a clear understanding of current conditions within one’s marketing capabilities.


In our article “How to Achieve Better Performance from your Existing Tech Stack” we presented a set of key enablers for optimizing technology within your marketing ecosystem. In that article we outlined how these key enablers must be integrated in order to achieve desired performance within the marketing technology stack. In this article we will expand on the specific attributes associated with each of these enablers and provide more guidance on what to look for when assessing your marketing ecosystem.

The techniques described in these two articles can be used to identify improvements to existing capabilities, provide objective data when requesting new investments and most importantly, guide successful technology insertions.

New Tech – Not a Silver Bullet

We said it in the last article but it bears value in repeating it here.

Contrary to popular belief, technology alone does not solve most problems. In fact, our experience has found that technology in absence of other key enablers will lead to further disappointment and frustration. At Transparent Partners, we encourage our clients to think about the holistic capabilities required to achieve marketing and business outcomes.
What do we mean by capabilities? Capabilities are an organization’s capacity to complete tasks or achieve desired outcomes (channel activations, creative content, etc). Capabilities are realized through a combination of enablers that include clearly defined business processes, executed by competent people, that understand their roles and responsibilities all enabled by reliable technology and data infrastructure.

Please refer to “How to Achieve Better Performance from your Existing Tech Stack” for information on how these enablers work together to enable marketing outcomes.

Understanding your Current Capabilities

Whether you are confident that an investment is required or just trying to understand your options, a sound understanding of the capabilities you require and the degree to which your people, processes, organization and infrastructure enable these capabilities is paramount to achieving technology performance. This sound understanding of your business and functional requirements is foundational to the success of any project, no matter the size or scope. Performing a quick inventory and assessment of your marketing capabilities in the following areas will help you gain this understanding:

Processes Utilization

A lengthy process engineering endeavor is not required at this point. The goal here is to understand the role processes play in the current operation and the degree to which marketing business processes are defined, understood and utilized to support your marketing outcomes. Things to look for:

  1. Presence of Documented Processes
  2. Degree to which these processes are known and accessible by the team
  3. Frequency in which processes are followed to perform marketing functions
  4. The existence of process measurement and improvement mechanisms
  5. Alignment between processes and current technology configurations. Verify that current technical configurations enable current processes and that these configurations do not in force the users to work outside of the intended processes.

Workforce Expertise

Review your talent pool; both internal staff and contracted support to understand the degree to which these people are equipped to effectively support the planning, execution, and measurement of marketing activations. Important characteristics include:

  1. Ability to select the appropriate marketing tactics to achieve desired results
  2. Ability to personalize communications across specific channels
  3. Ability to plan and support omni-channel communications
  4. Sufficient qualified resources to support current demand
  5. Ability to plan and execute channel communications
  6. Ability to create and interpret channel performance results and recommend changes to current tactics based on these results
  7. Proficiency of your staff in configuring and using your existing marketing systems and services.
  8. The presences of a motivated technical operations team charged with ensuring marketing systems are configured and maintained to provide optimal functionality and performance.

Organization and Culture

Review your organization, its structure and culture to determine if the members of the marketing and supporting organizations understand their individual and collective contribution to delivering and customer communications. Look for the presence of enabling organizational discipline that provides the necessary leadership, and structure required for effective customer engagements. Important characteristics include:

  1. The degree to which members of the organization understand their individual roles and responsibilities in support of marketing activities
  2. The degree to which members of the organization understand the desired business outcomes intend by individual customer communications
  3. The degree to which members of the organization are exposed to business / product owner leadership and the leadership’s involvement in marketing activities
  4. The degree to which members of the marketing organization understand the roles and responsibilities of the other teams associated with their individual marketing activities.
  5. The degree to which members of the organization understand the current business goals and objectives established by the lines of business and products they support with marketing products and services.
  6. The degree to which members of the marketing organization understand the current goals and objectives established by their own organization

Tech and Data Infrastructure

Working with your technology and systems operations teams develop an understanding of the degree to which the infrastructure and services within the ecosystem are configured to support efficient and effective campaign activations. This exercise can be the most challenging as many organizations tend to invest in the flashy and existing functionality while failing to heed the call for more foundational infrastructure. IT experts can be sensitive to questions that could be perceived as criticism. It is best to have an open dialogue with the IT experts to gain their advice on how well the current infrastructure is positioned to support your business needs. Ask your IT experts to help you understand how well are you positioned in the following areas:

  1. Systems configured to support real time data sharing
  2. Systems configured to support event based integrations
  3. Systems configured to support event driven channel communications
  4. Systems configured to support omni-channel communications
  5. Systems are configured to support personalized, 1:1 communications
  6. Systems are configured to support federated, unified data
  7. Existence of systems and services that provide the functionality required to perform this workstream.

Customer Data Management

Customer data is the raw material that fuels any customer engagement and B2C communications absent accurate and timely data can be detrimental to customer relations and loyalty. With a thorough understanding of the ability of your organization and its people to deliver effective marketing communications, review the data within your existing ecosystem to look for potential changes. Today, marketers require data and data services that are configured to create, manage and expose customer data for use in real time, omni-channel, personalized, 1:1 communications. Important characteristics include:

  1. The existence of a federated, unified customer data store that is the single source of truth for customer identity
  2. The enrichment of customer profiles by connecting / matching customer interactions and behaviors to their profile in the customer data store
  3. The adoption of an enterprise information management structure that defines the plans, processes, policies, technologies and people aimed at managing and protecting data as a critical resource within the organization
  4. The ability for data consumers to locate, understand and consume customer data for use in analytics, customer insights, segmentation and communications.
  5. The existence of a federated, unified customer activity and communications data store that is the single source of truth for customer engagement data.
  6. The existence of the customer activity and communications data required to perform this workstream effectively

Existing Martech Systems

With a thorough understanding of the ability of your organization, its people, infrastructure and data to enable marketing operations, now we can zero in on the functionality provided by existing systems. It is important to look with an eye to how the systems should be used rather than just how well the system is performing as configured. Some things to look for are:

  1. Verify that there is alignment between marketing processes and current technology configurations. The current technical configurations must enable current processes and these configurations should not not force the users to work outside of the intended processes.
  2. The systems have been updated to the latest available version of the software and operating systems. Technology vendors are continually updating the functionality they provide to remain competitive.
  3. The system is not being used for functions or workloads not directly supported by the vendor. Very often users will force a system to do operations in which the system is not designed. It is ok to fully utilize technology and to maximize its utilization but overzealous customization can be detrimental to the performance of the system.
  4. Connectivity between the subject systems and other systems and services. The connectivity and data share mechanisms should be using the latest secure protocols.
  5. Data exchanges between the subject systems and other systems and services should be configured to ensure data in your system is updated to meet marketing objectives. Communications activated based on outdated customer purchase data will not encourage customer loyalty.

Document your Findings

Compile your findings into a set of clear, objective statements about what was observed. Include the good and bad points. This data set serves as the initial set of business and functional requirements for the Marketing organization.

  1. Create an Inventory of your current technology. Include a list of all systems both operated for marketing and those that provide or receive data from these systems.
  2. Document the business processes that the technology shall be configured to support.
  3. Document the business rules and regulations that govern your systems and data.
  4. Create a high level diagram or graphic that depicts the organizations within Marketing as well as those organizations that Marketing supports as well as those that support marketing.
  5. Document the functions required by your organization both existing and those not yet supported.


The Sales and Marketing technology landscape is rapidly changing with a multitude of new functionalities and integrations being added by vendors. However, very few organizations fully utilize all the functionality provided by their current vendor and are likely not to do so with a new vendor. Additionally, any technology that is implemented without a tightly coupled combination of clearly defined business processes, executed by competent people, that understand their roles and responsibilities all enabled by reliable technology and data infrastructure is likely to achieve less than desired results. Transparent Partners can assist your team in providing a holistic inventory of your existing capabilities and to identify solutions to performance challenges that may not require new technology.

In John’s next article, “Measuring Marketing Ecosystem Maturity” he will introduce Transparent Partner’s Martech Maturity Model.

John Lillard, Sr. Director, Technology