Are you distracted by shiny object syndrome? Does new technology for analytics or marketing distract you from foundational issues?

It is all too common for our novelty bias to get the better of us. That is why so much is shared about tips to master digital distraction.

Because this is such a pressing issue, I am delighted to welcome a new guest blogger, Simon Daniels. Simon has a wealth of experience in marketing technology. This includes client-side roles leading Marketing & Sales teams.

So, he is well placed to both identify the risks of shiny new marketing technology & to point us in the right direction. Encouragingly, for data/insight/analytics leaders, that means focussing on the data. So, you might want to share this post with your CMO.

Over to Simon to share his warning about shiny object syndrome…

Diagnosing Shiny Object Syndrome

The redoubtable Scott Brinker made reference to “shiny object syndrome” as long ago as 2014.  It’s been a recurring theme for him since (and probably before). Scott is otherwise known as Chief Marketing Technologist, editor of the eponymous blog and creator of the widely referenced Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic. He used the phrase in a post describing the intertwining of strategy, marketing and technology.

More generally, he was referring to the tendency, or risk, for marketers to be drawn to exciting new marketing technology. But, without giving sufficient thought to the rationalisation and business case for its adoption. There is certainly no shortage of options as the landscape graphic attests. It’s easy to be persuaded that one more tool will make all the difference. Will replacing an existing one (especially marketing automation) be the answer?

There’s no shame in incorporating new MarTech into your stack, if it drives your marketing forwards in some way. As Scott writes, the relationship between strategy and tech is circular, with one driving the other, rather than being linear.

CRM itself, when it began to be adopted in the nineties, was a response to the desire for companies to strive for greater personalisation at scale. Despite early faltering steps this has steadily been realised. Technology made this possible. Tech drove CRM adoption, but the underlying imperative was always there.

How to avoid Shiny Object Syndrome

Build it and they will come” though is not the appropriate approach.

When contemplating the adoption (or replacement) of any technology, it’s imperative to invest the time to establish your requirements. Evaluating the ability of each solution to meet your specific needs. Requirements capture should involve as wide a representation of stakeholders as possible. It should span functionality, process, governance, business rules, training and change implications. The best requirements definition will result from working with the relevant people across teams.  Not just Sales and Marketing, but also IT, Finance and perhaps Operations as applicable.

Using a range of discovery techniques can help tease out the various ‘use cases‘ across the business. Workshops featuring brainstorming, sizing and voting are certainly a good starting point. As is using surveys, interviews and user observation to draw on alternative perspectives.

Where a brand new solution is being proposed, there may be no frame of reference for new requirements. So create a prototype or proof of concept to help obtain feedback and suggestions. These approaches can trigger fresh thinking. They help involve people with different working styles and preferences with the project.

Going public with your requirements

Once your requirements have been collected and documented, you’re in a position to share them with your (not too long!) list of potential solution providers and invite their response. However, also remember to involve all affected stakeholders. Consider process and change impacts. But, there is one other critical aspect to consider, and that’s data!

It’s all too easy to assume that management and delivery of data and analytics is a given in any marketing technology solution. But these should in fact be the starting point for your solution evaluation.

Think about data to choose your Marketing Technology solution

Here are some key points to keep in mind about data:

1. Source

Where will data for the new system be originating? How will it be transferred or migrated and what state is it in? Understand existing data structures, metadata (including aspects such as pick-lists). Identify any transformation or reconditioning that may be required. All this is crucial to ensuring any new system is properly specified and configured.

Otherwise you may implement a new platform and then discovering that it is unable to accommodate existing data. It might require extensive additional development to do so. Discovering that during implementation, is not going to contribute to a successful deployment.

2. Integration

Building on where the data is coming from, how will a new system connect to existing data stores? Most replacement solutions won’t  need to connect to a predecessor (although this might help with migration). But, a business intelligence tool will need to integrate with existing data sources. These could include CRM, marketing automation or web analytics platforms.

Any good modern solution will have an API to enable it to be connected with others. But, check the one you’re evaluating does and that it has the capabilities necessary.

3. Analytics

Depending on the type of solution, its ability to provide appropriate reporting, metrics and analysis is crucial. BI, visualisation and modelling tools provide this functionality. But, check the ability of other systems like CRM, marketing automation and website management. Usually these types of tools have some functionality built-in and often it’s at the more basic end of the spectrum. Will you be able to obtain the analytics you need? Referring back to the integration point, should you consider whether it will be possible to connect a dedicated tool?

4. Access

Beyond analytics, what are the data access needs for the new system? This can be thought of as determining who has access to the data? The extent of that access and any ability to download it. Applying granular privileges means that appropriate levels of access can be granted. Given to staff in particular functions, geographies and levels of seniority. Such access can also include whether data can be extracted, which should usually be restricted unless there is a strong business need.

These access privileges in particular are even more pertinent now due to GDPR. Security and access restrictions are a key tenet of that regulation.

5. Data governance

Management of the availability, usability, integrity and security of data throughout its lifecycle. In other words, data governance, has long been held as a crucial element in any successful system deployment. At one point, analyst firm Gartner predicted that more than 50% of CRM deployments suffered limited acceptance, if not outright failure, because of a lack of attention to data quality.

In a sense this overarches all of the data aspects previously discussed. Defining a governance framework should form the bedrock of any system deployment. As Gartner make clear, close attention should be given to data quality (“integrity”). Not only when populating a new system, but on an ongoing basis as well.

Shiny object syndrome is certainly to be avoided. But, building and maintaining a cutting edge marketing technology stack is crucial. Essential to modern marketing success. Inevitably, this is a never-complete undertaking as innovation drives new opportunities and imperatives. Central to this success though is the data that will be at the heart of almost any MarTech solution. It must not be overlooked, regardless of how dull it may seem.

Do you suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome?

Data, dull? I don’t know what you mean, Simon?! Seriously, though, many thanks for sharing a marketing technology leader’s perspective.

Having read Simon’s diagnosis, do you identify with those who get too transfixed on the technology? What could you do differently to avoid falling into the trap of Shiny Object Syndrome?

It might help to take a few minutes right now to make a quick note of your initial response to Simon’s 5 key points. That should give you a checklist to help hone your own priorities.

Best wishes with identifying where you should invest in your Marketing Technology. Let us know if you change your mind as a result of this advice.