MarTech, as a system, is influenced by the environment it lives in and, at the same time, affects that same environment. We can call these influences forces, and these forces can impact the system in both positive and negative ways.
In addition, the forces can come from inside the system and the external environment. All these interactions cause motion in the design, a constant state change.
Every part affects the other, also called harmony.
In this system, the significant parts are People, Processes, Technology and, last but not least, Data. Each element has its wavelength and its dynamic. Of course, the environment, which, similarly to the MarTech system, has its natural movement.
In the end, we have a combination of elements that move together. The aim is to orchestrate all the movements harmoniously so that the system performs efficiently.
People: two different but essential groups
Every MarTech system has two main groups of people: The group that operates the system, the marketers and technologists, and the customers, who benefit from the output of the system.
Marketers and Technologists are looking for career growth and new learning. They imagine new messaging and campaigns; they want to push the limits of the platforms but also want to understand their audience better. As an operator group, they want to minimize errors and risks and maximize rewards. They act as individuals and also as teams. They try to automate processes as much as possible and also keep the element human as present as possible.
This group navigates the system; they are the ones that set the direction of the motion with the help of the other three pieces; Processes, Technology, and Data.
Conversely, an audience is a group of people who receive the system's message. Their movement is complex; they generally interact with multiple similar systems simultaneously, so their attention span is limited and scarce. They might be composed of numerous subgroups, each one with different dynamics. Despite all the operators' efforts, the audience's behaviour is generally unpredictable, and the best we can do as operators is capture data and learnings to guess better the next time we interact with them.
Ultimately, the system exists for this group, and their behaviour will always keep shaping and reshaping the system.
Processes: the templated solutions for known problems
As every MarTech practice evolves, processes are either adopted or created. There are plenty of well-known processes in Marketing, such as campaign ideations or audience segmentation. And so there are processes known in the technology area, like systems integrations, landing page creations, or content tagging, to name a few that will sound familiar.
All these processes have emerged as a solution to repeating problems or challenges. And as with every system, whenever an issue reveals a pattern, a template for its solution is created so we can use it and reuse it. And this is what we can call a process.
However, no matter how well-designed a process is, there's always space for optimization, mainly because the patterns shown previously at every issue can have variations. The functions should be refactored or adjusted. Again, there's motion in processes; they're not static pieces and must be constantly reviewed, and some must be sunset while others might be created.
Process changes cause internal movement, reorganization, and adjustments that are not visible to the exterior but can impact how the system behaves, sometimes making it more efficient and sometimes less responsive to the exterior stimulus.
Technology: at the edge, middle and back of the stack
It couldn't be more intriguing and passionate at the same time. Everywhere we look, a new piece of Technology is emerging, or a mainstream system is being optimized or refactored to adapt to new demands.
The sense of motion in Technology is that it may go faster than many of us can even comprehend. Sometimes new features are launched, and existing features are extended without us noticing. We can look at the macro or the micro level, and we will find an overwhelming amount of changes in Technology that are breathtaking.
Putting all this in the simplest terms, Technology advances fast at the edge of the MarTech system. In the middle of the system, progress is less fast-paced but only allows a little time for contemplation too, and at the back end of the stack, the changes are slower, but they can be game changers.
In summary, nothing denotes more the sense of motion in a MarTech stack than the technological changes. But it is also imperative to understand when and which of all these changes must or should be adopted.
Data: what traverses the system inside out
Data is the element that flows through the MarTech system. Though we can initially think of it as only being composed of "Customer Data", the truth is that what impacts the strategies in how it performs goes beyond this subset. It also includes the pieces of information that we can extract from the environment, the internal interactions of the different elements of the system and even from other systems connected to the MarTech stack.
Customer Profiles, Operational Logs, Campaign Metadata, Budgets, Historical Performance, Industry Standards, Product Details, Social Behaviour, and Geographical datasets are examples of some of the different shapes Data can take in a MarTech system.
There's one intuitive motion or dynamic that Data tends to make us think of growth. But other essential considerations are equally as relevant as the increase in volume. Data also deteriorates; it gets dated or even invalid if the environment where it was captured no longer exists or changes drastically. And there's one particularly relevant aspect of data that gets many times overlooked. As we tend to aggregate more and more data, it tends to "hide" other pieces, and data also "darken". To be valid and valuable, Data needs context, and context is constantly changing; this is the most complex dynamic in the MarTech system.
One of the exciting parts of working in MarTech is that we're dealing with highly dynamic and complex systems that generate motion from the inside and the outside. Every team looking after this critical piece in any organization should examine these elements and how their particular movements can affect the rest.
Generally, these forces should aim to generate forward motion. But if the friction exceeds the impulse, the movement will be imperceptible and the progress meaningless. The question is: What are these frictions? How can we prevent them? How can we overcome them?
In my experience, the most significant friction comes from the fear of change that principally affects the element of the system known as People. Another source of conflict is needing to be more flexible or well-defined Processes. In the Technology element, not planning or not having a strategy generally creates unbelievable amounts of friction that typically paralyzes the system. Finally, not understanding how Data works can generate such levels of conflict that could block progress and even break the system.
There needs to be a One-template-recipe or magic solution to all these problems, but understanding that your MarTech is a highly dynamic system is the first step. Your organization must look after the People, continuously improve the Processes and design for change, plan and understand that Technology is not a silver bullet, and create a culture of data that will help you get close to a MarTech that helps change things for the better.