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    How to boost operational maturity with strategic martech selection

    How to boost operational maturity with strategic martech selection

    As a senior leader, one of your core responsibilities is pushing your team’s operational maturity forward so you are ready to meet tomorrow’s challenges. Operational maturity refers to the optimization of your processes, systems and team members to deliver high-quality work efficiently and effectively. 

    Maturity models generally start with a novice category (ad hoc, siloed, reactive) and work their way up through intermediate levels to an apex at the expert level (predictable, integrated, continuously optimizing). Moving up the maturity scale isn’t about a vanity metric or keeping up with the Joneses. Even incremental improvements in maturity can make a real impact on the business. 

    One approach to advancing operational maturity is to focus on a tech-enabled path. This involves prioritizing, identifying and implementing the right technologies and tools to facilitate your marketing organization’s growth and provide the greatest return on your investment.

    Horse first, then cart

    Before you dive into a tech search or head straight for one of the many popular comparison tools, landscape reports or quadrant assessments, you must be clear on what you’re trying to achieve.

    Without a foundation in clear objectives (i.e., What return do you want to achieve from your increased maturity?), any technology investments risk potentially wasting valuable human and financial resources. Avoid a demotivated team and a closet full of abandonware by getting that strategic clarity first.

    Zooming out and up, if you don’t already have a mission and vision for your team and the larger organization that your team supports, start there. What is your core purpose, and what do you aspire to achieve? What does operational excellence look like for your team? 

    Once you’ve answered those questions, articulate the goals that will help you progress toward that vision. What specific metrics do you want to improve? Is it speed to market, reduced error or rework rates or on-time delivery? These goals should ladder up and align with the broader objectives of your organization and should be printed on t-shirts for all team members. (Hey, people love swag!)

    With your objectives and direction in place, you can:

    • Assess your current state of operational maturity against that vision and identify areas where technology can help you fill gaps.
    • Conduct an honest and comprehensive look at your processes, workflows and the existing technology stack.
    • Collect input from team members at all levels. (Hint: the closer to the work, the more actionable the input, so spend as much or more time with individual contributors and specialists than with managers and senior leaders.)
    • Listen for tales of inefficiencies, manual work, duplicated efforts and unnecessary complexity.

    Dig deeper: Beyond quadrants: An alternative approach to martech selection

    Once you have your goals and know your gaps, you can search for solutions. But keep the following principle in mind.

    It’s not about what a tool can mostly do, it’s about what you need done most

    The creative and marketing tech terrain is rich with shiny objects that can feel like an easy win. And, oh, the stories vendors tell about their capabilities and the ROI they deliver! When looking at any technology or tool, first consider how it aligns with your team’s current level of operational maturity, your desired future state and your objectives. 

    If it’s too advanced or complex for your team’s current capabilities, you’ll have to fight uphill for adoption. Too basic and it may not provide enough functionality to drive meaningful improvements. 

    Most importantly, look at tools that solve the gaps you have identified. This might sound obvious, but that is where ROI comes in. All the cool, buzzy new solutions and connectors can eat up your investment, but they can’t give you a return if they don’t address your issues. 

    Stay focused on tools that address your teams’ biggest pain points and have the greatest impact on the metrics you’ve defined. 

    Start at the beginning

    If your team is still using antiquated methods for project and approvals management (I’m looking at you, email!), your first step on the tech maturity ladder must be a work management tool

    A centralized single source of truth is table stakes for marketing and creative teams struggling to deliver a high volume of work on accelerated timelines (and who among you is not struggling with that?!). A work management tool like Asana, Trello or Workfront will be the foundation for building your tech ecosystem.

    If your team spends a lot of time on manual, repetitive tasks like resizing images or creating variations of designs, a digital asset management (DAM) system with automation capabilities might best meet your first goals. Tools like Bynder, Widen or AEM enable you to store, organize and distribute assets efficiently while automating common tasks. They work in concert with work management systems, and working teams generally actualize their benefits quickly.

    Toward the top of the maturity model, where optimization, automation and continuous improvement reign, data analytics and reporting technologies are the workhorses. Tools like Tableau, Looker or even Airtable can help you consolidate data from multiple sources, visualize trends and gain actionable insights into your team’s performance. These tools can connect and integrate so that you can leverage data to make real-time decisions about work in progress and to feed a more informed up-front planning process with your partners. 

    Dig deeper: How to choose the right martech partner: 6 practical tips

    Beware shiny things and little white exaggerations

    Throughout your tech maturity journey, look out for the “shiny thing” trap. Avoid niche software and tools that address only one small issue until you have built a solid base. Even then, think about whether that one small issue bubbled up to the level of your team’s core objectives. 

    Lastly, do your due diligence to ensure that the tool does what you think it does and what it says it does. Your professional network can come in handy for that — everyone loves to share their implementation successes and horror stories, so ask. Respectable vendors should also be able to provide references to customers with similar use cases to yours.

    Putting it together: The do’s and don’ts of martech selection

    Operational maturity is a journey, and marketing technology is an important vehicle for facilitating growth. By taking a strategic approach to technology selection and implementation, you can accelerate operational excellence and deliver greater lasting value to your organization. Remember these do’s and don’ts as you go.

    • Do: Start with a mission and vision for the team. 
    • Do: Create and align on objectives. 
    • Do: Articulate your desired future maturity state, honestly assess your current state and identify the gaps. Prioritize the gaps with the biggest impact potential. 
    • Don’t: Start thinking about technology solutions until this step!
    • Do: Have fun searching and playing with tools — there is a ton of cool stuff out there — but stay focused on the solutions that will fill your organization’s gaps. 
    • Don’t: Skip steps. Make sure you start your tech stack on a solid foundation, including work management.
    • Don’t: Let the shiny things distract you from what you need to deliver for the business.
    • Do: Trust but verify when it comes to vendor claims.

    By being intentional about your organization’s path to tech-enabled growth, you can prioritize, identify and implement technologies and tools that address your organization’s most important needs, fill in gaps and deliver the most impact to the business. Good luck!

    Dig deeper: Big players vs. niche specialists: Choosing your martech vendors


    The post How to boost operational maturity with strategic martech selection appeared first on MarTech.

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