I was running late for a meeting during a recent trip to India and considered all of the transportation options available: Ola, Uber, Riksha, merutTaxi and more. How do you pick one from a crowd?  

It struck me that many businesses are facing this same challenge in digital resources — finding the right talent to drive results and goals. For example, a client I’d been working with on digital strategy posed an interesting question, "Should we hire someone for a MarTech role?"  

MarTech, or Marketing Technology, has become a position that corporations and marketing organizations around the world look to fill. But the people applying for this new position come with a wide variety of roles, skills, expertise and objectives. It’s a complex, diverse world.  

So in order to answer the question, we need to first unpack it.

Why Hire for MarTech

Let’s look at the why first — why hire someone to lead MarTech?

So many forces are disrupting the traditional relationship between IT and line of business. It went from “I need something, go buy or build it for me” to “I'll just sign up for a cloud offering.” This is leading to a number of new 'solutions' being acquired without real process or long-term oversight.

To remain a competitive enterprise today requires a myriad of technologies, marketing, content, analysis and more. It's not simple. So the industry coined MarTech a few years back to lump all of the things happening in digital together.  

Now the what — if you hire, what should you look for?

When companies realized they lacked the coherence between the different parts of their business to navigate the pace of change and the variety of tools, they created a role (or roles) for someone to help navigate. This role focused on bringing the line of business together with the IT, Finance and Operations teams to help restore order in the chaos. 

Or, as a friend describes it, "trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again."

To do this effectively, the person needs awareness of what tools are available, what others are doing and the ability to quickly determine what is in the short- and long-term interests of the company and how to get everyone on the same page.  

Not an easy task.

Digital Takes More Than One Person (or Technology)

So I responded, ”Yes, you need someone to help your organization properly leverage the technology shifts happening. BUT, be wary." Not many people have 'tenure' in this role as it's still quite new. Even if well qualified today, the landscape keeps moving — all the time, every day.

Another point to consider is that no matter how qualified or how adaptable the candidate is to the changing landscapes, they won’t succeed unless the organization itself is ready to embrace and allow their success. Yep, in light of my years working at software firms, you may be surprised to hear me say, "you can't just buy some technology to solve the problem."

Technology is only one part of transformation. Adoption and changes to current process are also big factors.  

An example: putting in technology to allow for a personalized experience on your company’s website — easy.  

Actually defining and creating all the rules and content related to those experiences, NOT covered in the technology — not so easy.

Not to suggest you should slow down goals of where you want to go digitally — quite the opposite. Accelerating digital is something I push people to do. It's achievable, as long as you go in with open eyes.

A Cautionary Tale

Why is it critical? For example, a firm with minimal experience in MarTech brought in a supposed “expert” for this role to act as liaison between marketing and IT. Resume looked great, worked at agencies, managed large clients, knows names of some of the vendors in the space, etc. 

But because the firm didn’t have many other employees skilled in these areas, its ability to judge the candidate was flawed to start with. Then factor that in with it being a new role, with limited qualified candidates available ….

Nine months after bringing this expert on, the firm realized that beyond the 'names' of the vendors, the person didn't know anything about the capabilities, processes or best practices in the field. And most importantly, the person couldn’t link project needs with justifiable and measurable outcomes, instead taking a ‘it's cool and others are doing it’ approach.  

A caveat: Some great people are doing amazing things in this role. In some cases they’re  coming from the technology side, in others from the business or marketing side. These people share a few traits: they were always high performers in their given areas, they pushed the norms, and they always stayed focused on the right reasons to do a project vs. the 'glamor' factor. 

People in this role — whether successful or not — are in high demand as speakers, which furthers their 'desirability' and makes it even more difficult to determine their real skills.  

Now What? Take Your Time

So my final answer is this: Don’t rush in. For the time being, have the stakeholders work with your agency or systems integrator to see how they can help you. This will allow you to take the time to find the right person to help drive this forward.  

The failing fast and redirecting approach works in development, but not in hiring  — and especially not for a role as new as this. A shared resource approach is the only thing that I strongly believe will deliver on your unmet needs today.