The road heading toward the Capitol Building in Washington, DC.
PHOTO: Ian Hughes

A technology business plan isn't any good without a roadmap. A marketing technology (martech) roadmap can help marketers support business strategies. "Teams now have the possibility to use an extremely wide array of technological tools in the deployment of their digital marketing activities," said Niccolò Pisani, assistant professor of international management at the University of Amsterdam, in a McKinsey & Company report last year. "The challenge for companies is to choose the right kind of martech infrastructure for their business needs and use it to create a data-driven culture that embraces experimentation and continuous learning."

Challenges in the Martech Future

So how do you manage a marketing technology roadmap? Of course, one of the biggest challenges is looking ahead itself. Can marketers do that with the intense burden of producing pipeline and revenue? Isn't martech too fickle to make long-term plans? “I think the biggest challenge for practitioners and buyers is how to develop long-term plans,” said Carl Agers, executive vice president of strategy for Hero Digital. “With clients looking at a five-plus-year view, the movements in the market come with big questions. Especially as the platforms are trying to increase their footprint with broader digital ecosystems, companies have to decide how safe it is to put too many eggs in one basket.”

Turns out, it is a good thing to have a mature martech roadmap, indeed. Gartner found in its Marketing Technology Survey 2019 that “marketing organizations with higher martech roadmap maturity — evidenced by a formalized roadmap or an agile planning approach — report greater martech effectiveness.”

Related Article: How Do You Build a Marketing Technology Roadmap Today?

Marketers Not Planning Far Enough in Advance

The problem? Most marketers simply don’t craft a roadmap deep enough into the future. According to Gartner’s findings, 78% of marketers say their roadmaps don’t extend beyond 18 months. It’s not as if they are completely ignoring the needs of their martech stacks. In fact, 65% of reporting updating their martech roadmaps at least once a quarter. “This accounts,” Gartner researchers Benjamin Bloom and Charles Govin reported, “for the speed with which both marketing technology and consumer behavior evolve as the pace of digital business continues to pick up." Another 24% do it semiannually and 10% annually. 

Continuous Feedback Is Crucial

How often you update your martech roadmap can certainly vary. What happens inside of the program and how the team collaborates is even more critical, said Michael Lewis, a martech architect for The Nature Conservancy, whose team is in the midst of a 5-year martech roadmap plan, which they are calling their digital transformation project. The planning and continuous feedback loops regarding martech strategy is critical, he said.

Lewis is a martech developer with a background in design and accessibility, systems integration and project management. Into year three now on their digital transformation project, major implementation projects so far have included Web Content Management (WCM), Digital Asset Management (DAM), marketing automation and CRM.  “It’s the continuous feedback that’s important throughout the entire project,” Lewis told CMSWire. “Part of the problem is, marketers have tasks that they're doing every day. So we’re taking time from what they’re doing to come in and stand up with us.” 

Related Article: Managing Your Martech Stack in a World of Constant Flux

Putting People and Requirements in Place

And therein lies one of the biggest considerations for the martech roadmap: getting the right people in place and making the effort valuable for each and every stakeholder, according to Lewis. “The hurdles that you need to overcome are getting the proper requirements, and the right people sitting at the table to make decisions. We've been fortunate that we've been able to do that. We got the appropriate buy in. And early on, we got good partners on the strategy side, but it's really about defining our goals, and defining those requirements.”

Lewis said even though they’re on a great pace with the martech roadmap, he doesn’t imagine his organization accomplishing everything it wants in five years. This is about getting the new technologies in place, enabling the marketing teams to continue executing campaigns and programs and then starting to build new stuff on top of that. “It's aggressive,” he said, “but we're doing it and we're on track.”

Marketing and IT's Growing Bond

It’s a good thing Lewis’ technology teams are working closely with marketing, it reflects a trend pointed out by Gartner in its research and corroborates the take last fall by Scott Brinker, author of the Chief Marketing Technologist blog, that the IT and marketing wars are over. It’s quite the change, according to Brinker. “Gartner identified IT as a major detractor of marketing in 2017. It’s been that way for ages. Heck, CMSWire has written about why IT and marketing were diametrically opposed over 10 years ago. Even though there were plenty of reasons why these two functions should have collaborated together, there was a lot of tension and struggle between them in most organizations.” 

Now, according to Gartner’s latest findings, marketing and IT regularly work together in areas such as:

  • Management of the current suite of martech: Most organizations say marketing leads with guidance from IT (44%).
  • Integration of disparate martechs and databases: IT leads with guidance from marketing (32%).
  • Creation of a martech roadmap: Marketing leads with guidance from IT (42%).
  • Configuration and deployment of new martech: Marketing leads with guidance from IT (42%) and IT leads with guidance from marketing (29%).

This kind of collaboration is apparent for practitioners like Lewis during their martech roadmap process. “We’re constantly iterating on everything,” he said. “There are the people on the other side asking us for certain features or when things will be done. Sometimes we have to stop to deliver these things. We won’t have the whole thing done but can have pieces along the way.”

Related Article: The New Martech Stack Will Emphasize New Platforms

Start With Content

The first big martech rollout for Lewis and his teams was the WCM implementation. That involved putting into place content migration, strategies and governance, making things more streamlined for an organization that had over 100 micro websites. “These sites were run on WordPress, and it was like we were giving people self-service: You need a website, go make it yourself, but then there wasn’t a strategy around how to support them," Lewis said. "And they ultimately fell back in our labs. Or we would have a WordPress site that people weren't managing plugins and they get hacked. So we brought it all under the new content management system, and that’s been going phenomenally.”

Remember Your Business Problem

Of course, every martech roadmap has to come with a detailed martech tool selection process. And with over 7,000 from which to choose, it’s not a red- or white-wine kind of decision. "The options have never been more diversified for digital experience buyers,” said Dr. Ali Alkhafaji, CTO at TA Digital. “The key is making sure they know their business problem and figure out what solution better solves that problem. Sounds like a simple plan, but it's rarely executed correctly.”

As for the tool landscape, Alkhafaji said enterprise CMS tools are being challenged on price by lighter tools like Contentful, Bloomreach and Jahia which offer an alternative CMS for much lower cost and in some cases are easier to customize. “On the other hand,” he added, “enterprise CMS tools are being squeezed by more complete Digital Experience Platforms (DXPs) like Adobe, SAP and Salesforce who offer complete experiences including analytics, personalization and optimization capabilities. I have seen similar trends in the commerce space as well with the rise of Shopify and BigCommerce going up market while SAP and Salesforce are trying to compete downstream.”