MARTECH 2016: The Unspoken Growth Inhibitor

I’m sitting on Caltrain heading back to San Jose on the Baby Bullet trying to make sense of two days immersed in the marketing technology conversation at MARTECH 2016.  My big takeaway is this: the same thing that makes the Martech industry run also holds it back.  This thing isn’t a thing at all – it’s people.  Let me explain.

When I was a teenager, occasionally we drove go-karts for fun.  Not the sophisticated go-karts you see today, but simple designs with little engines you would just as easily find on a lawn mower as a go-kart.  They were fun, but we figured they would be a lot more fun if they went faster.  Of course the guy among us who always broke all the rules figured out that the engines had this device called a governor that the manufacturers put on the engines to prevent them from revving too fast relative to the acceleration load.  The governors were mechanical devices that put a self-imposed limit on the speed of the go-karts.  When you disabled the governor, the go-karts went faster and faster = more fun.  So, we figured out how to disable the governors on the go-karts and yes, we had more fun.

So I wondered, is there a governor on the Martech industry that inhibits its growth?  As Day 2 rolled on, the idea that all this Martech stuff is pretty worthless without people kept getting louder and louder in my head.  Process is also a governor, but without people the process isn’t relevant…so it comes back to people first.

By the time the second to last panel discussion was up on the main stage, the idea that people are the limiting factor to growing Martech faster was a loud clanging in my head.  The panel, comprised of people from Google, Marketo, Salesforce, and Oracle, addressed the “The Future of Martech.” At Q&A, I asked for the mic.  My question went something like this:

“My company goes out into the real world where martech isn’t so neat and tidy to help companies get to the value in the technology.  What we find in all companies is this: the promise of the technology is real, but the reality of getting to that value is very messy at the intersection of technology and people.  How far out are we from having enough knowledgeable people to take advantage of all this great technology?”

Steven Krause from Oracle went first, and his answer surprised me. “It’s on us.”  Meaning, the Martech vendors need to make the technology easier and better for marketers.  I think Krause surprised himself speaking the truth that no Martech vendors will say: this marketing technology stuff is really hard.  It takes active and continuous participation of all the executives right up to the CEO.  It takes shared vision and collaboration across every business function.  It takes swallowing a heavy dose of reality that these are complex systems that follow in the shoes of all IT systems from the beginning: they require time, planning, and talented people to make them work right.  The technology doesn’t solve the problem — people putting technology to work does.

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