Some companies' martech stacks have grown too complex, but not all of them.

In addition to my personal experience, while working with my clients at GrowthSpree, Gartner's most recent Marketing Technology Survey provides a quantitative framework on this issue. In this survey, Gartner questioned 324 enterprise marketing technology leaders who stated that on average only 42% of their martech capabilities are being used in the year 2022 comparing this with the year 2020 which stated this number as 58%, showing that the utilization has decreased.

Martech Utilization (Gartner 2022)

Whatever these martech leaders thought while answering the utilization criteria, the main insight here is that the majority of them believed it to be less than half of what it ought to be. And they believe that it has significantly decreased over the last two years.

Now, this can’t be good? 

At a quick glance, this might look like this is heading in the wrong direction but the reason for this is Companies invested heavily in digital transformation as a result of the epidemic, adding a heap of new technologies to their tech stacks. 

So is the solution for this problem for everyone to reduce their martech stacks by 58%? 

Well for some companies the answer is Yes. Right now they have far more technology than they are prepared to employ and maintain productively. They should simplify their martech stacks so as to increase their productivity.  

Given the likely fiscal constriction that many marketing teams will encounter in 2023, now is a good opportunity for companies to assess their stack and get rid of any tools that aren't generating any significant value. This could be due to a company’s limitations in its ability to use those tools productively, rather than problems with those tools themselves.

In either case, if the companies are not getting any meaningful results from these tools, they're waste.

As simple as possible, but no simpler

Although simplicity is good, a word of caution is to not sway in its direction too far.

Martech is more complicated, especially for larger companies than small companies. This isn't usually the fault of martech, even if it may make you feel better at times. It's a result of the complexity of our current surroundings and external factors. The complexity of digital everything, digital everywhere has exploded over the last decade.

A recent report from Adverity “What Is Shaping the CMO's Roadmap?” shows a chart of external factors that impact marketing decisions.

External Factors Impacting Martech Complexity

Looking at the chart we can see how each individual item leads to an increase in complexity while making decisions.

Hiring the appropriate people? Increased complexity as a result of the expanding set of skills required to meet the problems listed above. But if we fail to complete this challenging task, our martech organizational maturity may potentially decrease rather than increase – just when we need it the most.

All of these problems are "complex" in the sense that they do not contain a large number of moving pieces. They're complex in the sense that there are numerous interactions between them.
Most martech products aim to simplify — or at least help manage — this complexity.

This is important since simplifying your martech stack does not mean simplifying the external world. Simplifying your martech stack may still be a smart option for a variety of reasons, many of which are related to martech organizational maturity: if you aren't ready to extract more value from a more sophisticated stack, then the complexity of your stack is doing more harm than good.
However, not everything is equal. Connecting marketing and sales data and activities generally increases complexity – more moving pieces, more entanglement. However, for the sake of boosting efficiency and the continuity of consumer interactions over a broader range of touchpoints, the added complexity may be worthwhile.

The same is true for adjusting to changing client preferences, experimenting with emerging technologies, and building new organizational capital by enabling teams to think outside the box. Although all of these factors complicate martech operations by merging the old and new ways. But it is necessary for an organization to grow.

The role of martech leadership is to constantly simplify while strengthening a company’s capacity to handle increased complexity if the situation arises where it may prove beneficial.

Stack Complexity and Martech Maturity

Alignment of stack complexity and martech maturity can prove useful if the company is ready for it, have a look at the graph below.

A sophisticated martech stack is neither beneficial nor harmful in and of itself. It's either good or bad in terms of the business's martech organizational maturity.

A complicated stack in a mature martech business can be an incredibly powerful asset if it has:

  • Properly architected it.
  • Correctly integrated it into their environment.
  • And has built the appropriate enablement and controls to assist teams.

Although an identical stack in the hands of a less mature martech business is a recipe for disaster.

It's fine if your company is still in the early stages of growing its martech maturity. At this point, most companies are most likely in the left half of the above chart. It takes time to achieve robust martech maturity. However, allowing the complexity of your stack to outpace your maturity will likely slow rather than accelerate your progress.

HubSpot co-founder “Brian Halligan” has frequently stated that

 "Companies are more likely to die of gluttony than starvation." 

since they have a tendency to do too many things. This is especially true for martech capabilities.

In the end, remember to keep your stack's complexity in line with your organization's martech maturity.

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