Eric D. Brown, D.Sc.

Data Science | Entrepreneurship | ..and sometimes Photography

Category: Technology Strategy (page 1 of 8)

Marketers – You have too many choices

I have a little secret for everyone in the world of marketing: You have too many choices.

There are way too many technology platforms in existence today. Too many ‘tools’ and too many products.  You have too many choices when it comes to getting your work done. Let’s take a quick second to glance at Scott Brinker’s MarTech 5000 landscape:

Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2018)

I’m sorry, but that’s just too many choices; especially when put in the hands of people that don’t really understand the long-term implications of multiple technology platforms.

Sure, there may be a formal selection process (in my experience, there’s not…or at least it isn’t followed) and  rarely is there a strategic vision when it comes to MarTech. There’s a bunch of tactical ‘needs’ for why a particular type of platform is needed/wanted and even a hand-wave toward ‘strategy’ but rarely is there an in-depth review of how a new platform will make things better for the marketing team and the organization as a whole and (ahem…most importantly) help reach the strategic objective of the organization.

Too many choices can be a real problem.  Need an ‘optimization’ platform for A/B testing (or other optimization issues)?  I’m sure you can find 30 or 40 vendors out there selling some version of a platform that will do what you need it to do.  Do you take the time to run a thorough selection process or do you find the first one that fits your ‘right now’ need and your budget and push ‘buy’?  Based on my experience, people do the latter and pick the first one they find that does what they need to do.  They find a solution to the problem they have today with very little to no thought put into how that platform will integrate into their broader organization’s ecosystem and/or whether the solution will solve their problem tomorrow.

Don’t get me wrong. Personally, I love the possibilities that these choices offer an organization, but only if proper governance is used when selecting and implementing these choices.  Based on my conversations with clients and marketing /  IT professionals over the last few years, there’s very little of this happening.

Over the last 3 years about half the projects I been asked to be a part of are projects to help simplify the  ecosystem within an organization.  I’ve seen companies with over 100 platforms being used within the marketing team with very few of those systems able to talk to each other — and the lives of the marketing team had become a living hell because they had too many systems, too little control of their data and too little insight into what they are able to do, how to do things and who to go to for help.

What’s the solution?

There’s not an ‘easy’ answer.

It will take hard work, focus and a real drive toward reducing the complexity within your marketing organization.  Think of it as putting your team on a diet – a MarTech diet.  When you ‘need’ (by the way – its rarely a ‘need’ and usually a ‘want’ in these cases) some new function that you just can’t live without – check your existing platforms before going out to buy some new tool. If you are absolutely sure you don’t have the functionality in your existing platforms, take a look at what you’re trying to do and think about if its an absolute need and not just a ‘want’.  More importantly, think about the long term vision / strategy of the organization – how does ‘MarTech Platform X’ get you there?  If you can’t easily answer the question, it might be best to try to find a way to do what you need to do with your existing ecosystem.

 

Will marketing continue to grow their share of the technology budget?

marketing technology budgetIf you are involved with marketing and/or technology in any large organization, you most likely are hearing a lot about marketing technology (MarTech) and the ‘explosion’ of MarTech people, technology, projects….and budgets. There are some folks out there who claim that within a few years, marketing will be spending more on IT than the CIO but many IT professionals I speak with just have a hard time accepting that marketing will ever drive more spend on tech than IT does/will.

My response to these folks is simple: It is already here.

Let’s take a second to think about some of the higher priority items for the IT group. According to the 2016 State of the CIO report from IDG, the top 3 priority items for CIO’s in the coming year are:

  • Complete a major enterprise project
  • Help reach a specific goal for corporate growth
  • Upgrade IT security

Those first two items are pretty broad and specific to each organization, but they could easily relate to MarTech projects. For the last item on IT security upgrades, the report says that about 12% of the IT budget will be spent on upgrading IT security (which seems low to me, but I’m not as close to security as I am to other parts of IT).

Another nice little nugget of knowledge from the 2016 State of the CIO report is the following:

57% of the total dollars invested in tech is now directly controlled by IT (and is expected to grow to 59% in the next 3 years).

One thing to notice with this particular stat – while the majority of budget is controlled by IT, there’s no real detail in the report on where or how that money is spent other than to say that 33% of marketing’s budget is currently set aside for technology.

All the numbers and data points mean very little without some context, which is what many IT professionals (and non-marketing people) lack.  The spend on MarTech five years ago was generally small. Marketing groups would spend money on content management systems, web analytics platforms and e-commerce systems but very few were investing money in large, enterprise-level systems. That has changed in most medium to large organizations. Today, marketing organizations are spending money are those enterprise systems because they now understand how important an integrated, enterprise platform can be for driving engagement and revenue.

Will marketing continue to grow their technology budget? I think so.  Will IT professionals continue to complain about that? Probably….but the majority will realize how important MarTech spend is to the future of the organization.

The technology debate is usually the wrong debate

DebateWindows vs Mac vs Linux.  Android vs iPhone.  Nikon vs Canon vs Sony.

Spend any time online, with techie friends or with photographers and you’ll run undoubtedly come across arguments about which tech is better. You’ll have people calling others ‘fan boys/girls’ and in some areas you’ll see some downright nasty comments about whichever tech someone doesn’t agree with.  You’ll see people commenting that Android (or iPhone) sucks, Linux (or Mac or Windows) is superior and Nikon (or Canon or Sony) is the only camera a ‘real’ photographer uses.

The problem with these types of debates is that they are generally not grounded in real-world experience. For example, the guy that adamantly argues that Nikon completely destroys Canon cameras in every area of competition has never shot anything other than a Nikon. His arguments are based on reading ‘tech specs’, blogs and forum posts about how much better Nikon is than Canon.  Sure,  there are valid ‘technical’ reasons for stating that one technology is better than another (e.g., the Nikon D810 DSLR has one of the highest DxOMark ratings ever at 97, versus the 81 given to the Canon 5D Mark III), but technical data isn’t the only way to measure technology.

In my experiences, how a person (or company) USES technology is more important than what technology they use. Take the Nikon vs Canon debate…fan-boys will throw the great results of the Nikon cameras into the faces of Canon users at every chance they get, but their argument becomes worthless when a photographer uses a camera that is about 8 years old to take a photo that wins the World Press Photo of the Year for 2015.  Debating the technical merits of a technology is meaningless if you aren’t willing to step forward and actually use that technology (or any other technology) to deliver real-world results for yourself or your company.

The Android vs iPhone debate is another good example. You could spend days reading all the reviews, blogs and forum posts about how Android is better than iPhone (or vice versa). You could talk to endless friends and colleagues about which phone is ‘best’ but until you make the decision to buy one and start using it, you’ll never know how it will work for you.  Honestly, 95% of users will find both the Android and iPhone to be comparable and never really need to know the difference in the two platforms/ecosystems…the phone will just work for them and they’ll be perfectly happy.

The same is true for 95% of businesses that choose one platform over another. As long as you’ve done your due diligence and ensured the platform that you’ve chosen will meet your needs, you’ll most likely be happy with whatever technology you choose. The technology debate is usually the wrong debate to have. The right debate to have is to focus on how you will use whatever technology you have (or might acquire) to deliver something of value to yourself, your family or your company.  You can have the best technology in the world and still deliver terrible results or you can have technology that is one, two or even three generates behind the ‘modern’ tech and deliver award winning results.

With Planning, the Cloud brings Agility and Portability

This post is brought to you by the Enterprise CIO Forum and HP’s Make It Matter.

the_cloudWhen I speak to organizations about the cloud, I find the majority of them are using the cloud in some form or fashion today. Many have opted to build a private cloud to allow cloud-based systems while maintaining total control over the applications and security of the cloud. Others are using the public cloud for some (or all) of their computing needs while others have built or are planning to build a hybrid cloud platform to have the best of both private and public cloud systems.

Many of the CIO’s and senior IT leaders that I speak with are continuing to look for new approaches and platforms that would allow them to move systems and functionality to the cloud. In addition to the platform itself, CIO’s are looking for platforms and approaches that allow for portability of workloads across cloud types and providers.

Imagine being a CIO and having access to three separate cloud providers. You use each provider for different aspects of your business and each cloud platform has different applications and processing capabilities.

What happens to your systems if one provider goes down? Can you easily move from one cloud provider to another? What if you had a hybrid cloud and your public cloud provider had a performance issue; would you be able to move your public cloud systems into your private cloud platform or to another public provider?

These are all valid and important questions for every organization using the cloud. The need to move workloads around between public, private and hybrid cloud is vital to ensure the cloud is deliver as much value to the organization as possible. With proper planning and the right vendors, these questions can be addressed.

One of the benefits that has always been used to sell cloud services is agility and responsiveness. The ability to roll out new systems and platforms on the cloud is claimed to bring great flexibility and responsiveness to organizations. There’s no argument that the cloud does provide agility, but if your systems and/or data get stuck within one one provider or cloud type, how much agility do you really have?

The cloud isn’t perfect but with the right planning, architecture and partners you can do quite a bit with the cloud that you might not be able to do without. The cloud provides value to just about every organization that implements cloud based systems. The vital thing to keep in mind when thinking about the cloud is to weigh all the options available and take your time investigating and implement cloud systems.

This post is brought to you by the Enterprise CIO Forum and HP’s Make It Matter.

Hadoop and Big Data

lix6W5tstQNIQWhen I talk to people and companies who are just starting out in big data, I usually hear something about Hadoop. I’ll hear things like “If we are going to get into big data, we’ll need to implement Hadoop” or “we don’t have any Hadoop experience so we’ll need to gain that skill before we get into big data.”

At some point in the recent past, Hadoop has become synonymous with big data, which is a bit disconcerting. Hadoop is not a requirement for big data nor is it a required skill for anyone trying to break into big data. Sure, Hadoop is very helpful in combining and analyzing large data sets but it isn’t something that you must have to ‘do’ big data.

When I hear people talk about the need to learn or implement Hadoop before they can do anything related to big data, I always tell them to ignore Hadoop – for now. Take on some small data analysis projects before implementing new systems. Make sure your strategy is sound first, then worry about how to implement that strategy

Now, you may think that I dislike Hadoop. I’m actually a huge fan of the Hadoop platform and believe that it should be at the top of the list of platforms for every organization to consider. Hadoop is a major component of most big data initiatives, which is one of the drivers behind people automatically thinking of Hadoop when they think of big data.

Hadoop has become so popular because it provides an effective and efficient architecture to store all types of data, scales very easily and allows queries and analysis to be performed on that data. Hadoop provides solutions to many of the problems that face organizations when working with large data sets. Hadoop provides functionality to address, data integration, data visualization, in-memory analytics, interactive analytics and in-database queries.

Hadoop gives an organization a great platform to build big data processes and analytical approaches off of. There’s a great deal of value to be found in using Hadoop. In fact, there’s so much value that companies like SAS have built functionality to take advantage of Hadoop in-memory analytics capabilities to make use of the data and infrastructure that many organizations already have in place.

While you don’t need Hadoop for big data, it’s a great fit for big data. If you want to get into very large data sets and use cutting edge platforms and systems to analyze your data, Hadoop will give you the underlying platform for your big data initiatives.

This post is brought to you by SAS.

Why Convergence?

convergence-370x229“This post is brought to you by End-to-End Solutions for IT Pros and Dell.”

When I talk to clients about the technology and systems challenges being faced within their organization, I tend to hear a wide variety of responses. Challenges within the data center seem to exist in just about every client discussion. These challenges revolve around a myriad of issues but most can be categorized into areas like efficiency, energy usage, management, agility and utilization.

There are many reasons for organizations to be worried about the data center and the challenges found within. We live in a world of data and that data has been growing exponentially and it will continue to grow in the coming years. Big data initiatives and the “Internet of Things” (IoT) are driving enormous growth in the amount of data collected and stored within organizations. Along with the increased storage capacity required to manage this data, an increase in processing power, and networking capabilities are required to manage and analyze these constantly growing data sets.

CIO’s and the IT group are now faced with the need to scale their data center’s capabilities. At the same time, they are being asked to lower energy costs and reduce spending across the data center. Additionally, many organizations are undergoing data center consolidation projects which can create even more challenges for the CIO to scale the processing, storage and networking capabilities within the data center.

These challenges are pushing organizations to look for new systems and technologies for helping reduce total cost of ownership (TCO), improve the return on investment (ROI) and to help scale the data center capabilities.

This is where convergence make the most sense. Converged systems are self-contained systems with computing, storage, networking and management systems combined in one platform. Using converged systems, organizations can quickly add new systems to the data center without adding a great deal more complexity.

These benefits have led many organizations to investigate and/or implement converged systems. In a recent survey conducted by IDG, it was found that a majority of respondents (72%) are planning to use converged systems or have already begun to implement converged systems. Of those organizations that have implemented converged systems, 43% claim that “50% or more of their organization’s applications are supported by converged systems”.

While converged systems appear to be a perfect fit for CIO’s looking to efficiently scale their data centers, there is some uncertainty among IT professionals about the ROI of converged systems. According to the IDG survey, 47% of respondents are unclear or uncertain about the ROI of converged systems.

In addition to the uncertainty of ROI, many CIO’s and IT managers are worried that they don’t have the skills to manage converged systems. This is highlighted in the IDG survey with 40% of respondents claiming that they are worried that they don’t have the right IT skill sets to manage converged systems.

While there may not be a clear cut agreement on the ROI of converged systems, there is plenty of agreement on the TCO of these systems. The ability to implement an ‘all-in-one’ platform to add scale definitely lowers costs in the short term and the long term for organizations.

Convergence may not be the answer to every problem in the data center, but it is a great answer to the problem of fast, efficient and effective implementation of processing power, storage and networking capabilities in a contained system that can be managed together.

“This post is brought to you by IDG End-to-End Solutions for IT Pros and Dell.”

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