Trend Toward a Lean Technology Stack

August 24, 2017 Mark Emmons

Masha Finkelstein has a simple philosophy when it comes to evaluating software solutions to boost her marketing efforts.

Less is more.

“I’m always thinking about ways to better optimize my tech stack,” said Finkelstein, the director of demand generation at BetterWorks. “So the more I can do with less, the better. That saves budget and builds efficiencies.”

Finkelstein is hardly alone in that thinking.

Masha Finkelstein

There has been, of course, a remarkable proliferation of SaaS solutions. But that explosion of tools is why many front-line sales and marketing operations practitioners are looking for ways to streamline their approach to technology. That’s because their jobs are being consumed by the tasks of evaluating and managing software.

During a recent webinar that focused on automating the lead management process, Alex Ortiz, the vice president of marketing at Tray.io, captured the current state of affairs by describing the technology landscape as overwhelming.

“It produces a lot of anxiety,” Ortiz explained. “It’s both good and bad that there are a lot of options. But once you get past two or three solutions for a problem, it becomes very unwieldy. You need to control the chaos of your tech stack.”

For Billy Huang, the definition of chaos is simply walking through the exhibition hall at the annual Marketo conference and trying to make sense of all the vendor booths.

“I’ll stand in the middle of the floor and just shake my head,” said Huang, the senior marketing operations manager at LeanData. “Aside from broad categories of tools, it can be really hard telling one product from another. It just all becomes really confusing.”

The result is many Ops pros are developing what essentially are coping strategies to help them navigate this MarTech environment. For instance, when Huang is evaluating technologies, he only looks for tools that can provide what he calls “outsized” value rather than just “incremental” value. In other words, the better be game-changers for the business.

Sean Zinsmeister, co-host of the Stack and Flow podcast, takes the approach that it should be about finding solutions where data can flow seamlessly from one tool to another. In a recent blog post and webinar, he discussed how problems can occur when tech stacks consist of too many tools that operate in self-contained silos. Instead, he believes it’s smarter to have fewer solutions that integrated easily with other software.

Sean Zinsmeister

“Smaller, more strategic stacks absolutely can be better,” said Zinsmeister, who also is the VP of product marketing at Infer. “They can be incredibly effective, especially for companies that can’t afford to keep buying things. A few pieces of open technology that help you scale can make you very efficient rather than gathering as many tools as possible.”

He also senses a backlash where businesses don’t want to keep adding more and more logos to their tech stack. It’s not only because that philosophy is expensive. Sometimes, they just end up gathering dust.

“You can’t have a 1,001 tools that sit around and nobody uses,” he said. “It’s shelfware syndrome. The problem is that people don’t think strategically about what they actually need.”

LeanData’s Huang said it often comes down to a matter of time — something he typically doesn’t have. He wonders how much fellow Ops practitioners waste evaluating technology solutions, implementing them and then finally managing the solutions. There are too many lost hours in that process, he said.

“It’s just much more practical to be spending time focused on problems,” Huang added. “It’s just a better use of time, for me at least, to be thinking about ideas to solve those issues, and only then going out to find the technology that will help me do that.”

Finkelstein has become a thought-leader in the growing Account-Based Marketing movement. Whenever marketing peers seek out her advice on designing their MarTech stacks, she emphasizes the importance of using the least number of solutions possible to minimize cost and management time.

“I’m always looking to maximize the ROI of our marketing stack,” she added. “I’m actually in the middle of a process where I’m consolidating our tech stack. Having too many technologies creates a problem of making time just to manage them.”

So, yes, the number of tools in the marketplace is expanding. But something else is growing, too: the movement to use fewer of them.

To read the first two articles in this three-part “How Much Is Too Much in MarTech” series, visit here and here. 

About the Author

Mark Emmons

Mark Emmons is the staff writer at LeanData. He previously was a reporter at the San Jose Mercury News, Orange County Register and Detroit Free Press. He can be reached at mark@leandatainc.com.

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