How Marketers Evaluate Technology Solutions

March 31, 2017
Contributor: Chris Pemberton

Use structured evaluation criteria to assess marketing technology choices.

The VP of marketing at a midsize digital commerce company was frustrated with the company’s in-house personalization engine. Some viewed it as valuable intellectual property, but given acute competitive pressure and looming revenue goals, the engine was too time-consuming and costly to maintain and needed to be replaced with a better external solution. The VP’s ultimate goal was to reduce costs, free internal resources and maintain a consistent customer experience.

She needed a structured way to assess the various criteria and ensure the solution met larger business needs beyond just features and functionality, due to her organization’s size and complexity. “The growing focus on technology within the marketing organization puts a premium on having a systematic process for evaluating and selecting potential vendor partners,” said Noah Elkin, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner for Marketers.

Marketing leaders are now on the front line of selecting technology providers, given their responsibilities for critical customer-facing, revenue-generating systems and applications. According to the Gartner CMO Spend Survey 2016-2017, technology consumes 27% of the marketing expense budget and plays a key role in helping marketing leaders orchestrate their increased responsibilities.

The CMO Spend Survey 2018-2019

What this year’s trends mean for marketers

Use a structured approach in complex evaluation and selection scenarios where multiple stakeholders across the organization are involved.

Start with why

Use the “five whys” to understand the goals, scope and risks of your project. Ask, and answer, questions such as “Why do we need a new system?” and “Why will a new system or platform solve our problem?” The answers will anchor the evaluation process in the most important needs, timelines and risks associated with acquiring new marketing technology.

Read More: Rethink How You Evaluate Marketing Technology

Identify top-level evaluation criteria

Identify a set of criteria that represent key areas needed to achieve your defined goal. Start with six key criteria adapted from the Analytical Hierarchy Process for multicriteria decision making: Functionality, technology, cost, services, viability and vision. Confirm or modify these criteria to your situation, then engage stakeholders in the decision process and explore the underlying issues for each criterion.

Define relevant subcriteria

Expand your hierarchy by adding specific subcriteria. The top-level functionality criterion might have orchestration, performance, integration, data analysis, measurement, localization and references as more granular subcriteria. Gain consensus among selection team members on the structure of the evaluation model, the concerns it will address and the weightings of the defined criteria before requesting vendor information or proposals.

Address resource needs

Incorporate the expertise and human resources required to operate the technology you eventually adopt. Factor in the operating resources, including what you have or those that you will need to develop or hire. These resources play a significant role in the ultimate success of a technology decision and implementation. It’s important to accurately gauge needs at the outset and factor them into your timeline and budget.

“This structure has a goal and descending levels of criteria that address increasingly specific concerns, concluding with questions for making assessments,” said Elkin. “A key to success is assigning a multidisciplinary team with stakeholders from each area of the company who will be involved in the implementation or use of the solution under consideration. Marketing has a responsibility to collaborate with enterprise IT, customer experience and procurement leaders to ensure a coordinated, efficient and harmonized technology spending on behalf of the business.”

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