What would the impact be if your tower of tech came tumbling to the ground? It’s an idea that hit me a few Saturdays ago as my kids were playing Jenga while I was working on a new presentation about why marketers should rethink their tech stacks. It hit me that tech stacks and Jenga towers actually have a lot in common. Jenga, of course, is played by piling up wooden blocks until the whole thing comes toppling down. With each new layer added, the base becomes weaker… and eventually the tower comes tumbling down. Unfortunately, tech stacks are vulnerable in the same way. As layers are added, the tower grows weaker and introduces more and more risk.
Why the fascination with more tech?
Well, that talk I mentioned above that I was working on — I recently had the pleasure of presenting it at the Shop.Org conference in Las Vegas. It resonated with attendees, I believe, because it was a stark contrast to what so many other marketers and vendors are preaching today. After all, our world is saturated with messages about how and why we need MORE technology. Certainly not less. And how tech, not we as creative and strategic marketers, are the solution to growing demands from our businesses and increasing expectations from consumers.
As we are all continuously bombarded with mass amounts of messaging shouting at marketers to grow our tech stacks, I ask you to take a moment and really think about it and challenge it. This notion that the more tech we add to our stacks, the better off we’ll be, is faulty. In fact, the truth is actually just the opposite. The more diverse your hodgepodge of tools, software, applications, and various systems, the more inefficiencies, cost, and risk you introduce to your organization.
Some marketers look at the martech landscape and seek to use as many of these tools as they think they can or should. (Source: Martech Today)
Did you know that the majority of marketers use more than half a dozen technologies? In fact, 63% of marketing executives say their team uses somewhere between six to 20 different pieces of technology, according to Conductor
There’s a widespread epidemic infiltrating marketing like a plague. “Shadow IT” and its associated risks simply can’t be ignored any longer.
Shadow IT and the risks it carries
Certain issues loom in the shadows when new applications or devices appear in the corporate infrastructure without involvement and guidance from IT. This is Shadow IT. Do you know the term? It simply refers to technology that is brought into an organization without the involvement of IT.
Shadow IT can introduce organizational security risks, compliance discrepancies, configuration and integration mishaps, and more. And, really, any software can be Shadow IT… even the safest, most highly regarded tools and solutions. Because it’s not about the tech, itself. It’s about the fact that IT isn’t aware that it has been brought into the organization. And, therefore, It can’t be as proactive or as quick to respond when that tech is involved in a breach, hack, or other issue — simply because they don’t know it’s within the walls of the company. They can’t monitor what they don’t know is there.
Some of the most common applications installed without IT’s approval include seemingly harmless productivity and process apps.
Pro Tip: These aren’t “bad” tools. In fact, they are typically safe and secure. Remember that even widely recognized software and platforms can be Shadow IT. The problem does not lie in the tech, itself, but instead in the lack of involvement by IT. If they don’t know that these or any other tech is being brought into the organization, they can’t manage or monitor it for potential risks. Any new piece of technology, however small, should be on IT’s radar.
But let’s look at three of the main reasons that Shadow IT and large tech stacks put you and your team at greatest vulnerability and risk.
- Inefficiencies and redundancies – More pieces of tech — even productivity apps, internal chat systems, and one-off “point” solutions — mean more time is required to manage them all. Multiple technologies and tools create require marketers to serve as tech integration managers, data facilitators, or CSV file administrators. This takes away from time that could and should be spent instead the creative, strategic human elements of marketing. Think about it… how many platforms do you use on a daily basis to do your job? How much time do you spend working with these tools as opposed to driving strategy, creating compelling content, or collaborating with coworkers? 82% of sales and marketing professionals lose up to an hour a day switching between marketing tools What a scary statistic this is when you consider this equates to 5 hours every week. 20 hours every month. 260 hours every year. All spent managing tech.
- Unintended costs – The average marketer uses more than six tech tools to do their jobs. And their bosses use another two to five dashboards and reporting tools to understand how their teams are reporting. Consider how the costs of these tools can add up (and it’s more than just sheer volume):
- Redundancy: Many of these tools are redundant, which means we’re paying for multiple tools that do the same things.
- Abandonment: Often, we bring on technology for a specific purpose and, over time, we move on from that need… but we retain the technology, anyway, and continue to incur its cost.
- Adoption Gap: The more features offered by a platform or piece of technology, the LESS likely you are to adopt them all. There are simply more features and functions than a typical team can learn, adopt, and implement into their processes. So, while we buy all the bells and whistles, we only end up using a small percentage of the basic features… but we still pay for the whole package.
- Data privacy/protection and organizational risk – The more technology that is brought into an organization — specifically that which is Shadow IT — the more danger is introduced along with it:
- Cyber attacks. According to Gartner, by 2020, one-third of successful cyberattacks against enterprises will be achieved through Shadow IT applications.
- Data breaches. A data breach costs a typical enterprise around $3.8 million.
Your IT team has processes, protocols, systems, and protection mechanisms in place to mitigate these risks. But they can’t be very proactive or quickly responsive when dangers arise around technology that they don’t know exists within the organization.
So, what do we do?
We need a collective mindshift, one that transforms how we look at tech implementation and takes us from an “expansion” mindset to one of “consolidation.” It’s time to get back to basics.
How can we cut, where can we synchronize redundancies, and how can we eliminate unneeded tools?
There are a few steps you can take to get started.
- Start with your goals – Back to the basics of Marketing 101. Push your tech to the side and think solely about what your team needs to accomplish to help the business achieve its objectives. What are your marketing goals? So often, we start with technology and back ourselves from there into marketing strategies that map directly to our tech. This thinking is backwards. Think first about what your goals are. The tech will come later to support your strategy.
- Audit your tech stack – Ask yourself these questions about your tech stack AND how your team is interacting with it:
- Are you effectively executing an omnichannel marketing strategy? How many tools does it take?
- How much time are you spending managing your technology?
- How much money are you spending on your entire tech stack?
- Are members of your team spending their time managing technology? Or are they leveraging tools to be more strategic, creative marketers?
- Is your tech working for YOU or are YOU working for your tech?
- Seek the Right Tech for Your Strategy – Only once you have established your goals, examined your tech stack, and how your team is interacting with it should you begin to consider what technology you need to bring your strategy to life. Remember, your tech should augment the efforts of you and your team. Not the other way around. We, of course, have some recommendations for how to choose the right technology for you, but I won’t turn this article into a sales pitch. The best advice I will give is this:
- Consider consolidating your stack into as few strategic pieces as possible.
- Understand how your technology will help you execute an omnichannel strategy.
- Ask how your tech will unify your data into a centralized database so you can gain a full, unified view of each customer AND more effectively leverage things like AI and machine learning.
- Partner with IT – Once you have your strategy and you’ve also identified the tech you think will help you execute it most effectively, work with IT to vet it and get it implemented. Build a strong relationship with IT in order to establish a streamlined process that benefits you both. When you work together as a team, you’ll get the safest, most effective tech that also protects your company and your customer data.
Tech tools and solutions aren’t the problem. It’s the fact that we have piled them all up together into Frankensteined tech stacks. Technology has become the purpose, not the means. THAT’s the problem.
In fact, programs that we (and I) use on a daily basis are typically quite safe and harmless. The issue arises when they’re used and IT is unaware, when the machines start to manage you instead of the other way around, and in those instances when they pose a cybersecurity risk.
Ultimately, the best option is one that centralizes everything we really need — a single, unified marketing platform.
Like an indestructible, steady skyscraper (definitely not a Jenga tower of unpredictable pieces), the beauty of a strategic, unified marketing platform in lieu of a bunch of cobbled-together tools is clear. It’s time to rethink that tech stack.
Grab your complementary PDF where we elaborate on Shadow IT, and give you actionable takeaways to eliminate these issues! Connect with me and let me know issues you’ve seen or experienced with too much tech, or for more information on how to consolidate all your digital marketing efforts with an all-in-one platform designed specifically for marketers.