its the people

I came across a 2019 big data executive survey recently that had some reinforcing findings. The theme of the survey is big data and AI’s influence on business transformation. Many of the findings are not surprising. There’s more year-over-year interest in the topics. More organizations are beginning to make meaningful investments in transformational projects. And AI/machine learning continues to top the list of technologies that are viewed as the most disruptive.

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What I found somewhat surprising is the year-over-year decrease in the number of organizations that feel they have successfully created a data driven organization. One would think, with increased investment in the space, you would see an affect on these numbers.

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The real reinforcing stat comes in the form of root cause challenges in becoming a data driven organization. When asked, almost two-thirds of the respondents cited people (culture) as the biggest challenge. Technology challenges were at the bottom.

People are more difficult to work with than machines. And when you break a person, he can’t be fixed.
— Rick Riordan, The Battle of the Labyrinth

I’ve spent a lot of time over the years talking to CIOs and CMOs about opportunities, challenges, and sometimes large failures in the general MarTech space. It’s very common for the selected tech stack to bear the brunt of any criticism when organizations struggle. What’s a lot less common is to hear leadership talk about their staffing & knowledge gaps, lack of organizational direction & legacy culture challenges that may end up being the bigger impediment.

People, process, then technology

If you find yourself struggling in the MarTech space, or with any (new to the organization) transformative technology, you might consider spending some time on (in order) your people, your processes and then your technology.

People (and culture)

Do you have enough of the right people to drive to the organization’s goals? Do they have enough time allocated to the initiatives? Transformation is not a nights & weekends project. Does the organization have a culture and executive commitment sufficient to achieve the organization’s goals? If not, don’t proceed further until you can answer yes.

Process

Taking technology completely out of the conversation, can the organization communicate (document) how it runs? Is that communication of organizational processes consistent across all employees/departments, or is it an ‘it depends’ kind of answer? Does the organization have the capacity and commitment (culture) to review, change, and maybe re-write processes to better align with the organization’s goals? If not, don’t buy any technology until you can answer yes.

Technology

Organizations have a much better chance of being successful with their technology investments when they can bring people and process to the table. They’re able to better articulate requirements. They can ask much smarter questions of software and professional services sales teams. The are at much less risk to buy into a solution based on a stock software demo. And, they can build in better contract language to ensure that they actually get what they bought - a common buyers remorse complaint.

Think about people, process and technology, in that order, and you’ll be much better off.