As part of Solutions Review’s Premium Content Series—a collection of contributed columns written by industry experts in maturing software categories—Nishant Patel, the co-founder and CTO of Contentstack, outlines some of the ways an organization can trim down and prioritize the number of MarTech tools their departments use.
The number of tools our organization uses can get away from us. Case in point: According to a Productiv report, the average enterprise uses 364 apps. There are a few reasons for the accumulation. First is the ease of access. Because most software checkout flows are so simple—your browser even remembers your credit card number for you—it’s easy to tap and buy. New hires also bring their preferred tools as they transfer organizations.
Finally, there’s a tool for almost every problem out there. They are easy to purchase and hard to cancel. Over time, these end up in a complex state with too many subscriptions and few to no users. The report above said average app usage over 60 days was less than 50 percent. Let’s discuss how to decide which tools to keep and cut—and how they should all work together to create value.
Step 1: Recognize When You Have a Problem
When Contentstack was in startup mode, we moved as fast as we could. As a result, we accumulated hundreds of MarTech tools along the way. When we entered the scaleup stage, we established processes to grow sustainably. Part of that was more structure around budgeting. Understanding what companies in similar industries, of a similar size, and with similar goals spend on tools helps establish benchmarks and gives directional guidance.
The most obvious indicator that you have too many is that the spending raises red flags from finance. The second biggest indicator is that the sheer number of tools becomes a governance and compliance issue. Security concerns grow with your tech stack and customer base. One of the roles of the IT team is to keep the organization itself safe; it also needs to protect customer data. This is an interesting problem as an organization scales up. You will need more tools, but you will also trust less of them. Not all of them will meet your standards. Security issues will force you to cut.
Step 2: Catalog Your MarTech Tools in a Spreadsheet
When we started evaluating our tools, our first step was to work with our business operations, IT, and department heads to create a centralized spreadsheet. (Our list was more than 300 tools long!) Mark off the must-haves right away. You know what those are. Without these 15-20 systems, the enterprise could not run. These include the HR, Finance, and Marketing systems. Organizations need a way to communicate with each other, so systems like email and Slack are essential.
The waters get a little murkier after that, but don’t try to wade through them yet. Focus on cataloging at this stage. Other things to track on the spreadsheet include:
- Which departments own what
- When it was last used, how often it is used, and how many people across the organization use it
- If customer data is involved and, if so, the vendor maintains security and compliance standards the customer requires (like ISO 27001, HIPAA, GDPR, SOX).
Step 3: Ask Your People
This stage is a bit more qualitative. Ask your employees what tools they love and why. Does it boost their productivity, streamline their work, or provide visibility into their processes? Does it help them avoid meetings? Or does it inspire or motivate them to build new products?
Ask your employees more to avoid the “shiny new object” syndrome. Some tools are fun to experiment with, but then use drops off three months later. Software should solve a problem for the organization instead of just checking a “cool” box. Based on all the feedback, you can look at your list and begin to paint a picture of the keepers and the ones that should probably be cut. Now, you can start to refine that list even further.
Step 4: Rank According to Value and Make Decisions
Knowing whether to keep or cut a tool all comes down to value. Ask yourself: “How is this helping the organization?” In many cases, the answer is clear: Tool X allows us to do Y and Z activities, which make us millions in revenue per year.
At Contentstack, we rank each tool according to its value on a scale of one to five based on security requirements, compliance, and business impact. A device that scores a five in each of these categories means, for example, that it is used daily, speeds up new product development, and is highly trustworthy. That choice is a no-brainer—keep. A tool that scores low across the categories probably hasn’t seen the light of day in weeks except for a lone designer that uses it as her backup graphics program. Cut. These are extreme examples, but the conversations we have and actions we take around this are nuanced.
At one point, we bought a cloud collaboration tool but cut it after about a year because our primary collaboration software added similar features that made the collaboration tool redundant. It’s also important to consider those qualitative elements—does it motivate or inspire employees—when evaluating business value, which can be hard to measure but reap big rewards in culture building, innovation, and more.
Step 5: Set Up Regular Check-Ins
Step five is perhaps the most important: evaluate continuously. One of the most notorious problems IT faces is that we assume the tool is used enough to justify what we’re spending on it. But that’s not always the case. We created a committee including a representative from IT, Business Operations, and others that convenes every six months to review our spreadsheet, what we’re spending on them, and if they are being used. We ask ourselves if the MarTech tools are still worth the spend.
Another thing to consider is executing this process and managing costs without stifling innovation. A tip: treat this checklist as guidelines rather than law. Compliance and security requirements when handling customer data must be strictly followed, but we can be looser and move faster with a productivity tool. Nowadays, there is a tool for everything—there’s even a tool to organize all your devices. Stay on top of your tech stack, and you’ll be one step closer to unlocking your organization and employees’ full potential.
- What to Do if Your Organization is Drowning in MarTech Tools - September 19, 2022