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Who is the chief marketing technologist and how can we help them succeed?

5th Apr 2016
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Over the past couple of years, there’s been a lot of talk about the rise of the chief marketing technologist, or CMT, a person tasked with aligning marketing technology with business goals, as well as being a liaison point between marketing and IT functions, evaluating and specifying martech solutions, or even helping to develop new digital business models. Even if an organisation does not have a full-time CMT or person bearing that name, the chances are that these days, they’ve got someone fulfilling that role.

While in theory the concept of having a CMT to bridge the two traditionally very disparate worlds of marketing and technology, the CMT has a huge task in hand when it comes to managing the martech stack. There are literally thousands of marketing software providers out there, across a wide gamut of functions, e.g. CRM, CMS, social media, social listening and digital asset management (DAM) to name but a few. 

The original needs for all these systems – creation and distribution of content, better communications – can quickly become subsumed. Let’s look at the role of the CMT, the challenges he or she faces, plus how to keep content at the centre of the martech stack. 

The evolution of the CMT

A few years ago, having someone in charge of marketing technology (martech) would seem an unnecessary luxury. But given the exponential rise in the sheer volume of martech solutions out there and the fact that most organisations, regardless of size will have at least several systems and applications - if not dozens – then it’s easier to see why this role has become a necessity. In larger organisations, the CMT may be a full-time dedicated function, but even in smaller firms, increasingly there are individuals whose job description includes management of the martech strategy.

The nature of the CMT is an interesting one too, because these people largely stem from marketing functions, not technical backgrounds. This is good news for end users, because the CMT is more likely to understand their day-to-day challenges.

However, it does mean that many CMTs are being thrown into the world of technology, one that is notorious for talking its own languages, loving its acronyms and culturally a siloed, closed shop that traditionally has had a ‘them and us’ relationship with ‘the business’ (though those barriers are, now, thankfully beginning to break down).

Plus, there is the challenge that in many working environments, there is a patchwork of legacy systems in place. With the advent of cloud-based systems, users may also be able to start using their own systems, without the sanctioning of the IT department. All these systems may overlap in terms of functionality and not necessarily integrate well. Consequently, managing the martech stack can quickly become a headache for even the most experienced CMT.

A four step survival kit for the CMT

While no-one should under-estimate the scale of the challenge facing CMTs, there are a few steps that we see organisations taking towards better management or, perhaps more aptly, better use of the martech stack.

  • Content is king – it’s critical to keep content as the central focus. It may sound obvious, but content should be the pivot and not something that revolves around a set of (often disparate and disconnected) technology systems. Flow of content should be supported by systems, not dictated by them.
  • Interoperability and the best-of-breed balance – realistically, there is no one-size-fits-all solution and so most brands choose the ‘best in class’ systems in each category. However, these do not always inherently ‘play nice’, so it’s important to look for systems that either have established interoperability plug-ins or easily programmable APIs. Eventually, the content management interoperability services (CMIS) could eventually remove the siloes, but that’s still in development.
  • Create a central repository – better still, create a single place for all content. A DAM is ideal for this, because unlike shared drives or other methods, it creates a centralised, totally transparent place for a digital marketing asset’s entire lifecycle, from creation and approval through to sharing and ultimately to archiving, with associated rights management, licensing and regulatory compliance too. 
  • Focus on usability and ease-of-access – there’s little point having all this great technology if no-one feels inclined to use it (and let’s face it, if people don’t like a piece of technology, they’ll find a workaround). While many martech systems have become incredibly sophisticated, they may fall down on usability and ease-of-access, especially if they’ve evolved from the traditional enterprise-IT market. Take into account the needs of different timezones, cultures, job titles and languages (or variations in language fluency). Look for tools that don’t present users with complex menus, but instead, suggest options and use visual clues for guidance.  

Of course, there are a variety of cultural barriers that the CMT has to face and while the approaches explained in this article are not the whole answer, we’re witnessing brands across the world taking such steps as a means to fight through the maze of martech solutions, prevent them being just additional technology layers and instead, tangibly contribute to successful marketing activities.

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