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Looking for Gaps in Your Tech Stack

October 26, 2016 | By Jeff Clark

  • Marketing organizations must understand the interdependence of processes, competencies and technologies
  • Marketing operations and technology leaders must engage stakeholders who require tech solutions to define objectives and desired future capabilities
  • Addressing process and competency gaps will ensure the success of new technology solutions

There is a tried-and-true method for determining how to optimize business functions: examine how to develop your people, processes and technology. Unfortunately, this is not a lesson that has been learned by some who are tasked with buying marketing technology today.

When thinking about acquiring new technology, keep in mind that marketing never starts with a clean slate. Two typical drivers for marketing technology planning are the annual planning process and periodic technology assessments, which are often conducted before planning cycles. In both cases, marketing must assess its priorities and examine the technologies that currently support them. At SiriusDecisions, we work with many clients that regularly conduct technology audits to identify areas that require significant system enhancements, replacements or all-new investments to meet their needs. With these planning considerations in mind, the next step is to conduct a gap analysis between your current state and future needs before making final decisions on the technology. The following steps will refine your focus for technology planning and likely even yield unexpected results:

  • Step one: identify stakeholders. For each new marketing priority being addressed, identify the critical processes that are supported by technology. For each of these processes, engage stakeholders in a discovery activity to define the objectives and desired future state.
  • Step two: determine desired functional capabilities. Identify the proposed functional capabilities required to deliver the desired outcomes; it’s too early to focus on technology features at this point. To quickly gain consensus on key issues, conduct the discovery either in group sessions or through personal interviews with each stakeholder.
  • Step three: conduct the gap analyses. The objective of the gap analysis is to compare the desired future state to the current state in the context of a holistic view of the interdependence of processes, competencies and technology. It’s important to look at each to determine how the organization can best address the gap. Do new processes need to be fixed or established? Does the organization have the staff and skills to make the capabilities happen?
  • Step four: summarize findings and initial recommendations. Create a deliverable that documents the gaps that exist between the desired functional capabilities and the current state. The completed analysis should describe the status of how the current set of processes, competencies and technology supports those capabilities. In addition, make initial recommendations to address the gaps, and indicate the difficulty of taking those actions.

As b-to-b organizations grow and conduct technology planning to support new priorities, analyzing process, competency and technology gaps is only the first step. The next step in technology planning is to solicit proposals that directly address the functional gaps.

The gap analysis also has long-term planning benefits, as it will reveal gaps and technology needs that cannot be addressed in the current planning cycle. Therefore, as part of an ongoing discipline of technology optimization, each planning period should revisit the findings of previous gap analyses.

Jeff Clark

Jeff Clark brings over 25 years of B2B marketing experience to the Marketing Operations Strategies service. Jeff develops SiriusDecisions’ research on marketing measurement and technology planning. His work helps b-to-b organizations effectively quantify, understand and convey the value being created by their marketing functions and assists marketing operations teams in their planning and management of technology.