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2016 in 2019 -- Looking Back at What We Were Thinking

August 30, 2019

 In 2016, I attended Martech London. I collected a handful of quotes that were poignant and really seemed to speak to where the industry was at and where things were going in 2017. Maybe I was going to write a blog post about them and never did, I don't remember. But looking back from the perspective of late 2019, it's interesting to compare where things were and where they are now. Some of these are still very relevant. I thought I'd tick through each of them and give some current thoughts. 

 

"4 out of 5 executives are overwhelmed and under prepared for the next 5 years." -- Jeremy Waite, IBM

 

Well, we're deep into those 5 years and it seems like things are still pretty slow. I my experience most executives have gotten the message about the importance of tech and whereas in 2016 they didn't know what to do about it, now they are doing lots of "stuff", even if they don't totally understand it. They've started filling their staff with people who are knowledgeable to varying degrees and this has created varying degrees of success. I think the real issue is in hiring practices. HR needs to get better at writing new job descriptions and qualifying people for roles that are evolving quickly. 


"45% of marketers don't know how to use the tools they have. Enablement is a huge problem." --  Jeremy Waite, IBM

 

Couldn't agree more and this is still a huge problem. In my world, this mainly comes down to a lack of data fluency and an inability to incorporate analytics into the decision making process with real impact. To some extent, I think this is a generational problem and will correct itself as the workforce naturally evolves. But it will also require better hiring practices and prioritizing different skills than in the past. Data-informed decision making does not come naturally to everyone. 


"Agile is everything is agile." -- Source unknown

 

Yeah. Agile is definitely the buzz word for getting things done. And it has less syllables than "iterations", so I think people like it better.


"Culture eats strategy for breakfast." -- Source unknown

 

We are still tripping over our own feet. As long as people are involved, there will always be interpersonal dynamics and personalities. But work culture can be a good thing too. Besides, why would anyone want to spend a considerable amount of time in a place with no culture? 


"33% of marketing budget is going to tech and infrastructure." --  Gartner

 

Also VC's are betting on tech.

 

I think these numbers are even higher now. See the Gartner study from this year.   


"Specialization is dead. Hire 'full stack' marketers." -- Paul @ Mind Tree

 

Well, not sure this still rings true. In place of hiring "full stack" marketers, most organizations are beginning to understand just how silo'd their organization is and develop better communication and cooperation between teams. This is especially true (and probably driven by) data and analytic sharing. Rather than hire super heroes who can do it all, hire organizational consultants who can help your teams work better together, cross-channels, and vertically integrated. Also, agency partners are getting better at identifying where organizations need help with de-siloing. 


"Martech is still in early days. You're not that far behind…today." -- Source unknown

 

Not surprisingly, Martech is progressing at an amazing rate. The tools are getting more reach, the algorithms are getting more effective and the interfaces are becoming easier to use. Also, machine learning is taking over more decision making power, rendering human judgement less critical. This has the nice effect of giving bad decisions some breathing room and making good outcomes more reliable. But it also is an ominous trend for the future of humanity. (see the latest Garner study on the investments in tech vs. labor. Yikes!)


"Data is accelerating exponentially. Organizations are not keeping up."  -- Source unknown

 

More true today than in 2016. As we figure out how to turn more and more things into data, the amount of data available is becoming unimaginable. However, by "organizations" what they really mean is people and where people can't keep up, artificial intelligence is filling in the gap. As that gap gets bigger, AI takes on a larger and larger role. That gap will only continue to grow at an alarming rate. Again, an ominous trend for humanity.  


 

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