New on StackedUp: The 2019 Guide to Tech Stack Management | Check it out >

Apps are transforming business. They’re driving strategy, innovation, growth, and competitive advantage. The average enterprise uses 91 marketing cloud services, including website analytics, lead management, content management, marketing automation, and more. Eventually, 73 percent of organizations will run almost entirely on SaaS. Meanwhile, software spending is expected to double by 2020.

That all sounds great – until you realize that you run the risk of losing control and accountability of an ever-expanding marketing technology (martech) stack.

Why your martech stack is like an overcrowded garage

It’s like your overcrowded garage at home. You buy stuff, find you had a one-time use for it – or little use at all – but still keep it in the pile, just in case. Then, it’s likely that you forget about it.

Add it all up and your garage inventory probably cost you quite a bit of money. And, because you have no visibility into all that clutter, you end up buying something that you already own but can’t see or have forgotten about. All that overlap adds up and creates a real mess.

As easily as you can fill your garage with stuff, today, anyone with an immediate problem and a credit card can add a new SaaS service to the martech stack in seconds. However, it often happens with zero visibility for corporate executives and IT. And, because SaaS costs are recurring, there is no accountability for ROI whatsoever.

Why can’t I find what I need?

Different departments and individuals are making their own decisions about which software to buy. This helps staff work more efficiently, but also creates cost and viability issues.

Teams do not generally take the time to check and see if an app with a similar capability is already being used by another team, or if the app they’re about to buy lacks crucial integrations for new or existing solutions. All they know is that they have a problem today – and that problem needs to be fixed fast.

But when teams and individuals are focused on tactically solving their own problems, they miss the big picture. They don’t stop to consider how the app they download today could negatively impact their business or fellow team members tomorrow. Furthermore, they may only be using one feature of the app, even though the company plan covers dozens more. This creates a stockpile of underutilized applications you may not know about, or even need. Without a gatekeeper to orchestrate all of these apps, things can quickly get chaotic.

Just as you occasionally clear out your garage, you can take control of your martech stack and investments once and for all by engaging in a sort of virtual “spring cleaning.” Look for ways to balance your team’s need for efficiency with control and governance across your sprawling software landscape.

Here’s how.

Organize your martech stack

Begin by assessing and categorizing the business critical functions you rely on your technology to address. What apps are you using to fulfil which function? Why, when, and how are you using them? This activity can help you discover what’s most valuable and prioritize what you really need. You can get rid of apps that are too difficult or time-consuming to use, redundant, or might simply be “collecting dust.” You don’t want these taking up space and money in your organization.

Next, study your numbers. How do these tools help you achieve your marketing goals, and what impact are they having? Knowing which tools lead to real returns will help justify which apps to keep, which can be integrated with other platforms, and where to focus spending moving forward.

Then, look for synergies and opportunities to connect key marketing functions. For example, are there two or three tools that perform the same function? Are there any gaps in your stack? Dig in and find which technologies can be better used to their full potential and which can be jettisoned.

Finally, clean house, but before you do, involve all stakeholders in your business – managers, users, and other experts who know how to assess what data is in those apps and how they may be integrated – before making any final decisions. Just as you’d (hopefully) consult your spouse or kids before you throw anything away, you want to make sure that you receive input from the people who matter.

sales development tech stack

Taking stock of your martech stack brings big gains

Gaining full visibility into what’s being spent across your martech stack, who’s using what, and which tools lead to real returns can help you enforce governance and bridge the gap between flexibility and control. If you don’t start now, you run the risk of having the equivalent of an overcrowded garage – a lot of stuff piling up that you don’t necessarily want, need, or use.

To start taking control of your tech stack, download the 2019 Guide to Tech Stack Management.