Five human problems that can ruin a technology implementation

There is much more to martech than technology. This may seem counterintuitive, but the longer I work in this field, the more I realize it’s true. Especially when it comes to deployments and integrations. While there’s always the risk of technical problems, human-related issues can wreak just as much havoc, if not more. Let’s look at some of them.

1: Time passes slowly

There are times when you are asked to change something and it is delayed because other business units have to approve it. For example, if privacy laws are involved. Legal, security and privacy teams may need a vendor to make changes to their product. This can take anywhere from months to over a year to achieve.

Many things can change during this time, including the reason for the change.

  • If it’s intended to improve user experience—especially for an internal tool—users may find workarounds that accomplish what the integration was intended to do.
  • The user base and use cases may change to such an extent that what you were asked to do is not necessary.
  • Turnover on the implementation team may mean that no one is on it from the time the change is requested. As a result, they do not understand why it is necessary or what it is supposed to achieve.
  • People may even forget why they wanted the change in the first place.

These are just a few of the situations that can arise.

2: Whose project is it anyway?

The reason for this is the lack of ownership and sponsorship. Implementations and integrations can require a lot of attention, resources and funding. Unless there is someone senior and committed to the initiative, it will likely wither on the vine.

Employee turnover can also hurt a project even after it’s started. Once the senior person who championed it leaves, the product or integration may be blocked by either the staff who implemented it or their replacement. Sometimes employees were never sold on the product and only chose it because of their former boss. Or the new boss may prefer a competing product. This may be the time to consider the pros and cons of practitioners specializing in specific martech products. It’s good to understand the product closely, but a narrow focus can blind specialists to other possibilities.

3: User perception

It doesn’t matter how great a tool or integration is if people aren’t using it. A successful project must anticipate and deal with user and stakeholder resistance (see change management link above).

4: The Shining

We’re all attracted to new, shiny things—especially if the cool kids are using them. While there is sometimes content behind the ad, rarely does a product or integration shine on its own. Commitment and orchestration are required; without them, it might be best to leave this shiny thing on the shelf.

5: Relationship problems

Money relationships are just as complicated as love relationships. You want one thing, they want another. You say they don’t communicate well, they say you don’t ask enough questions. Friction is part of any customer-supplier relationship. Maybe it’s you, maybe they, maybe both. Sometimes you can get through the rough patches together. Sometimes you have to call lawyers.

Here are a few issues that can occur on the provider side. Perhaps turnover makes the account team a rotating cast of characters. With every change you have to get to know a new person and he has to get to know a new project. This makes it more likely that critical details will fall through the cracks. It is possible for the seller to take his product in a different direction than what the customer needs. Additionally, and this is very common, the account team is unable to respond to customer questions, requests and errors within a reasonable time frame. This creates a lot of friction and ill will. No doubt you can add many more things to this list.

On the client side, perhaps your team also has high turnover. Then there’s the fact that getting good customer service requires being a good customer. To be clear, this does not mean that the seller can do anything. However, sometimes the customer may have unreasonable expectations. Before you lash out at the seller, look at your own actions. Customers must do their fair share in maintaining productive customer-supplier relationships.

Don’t go it alone

This is why it can be beneficial to include full-time buyers during the procurement process. They, along with the legal team, can spot potential challenges early on. These can be anything from unclear or unfavorable terms and conditions to problematic pricing to weak service level agreements. Count on these colleagues. They have done this more often than you.

Ideployments and integrations rarely go smoothly. This is easy to understand, but sometimes difficult to implement when multiple stakeholders are pushing for action NOW. There is a lot more than technology when it comes to martech.


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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily those of MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About the author

Steve Petersen is the Marketing Technology Manager at Zuora. He spent almost 8.5 years at Western Governors University holding many marketing technology related positions, most recently as Marketing Technology Manager. Prior to WGU, he worked as a strategist at Washington, DC digital outlet The Brick Factory, where he worked closely with trade associations, nonprofits, major brands and advocacy campaigns. Petersen holds a master’s degree in information management from the University of Maryland and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Brigham Young University. He is also a certified ScrumMaster. Petersen lives in the Salt Lake City, Utah area. Petersen represents his own views, not those of his current or former employers.

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