As a practitioner, I hated the first week of the month. It meant I had to lead my team of smart, capable marketing analysts through a neverending, difficult slog known as… REPORTING WEEK.
Ah, yes. If you’ve served marketing analytics in any capacity, you’ll know what I mean. The whole first week (or weeks) of the month were spent getting your team to organize data, jockey it into spreadsheets, do some quality control on it, deliver it to stakeholders, have your stakeholders tell you it’s missing some data and that they don’t trust your report, redoing your report, and then finally dropping it into PPT for a presentation just in time for next month’s Reporting Week to begin again.
It was terrible, miserable, and a sub-optimal use of resources.
That’s why I made marketing dashboard technology the first thing I tackled when I joined Gartner. I knew how challenging it was to organize marketing data and find a solution to help alleviate the pain of reporting. In fact, in our 2018 Marketing Data & Analytics Survey, we discovered that fifty-two percent of marketing analytics leaders said that data management activities were among the top three that consume most of their team’s time.
Business intelligence (BI) solutions didn’t cut it, either. The variety and complexity of marketing data (as well as marketers’ need for flexibility and control) are not conducive to traditional IT-led data delivery. BI tools fell short in providing an accessible tool for the business use, one that facilitates decision-making.
To address these challenges, marketers sought out marketing dashboard technology (see: Market Guide for Marketing Dashboards – subscription required). But over the course of the last few months (and even just in the last week), the technology market has changed drastically. Most of the companies in the market landscape were acquired (in sequential order):
- Beckon – acquired by Aclate in November, 2018
- Datorama – acquired by Salesforce in August, 2018
- Sweetspot Intelligence – acquired by ClickDimensions in March, 2019
- Origami Logic – acquired by Intuit in May, 2019
- Looker – acquired by Google in June, 2019
- Tableau – acquired by Salesforce in June, 2019
- (Domo remains an independent company.)
What gives? Marketers have demanded better data management capabilities, better data visualization, and better data delivery – and integrated solutions have responded by integrating these must-have dashboard tools (and features of them) into their product stacks.
Even with marketing dashboard technology, you’d still have to solve two big problems:
- Dashboards don’t generate insights – people do. You still need a smart, capable marketing analyst to perform the analysis and generate insight.
- Dashboards don’t solve problems. They make recommendations, but don’t take action. If your dashboards help you identify an opportunity to modify your marketing program, you’d have to use a different tool to take action (such as a multichannel marketing hub or email marketing platform).
Marketing dashboard technology is table stakes, now more than ever. We’ve been telling clients for awhile that automating your reporting is key to achieving success, and with the availability of these solutions within integrated product suites, solving for data management and visualization issues is more accessible than ever. Still, these insights won’t take you all the way. I often find that problems uncovered my marketing analytics teams often go deeper than just being a marketing problem – they’re issues within multiple business units or the company as a whole.
What’s next? Innovation! Marketing analytics technology will continue to evolve in a couple ways:
- Augmented analytics. Forward-thinking marketers will seek out augmented analytics features in their martech stacks. Augmented analytics enables marketers and analysts to use machine learning to automatically find, visualize and narrate relevant findings, without having to build models or write algorithms.
- Marketing execution: previously, a major criticism of marketing dashboard technology was that it empowered game-changing analysis, but it didn’t help you connect the analysis to action. Technology providers may build out capabilities to connect the visualization capabilities to the final-mile, executional systems.
Still, it remains to be seen how well these solutions will be incorporated into integrated marketing clouds, and whether marketers will be able to address foundational issues in data management. Marketers should continue to be a little bit wary of lofty promises around automating “old-school” approaches to data management and delivery. Tech will help you get there, but think about it: you’re asking tech to integrate these dashboard solutions into their product stacks effectively, solve for complex data management issues within their products (and across others in a marketers’ tech stack), automate insight generation, and provide a final-mile vehicle for executing on recommendations. It’s not that this isn’t possible, but realistically, it’s just not that good. Yet.
Here are some other Gartner perspectives:
- The Week The Modern Analytics and BI Market Changed Forever
- Salesforce acquisition of Tableau – What does it mean?