Navigating Organizational and Data Silos: A MarTech Event Recap

By Chris Perez and Vanessa Le


We recently hosted a marketing technology panel at our headquarters office in Grapevine, Texas, inviting senior executives and practitioners from around the DFW Metroplex to deeply explore marketing automation challenges and solutions. Featuring four panelists from the telecom, security, healthcare, and consumer electronics industries, the event was a chance for new and old friends of Ascend to engage in some practical and real-world discussions on the challenges being encountered in the B2B and B2C marketing spaces today.


Benjamin Murray

Marketing Automation Specialist at Nokia

Wes Stalcup

E-Commerce, Digital Marketing & CX Director at BenQ North America

Valerie Whiting

Marketing Automation Manager at Concentra

John Brockhum

Marketing Automation & Analytics Director at McAfee


Rich Herbst

Managing Director at Ascend Marketing

Lewis Evans

Senior Marketing Technology Advisor at Ascend Marketing

We see the current trends for continued business consolidation (via mergers and acquisitions) to continue, as well as the trend for software fragmentation — particularly as tools become focused on more specialized tasks — to continue for the next two to three years (and probably more). With these trends comes the development of silos, both in software platforms and how they are segmented and more importantly across our business units. For instance, the Adobe Experience Cloud alone has six separate products even before the recent Marketo and Magento acquisitions have been fully integrated into the consumer suite. These infrastructure silos are the most concerning. If they aren’t developed to allow for cross-functional mind and skills share, then we can risk the agility of our organizations as we embark on digital transformation initiatives. Here are some of the top insights and challenges that we learned about from our group of panelists: Benjamin Murray, Marketing Automation Specialist at Nokia; Valerie Whiting, Marketing Automation Manager at Concentra; John Brockhum, Marketing Automation & Analytics Director at McAfee; and Wes Stalcup, E-commerce, Digital Marketing & CX Director at BenQ.

"One of the biggest things in automation is change management."

Murray noted that marketing is uniquely blessed and cursed with a 30,000-foot view of the business. To overcome challenges that he has at his organization, Murray recommended the need to develop KPIs for the business as a whole, not just the marketing department. Particularly as a manager, it’s important to know when to identify things as a business request, rather than just a marketing request that could get lower prioritization or not be given the funding approvals it needs to run successfully.

“At one point we had integrated around ten to fifteen technologies with Marketo... it's challenging to manage and optimize data from all these different sources.”

Whiting suggested to look inward for solutions among the company’s existing MarTech stack. Noting that in her previous role, she had to work with ten to fifteen Marketo integrations at one point, and the challenge to manage and optimize data from all the different sources. Brockhum later elaborated on Whiting’s statement with his own anecdote, stating, “Oftentimes the integration cost for us exceeds the cost of the software subscription.”

The panelists discussed how easy it is to fall into the sales trap. A lot of the available technology and tools are really great, but without considering the implementation and setup costs for the organization as a whole, we can either limit the efficiency of the product or under-scope the work initiatives involved to get them off the ground. We can often fall into the trap of buying tools because we want to buy into the notion of them solving all our problems.

“I think there’s a common belief that if you have 10 pieces of technology running at 10% efficiency, that’s 100% efficiency.”

Talking to this point further, the panelists discussed the need for judiciously evaluating your tech stack and understanding the level of efficiency and utilization that current platforms are driving before considering new ones. Brockhum noted the tendency for businesses to jump into a new platform just after beginning to set up and run the other.

This speaks to the marketing we are inundated with as business managers, and the power of their sales teams to keep us informed of their products, as well as the fear we all share. We often look for formulaic and ‘simple’ solutions because we feel we are further behind in our technology implementations than we actually are. Oftentimes, the bigger picture is looking at our internal silos and processes first.

It is important to perform an assessment to understand the capabilities and integrations of your existing tool set. This assessment will save your marketing team from committing to expensive and lengthy contracts of new marketing technologies that might functionally overlap with your current systems. Additionally, optimizing your data flows and workflows could help your organization avoid adoption costs, such as team training and integration costs that often come with purchasing new technologies.

"I make sure we're meeting the goals of the current platform and making the most out of existing technologies before moving onto others."

Brockhum explained that the critical challenge of building data models using advanced automation and artificial intelligence is in the strategy behind the technology. While marketers have the capabilities to harness data using custom technology, they need to answer a bigger question: how are the results shown in the model actually going to change the organization? 

Brockhum recommended the following steps for properly building data models:

  1. Use the correct data. With an abundance of information available to marketers and data scientists, it is critical to feed the data models with the right data to avoid feeding in “garbage.”
  2. Ask the right questions. How is this data model going to answer questions that will actually be useful to marketing and sales teams? Use the model to produce outcomes that will help your team achieve your KPIs and campaign goals.
  3. Respond to the results. How will your organization respond to the outcome of the data model? Implement an optimization strategy that will address the insights delivered by the models.

Brockhum pointed out the need to develop internal dashboards and utilities to inform your evaluation of technology efficiencies. “If you expect a hundred inputs, and you get zero, that should flag something,” and it can be a long inspection process in order to continuously uncover and find the areas to optimize. The data itself needs to be of a certain volume and quality to support the models we develop as managers. It’s our role to look into those with a technical eye and to find the areas of overlap or redundancy.


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“The motto is, ‘You need to fail faster.’”

The ‘fail fast’ motto has been popularized by startups and tech companies in Silicon Valley, and it’s something to apply to our practice as managers as well. By looking deeply into process flow details, we can avoid the pitfalls and patterns that may lead us to laborious and time-consuming evaluations.

As organizations complete digital transformations, training programs are highly useful to equip a team of people with the proper knowledge and resources.

Brockhum noted, “This digital [transformation] offers a lot of innovation and keeps things fresh, and I think the team really embraces that. As much as it’s a challenge, it’s a great opportunity and they really seem to love that.”

“It does go back to the people aspect that it’s not just the tech. You’ve got to have the right people behind that tech to really make it work.”

Today’s marketing technologies can deliver highly personalized experiences to businesses and customers. But behind the systems are people who need to strategize and execute the campaigns using best practices.

“[We often see that] one piece of it moves really nicely, and the other piece of it doesn’t… and then you have to stop, and then it becomes a matter of ‘is it the technology, is it the people, is it the adoption, is it skills, or is it preference?’” Stalcup noted. Further clarifying the need for organizations to develop continuous learning processes.

Rich Herbst, Ascend Marketing Managing Director, posed a question for the audience on whether they were more challenged with their own company’s institutional or data technology silos. Over three times as many people in the audience said they were more challenged with the internal silos versus the data ones. But overall, they were all challenged by both right now.

“You have to improve institutional awareness around what you are trying to do."

Working collaboratively and finding new processes and systems that support continuous learning models are more important now than ever. Stalcup mentioned that a process his company employs is monthly meetings with all departments, so that everyone gets a chance to share learnings but also realize internal capabilities. “We had one of the product teams say, ‘I didn’t know we could do that’ … we lost the awareness that this was something they could do.”

Our Takeaway

The pace and speed of technology can leave us feeling behind the curve. When talking with attendees after the event, everyone was encouraged that the challenges being faced by our panelists are ones that we all face today as managers. Forums like this are not only a great way for us to engage with the marketing technology community, but they also serve as an exchange for ideas and best practices around the technologic complexities that marketing initiatives must efficiently manage today.

It’s good to hear our panelists emphasize the importance of being judicious and forward-thinking in the marketing decisions we need to make every day. We need to adopt and continue to champion continuous learning models within our organizations. We need to evolve the technical competencies for every organizational role. It’s important for us to not feel threatened by changes from technological advancements, but to instead feel enabled and empowered by the possibilities of collaboration. 


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