I was lucky enough to present with Brian Harte from Tourism Ireland at MarTech Europe in London. We talked about the importance of considering people when embarking on a (marketing technology) change programme, using Tourism Ireland as a case study. Inviting your client to mark your work in front of an audience is not the most relaxing way to deliver a presentation but it offered a balanced assessment of the project!

We frequently see the “people” aspect left until last because it’s so easy to focus on the granular technology requirements. This focus does not always hit the mark. We have recently started working with a company who asked their supplier to provide a report on a particular type of data. This was delivered, but the only way to get the data out of the reporting system is as a PDF and it can only generate 1 page (of a typically 11 page report). The technical requirement might have been delivered, but the people requirement has not.

Good marketing technologists act as the translation point between technology and marketing and help to bring the organisation on the journey. In our talk, Brian and I emphasised the importance of thinking about change not just as an outcome, but how we get there. Projects fail because organisations focus on the end point (a new system) and not how to get there (training, skills, new processes, etc). The technology side is hard and expensive. But you need people to use these technologies – the robots haven’t taken over quite yet – and getting this wrong can derail a project.

So what were our top tips?

DO: Bring everyone on the journey: this is not just about marketing. Involve Finance, HR, Legal, IT, Sales, etc; anybody who can stop the project succeeding. It may be tempting to keep your cards close to your chest, but the best way to know where you are now, and therefore where you’re moving from, is to ask people.

DO: Sell the status quo changing for the better: don’t sell functionality, sell an outcome. Your marketing teams probably don’t care about ID matching, they probably do care about increasing efficiency. What people think is better can also vary – involving a variety of stakeholders helps to build agreement on what “better” looks like

DO: Identify skills gaps and fill them (before implementation): budget constraints can make this hard to deliver, but it is worth considering what will set your staff up for success. What new skills do staff need (e.g. data/ analysis), what new processes might be introduced (e.g. new naming convention) and what new responsibilities will be created?

DON’T: Leave as the responsibility of one person/ team: aside from the business continuity risk of having the entire project in the head of one person, a single viewpoint can be incredibly limiting. The most successful projects will crowd source expertise; this is more than bringing everyone on the journey, it’s making its outcome a shared responsibility.

DON’T: Set unrealistic timelines: massive implementation over-runs are expensive. But even at the planning stages this is one of the main reasons for perceived failure. Projects often get to the right answer by taking a little longer to think about the right answer. Make sure plans reflect your business reality.

DON’T: Forget to communicate success: it can be very easy to breathe a sigh of relief and move on, but recognise your successes as you go. Without this, it’s unlikely the next stage of the project will be supported.

Fundamentally, your people are how you get from now to next. Tourism Ireland have embarked on an incredibly exciting martech change programme and they have put their people at the heart of its delivery. They have a fascinating few months and years ahead.

By Sophie Wooller, consultancy lead at iProspect