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Why the Martech Debate Only Delivers Wrong Answers

Is your technology suite sweet? Or is your collection of marketing tools a fabulous “frankenstack?”

The debate of one unified platform vs. best-of-breed solutions has raged in marketing for the last 20 years. Every couple of years, an article or keynote address promises to put an “end to the debate” but only walks through the pros and cons of each. Ultimately, the “debate” ends with a more wishy-washy than a definitive conclusion – choose the best option for you.

#Martech debates about unified platform vs. best-of-breed collection have raged for 20 years with only wishy-washy conclusions, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

(Spoiler alert: That’s Robert Rose’s take, too, but he adds a twist.)

Get Robert Rose’s take in this week’s CMI News video, or keep reading for the highlights:

Oracle mounts all-in-one, the education, content, and event organization, recently featured an article with one of those end-the-debate arguments. It highlighted the proclamation by tech giant Oracle that unified platforms beat a collection of best-of-breed solutions.

Rob Tarkoff,  Oracle’s executive vice president and general manager of customer experience, says, “All of those [marketing] flows need to be unified into one streamlined process, one data model, one set of interactions, one clear end-to-end process to build a campaign that has a multichannel touch.”

Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

Well, CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose says, “If you find an enterprise company that does all that across the customer experience, you have found a candy-coated technology unicorn that will rain magic coins upon you.”

Now, Oracle makes the point to say the ideal scenario will be easier – perhaps not easy – to accomplish using a unified suite of technology rather than a best-of-breed approach where different technologies plug in together.

Oracle argues unified works better because it’s a cloud solution. As Rob Tarkoff of Oracle explains, “(A)s long as the service provides value for you, you’ll keep it; if it doesn’t, you’ll switch.”

As long as the service provides value, you’ll keep it; if it doesn’t, you’ll switch, says @rtarkoff of @Oracle via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Any of you who have gone through a CMS, DAM, CRM, or marketing automation implementation should keep on laughing at that quote.

Not an either-or choice

CMI’s Robert Rose says the only sure thing is that the argument of a unified martech platform vs. a best-of-breed collection is not over.

In 2023, best-of-breed solutions will continue to thrive. Why?

He explains: “The unified promises made by the all-in-one suites has not been realized by any vendor. Most assembled their all-in-one suites from acquisitions of best-of-breed vendors. Some are ahead of others. Some make emptier promises than others. Some kill the “best of” part when they integrate the acquired tool into the overall solution. But, on the other hand, best-of-breed is only best until they are acquired, run out of runway, or struggle to evolve.”

Repeating the spoiler alert from the beginning: Each choice’s value will vary for the chooser. You should weigh your requirements, budget, desire for complexity, and overall flexibility before deciding to go all-in or all-out one way or the other.

But here’s the twist to that “it depends” conclusion.

Organizations mistakenly assume the choice is binary. You think you must either pick a suite or a best-of-breed solution. That’s a false choice.

Martech decisions are not an either-or choice. It doesn’t have to be a unified solution or a best-of-breed collection, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

“Companies are chasing strategy using technology tools instead of the other way around,” Robert says.

For example, he hears from marketing teams who say they can’t launch mini-sites or blogs because their all-in global customer experience system would need four to six months to execute them. Yes, the suite is bulletproof. Yes, the technology can host the content. But no, it cannot do it quickly.

Instead, Robert asks, why not have a small, secondary CMS that allows for agile development? “If it works, you can then make a business decision to understand whether it’s worth institutionalizing it in the unified solution,” he says.

Best-of-breed solutions aren’t the answer either. Robert relates the story of an enterprise that customized a workflow tool into its foundational digital asset management system. Why?  That was what was available. Now that “available” workflow tool – warts and all – has become the foundational tool.

Instead of choosing an all-in-one suite or a best-of-breed collection, build a tech stack as you would a house, Robert says. Start with a solid foundation that won’t change. Next, build a footprint that can change. Construct the walls, doors, and windows (i.e., the internal tech functions) that can be moved if needed.

Yes, you might have a couple of providers for some things or overlap in capabilities, but that’s OK as long it’s a conscious decision. Remember, using the wrong tool might help you start more quickly, but it rarely helps you finish more successfully.

Where do you land on the martech tools debate – unified, best-of-breed collection, or both? What works for your brand? What doesn’t? Let us know in the comments.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute