3 Things to Learn From Microsoft’s MarTech Stack

April 6, 2017 Sam Melnick

In case you missed it, Microsoft’s tech stack was recently highlighted on Scott Brinker’s chiefmartec.com. Needless to say, every marketer should be interested to see what a forward-thinking organization like Microsoft is doing with marketing technology.  

Companies like Microsoft, that have a well thought out approach to Marketing technology get better business results. In our industry-wide benchmark study, the data clearly shows that organizations expecting budget and revenue increases have a much stronger approach to their overall marketing technology stack and tech strategy. 

Here are three things that every marketer can learn from Microsoft’s tech stack:

1. Make sure technologies that help “Run Marketing” are well-represented in your stack

Microsoft includes both Data & Analytics and Planning & Instrumentation in the first two rungs of their stack’s “flow”. This shows how Marketing Performance Management software is part of their core technology stack, along with CRM, Marketing Automation, and other “must have” systems. 

The best marketers in the world know that without clear plans and the ability assess results, execution will falter. Data & Analytics and Planning & Instrumentation are key strategic levers that help the entire marketing team determine how execute for maximum impact. At Allocadia we consider them part of Running Marketing, or the strategic side of marketing. Without a focus on running marketing, execution or doing marketing becomes less effective. Microsoft does an excellent job prioritizing planning and measurement, which are key pillars within Marketing Performance Management

What’s more, this decision to prioritize MPM tools like Allocadia and Adobe Media Optimizer demonstrates a level of maturity in Microsoft’s approach to budgeting and planning. Our aforementioned study found that the maturity of technologies used for Marketing Performance Measurement and Planning is an indicator of success. 80% of companies expecting flat to negative revenue growth report they use tools like spreadsheets and CRM that weren’t meant for planning and budgeting, or do not use any tools at all. 

2. Build Multiple Layers of Technologies to Create Clarity

Microsoft’s tech stack has two dimensions. The first is the layers of technology they use. This separation or categorization of technology is very important at an organization of Microsoft's size. It allows their marketing operations and technologists around the world to clearly understand the importance of each technology and where they fit into the entire ecosystem. The areas listed out are:

  1. Systems of Record: Established, persistent applications that support core transaction processing and manage the organization’s critical master data. 
  2. Differentiation: Applications that enable unique company processes and are reconfigured frequently to accommodate changing business practices or customer requirements. 
  3. Innovation: Temporal applications deployed on an ad hoc basis to address new business requirements or opportunities. 

I particularly like Microsoft’s structure as I have been a long time proponent of having a defined core to your marketing technology stack. The core provides a base of technologies that everything else can run off of, such as other technologies, processes, and even campaigns. I look at the core as the backbone of a marketing organization, essentially what would shut down operations if removed. 

At Allocadia, we’d consider ours to be Marketo, salesforce.com, and Allocadia (of course). At a company of Microsoft’s size it’s no surprise to see them list almost 4X as many “core” or “System of Record” technologies (11) than a company of our size. 


3.  Align Technology Capabilities to the Customer Journey 

The second dimension Microsoft shows in their stack is an understanding, and commitment to the customer journey. If you look at past years’ “Stackies,” Microsoft isn’t the first company to lay out their MarTech stack along the customer journey, but the way they do it here is particularly interesting (and smart). Here is why:

They break out key categories within each stage of the journey (Content, Events, Social, Sales, In Product, and Customer Advocacy). This provides a clear lens of what role each technology plays and, I imagine, helps identify which internal groups should leverage each tool. 
They seem to view the customer journey as continuous. The stack is laid out in a sort of infinity loop where ultimately everything ends back at the beginning with Data & Analytics. To me this promotes the idea of always learning, adjusting, and improving. The results brought in from the execution (everything after Planning & Instrumentation) can be analyzed then brought into the next planning cycles. This is very similar to how we lay out the Run vs Do Marketing concept (see below). 

Overall, a lot can be learned from Microsoft's tech stack and before I put away my analyst hat, I will leave you with three specific actions to take while building your tech stack:

  1. Document your core marketing technologies. What are the technologies that, if they were ripped away, would bring your marketing operations to a standstill. These are also the first vendors you would call if you had to start your stack from scratch.
  2. Think beyond just marketing. Microsoft does a great job of highlighting sales and post-sales technologies along with marketing technologies. Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success are more entwined than ever, especially within the context of today’s customer journey expectations.Technology should be a huge part of enabling that. 
  3. Remember the “Run,” or strategic side of marketing. It’s natural to focus more on the execution, but without the ability to plan, invest time and money intelligently, measure, and of course adapt, your tech stack will become inefficient. 
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Two up-and-coming roles that will run marketing: Revenue Ops & MPM
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