Humanizing Automation

Customer Experience (CX) is the final frontier, and companies are spending fortunes to deliver it through inspiring, intuitive mobile UI and UX. Behind those cool interfaces, however, many corporate teams are struggling. As the digital ecosystem and martech stacks grow more complex, transparency is fading, ROI is getting harder to prove, and campaigns have gotten more grueling, not less. That’s ironic: CRM and CMS promised to improve optics, harmonize data and unify work flows. But take any capable staffer doing a high-stakes project in a martech platform today, and you can bet they’re losing sleep over it.

This confronts an urgent underlying issue: the supernova explosion of SaaS has had unintended consequences, and it’s starting to affect everything from morale to profitability. Call it the quiet crisis of the automation generation. But no one should be embarrassed if sales and marketing tech frustrates them, or if it’s failing to yield expected results. The feeling is quite common in today’s fragmented business tech landscape. As Editor Scott Brinker noted in, “The marketing technology landscape has grown nearly 40 percent in the past year, from about 3,500 software offerings in 2016 to 5,381 in 2017.” It’s bewildering.

More companies are recognizing the dissonance between brands, humans, and the surge of machines. Some are using software business consultancies to form more productive “teams” of people and software. These consultancies are hybrids: part developer, part strategist. The approach tends to be personal. Unlike contractors, some have the persona of coaches, relating on a human level and refocusing on what makes a company great. Software is secondary (even if software happens to be your actual business). At the core, it’s a straight-forward message that is surprisingly absent from current business philosophy: rather than operating the way, say, Salesforce dictates, use custom software and tactics to do your best work and deliver on your unique brand promise. It challenges the value of licensing one-size-fits-all SaaS applications.

A recent survey by cyber security firm Netskope found that, “…the average enterprise uses 91 marketing cloud services.” But after the martech gold rush of 2010-2015, it became clear that automation is only as good as the people running it. That’s why processes used by hybrid consultancies are getting more traction now. Rather than focus purely on data and lists of tech capabilities, they advocate keeping humanity at the heart of business offerings and operations.

It’s a different perspective that assigns higher value in areas such as:

  • Human Diagnostics — Your greatest asset is your staff; not your data, not your systems. As part of any evaluation, identify where your individual staff members shine, and think about how software can be used to streamline and amplify their best work.
  • Institutional Knowledge —In the case of private companies especially, there are often individual stakeholders who embody the intellectual property of the organization. This knowledge is a priceless business asset. Before these people retire, or in the event of an acquisition, a software business consultant helps to secure and integrate this expertise.

By Denver Gibbs

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