The impact of the strategic skills gap in marketing technology

May 28, 2024



A strategic skills gap has been identified, but what is the impact across teams, martech integration, legalities and customer experience?

We recently uncovered in Digital Connections 3.0 that one of the biggest challenges right now is the strategic skills gap around marketing technology. 

In addition to our latest research, chiefmartec has just released the 2024 Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic with over 14,000 martech products which shows a 28% year-on-year growth of products available. 

Not only are we feeling the lack of skills across platforms, but it seems the abyss is growing even faster. As marketers, the gap between understanding the platforms and maximising what we’ve already got is getting wider – and creating concern.


Digital skills gap expands to marketing technology 

The digital skills gap is a known issue and is widely debated in the industry. As we play catch up trying to skill up the next generation, we’re faced with technology running away with us. The technology has the power, but there simply isn’t the ability to strategise, architect and design how the tech needs to work together.

This isn’t just about the wider martech stack and bringing it together.  It’s actually within the separate systems themselves. The individual platforms are expanding capability, growing faster than ever with ability to integrate and connect with other martech systems for an uber-powerful stack that promises the earth, but delivers little. 

The result: Expensive, underused tech and a desire for nirvana but little hope of getting there.

Whilst marketing technology brought us automation and insight, advanced the way we work with customers and provided deeper engagement experiences, it’s also created a lot of work just to crank the system.  

For example, marketing automation platforms. They track website engagement, capture leads and nurture them through email. They’re the gateway to the CRM and baseline to aid segmentation and personalisation. And they keep us busy.  

Most teams are so busy with the day-to-day of managing the system and managing the campaigns, they don’t have the headspace to explore the capability of the platform, let alone consider how to change (sometimes) even the simplest things. That ‘thinking’ space is critical for redesigning, rearchitecting or creating greater efficiency. 


The T-shape model

It’s not just the headspace and time. It requires a different skill set and different set of knowledge – usually of multiple systems that need to work together. A few years ago, people talked of T-shaped teams in digital.  Broad generalists across the top, and then the deeper pockets of specific digital skills along the bottom, i.e. SEO, paid search, social etc. 

This is now becoming apparent for martech too. The top of the T would be the strategic understanding of all the platforms and the tail of the T would be the deeper experts in a specific technology.  You need the line at the top to re-engineer, and then you need the deeper experts to help configure and define the platform specific detail. 

The problem right now is that platforms are all still new – and the skills and experience is limited. And with the martech landscape expanding rapidly, there’s too much stretch for people to really deliver value.


The largest problem areas for CMOs

In the research, the biggest areas of concern were around integration. Getting the systems talking to each other in a way that’s worthwhile and valuable. The time and effort to achieve this isn’t quick and requires a lot of system integration, especially when you’re considering the complexity of some of the platforms. 

The lack of integration limits automation capability. This results in work-arounds that work, but are often not robust and rarely get documented correctly, so governance becomes an issue.

Over time, we also heard CMOs flag the issues of automations conflicting with each other, particularly in systems that have been running for a few years and perhaps haven’t had a clean up.

The knowledge to review and unpick these kinds of issues lie with those with the most experience across multiple platforms. They require strategic thinking, careful consideration and a wide array of experience to draw upon to ask the right questions and navigate the complexity of different systems.


Regulation adds to the complexity

It’s not just legacy set-up, complex systems needing to be integrated or just large complex set-ups; regulation and laws are changing all the time, which adds complexity around data management and consent management. It’s not easy to navigate the legalities across country and state to ensure all boxes are ticked and the system remains compliant. 


Customer experience design across systems

It would be remiss if we didn’t consider the customer. To design an experience that meets customer needs seamlessly requires experience and strategic thinking – plus an understanding of how the tech needs to work together to enable the experience to be met, data to flow and consistently review and evaluate performance. 

Over the next few years, we’ll see an influx of solutions architects, solution specialists and technologists expand their experience around the core hubs for various business segments.  You can already see it with specialists, like Modern, that hold platform knowledge across the core B2B enterprise martech vendors. 

Perhaps rather than focusing on the next shiny new thing, we should be looking to maximise value from our existing technologies and find a way forward that delivers better ROI to the business?

Do you need help navigating these spaces?
If you’re feeling confined to walled gardens, our dedicated Digital Team is here to ensure you’re getting the most out of your digital strategy. If you would like to discuss how we can support you, get in touch.

Further reading

When conversion tracking goes wrong, everything gets shaky

Leading change: Unpacking the Forrester B2B Summit, North America

Three ABM project management habits to champion your people