“You Can’t Build a Walled Garden”

February 21, 2017 Mark Emmons

Like most movements, this one is starting quietly. There are growing pockets of discontent. People are grumbling about how there has to be a better way and that change needs to happen.

While this budding revolution might not yet involve pitchforks and lighted torches, something big clearly is happening.

Sales and marketing professionals are increasingly frustrated that much of the software technology flooding the marketplace is not designed to integrate with other solutions and workflows. And it’s time vendors begin listening to that message, Sean Zinsmeister said.

“I really think that we’re beginning to see a grassroots movement toward a more open way of thinking,” added Zinsmeister, the vice president of product marketing at predictive analytics company Infer. “It’s not necessarily being driven by the vendors. In fact, it shouldn’t be. True innovation happens with the customers. They’re going to really push that road map and drive this revolution forward.”

Sean Zinsmeister

The importance of seamless tool integration was one of the topics explored in the virtual workshop “Building a Winning Account-Based Stack Formula” that featured Zinsmeister and Christine Maxey, the director of enterprise solutions at LeanData.

The event focused on how AI, predictive analytics and lead management is a powerful combination for co-customers of the two companies. But Zinsmeister and Maxey also delved into a broader discussion about how practitioners now expect tech tools to mesh well with their other software products. Yet the reality is that far too often, vendors fall woefully short.

For Zinsmeister, it’s all about the idea of “open” technologies.

“In other words, tools that are built to essentially integrate with any workflow and process,” he explained. “Data can flow easily from one to another. This really touches on the Infer-LeanData story. The two tools can really play well together with your system of record, such as Salesforce. That’s opposed to closed systems that you can’t even get to talk to one another. You can’t build a walled garden.”

This is very much a “one plus one equals three” view of the world. There’s a synergy between solutions that drives even greater value for customers. Operations professionals have a growing appetite for moving data into various systems as they see fit — and as painlessly as possible. They are a creative bunch who don’t want to be limited when it comes to innovation.

That approach is especially relevant as the sales and marketing technology sector has become more complicated . . . and more crowded. With so many software “toys” available, many businesses have gone on spending sprees. The result? A lot of convoluted tech stacks, redundant platforms and expensive tools gathering dust.

“Companies absolutely can be overwhelmed by the number of logos in their stacks,” Zinsmeister said. “You can’t have 1,001 tools that sit around and nobody uses. It’s shelfware syndrome. The problem is that people don’t think strategically about what they actually need.”

Businesses also don’t consider who is going to own the technology. Zinsmeister notes that many modern software tools typically aren’t “set-and-forget” solutions. They need to be tweaked, tuned, optimized and measured. Having a smart “human-to-technology” ratio is the only way to drive maximum value. Or, he added, you’re just pouring money down the drain.

Zinsmeister has his finger on the pulse of tech tool trends. As co-host of the Stack and Flow podcast, he interviews sales and marketing leaders about their views on subjects such as automation and the best ways to create the technology stacks of tomorrow. Here’s one conclusion he has reached: Less sometimes can be more.

“Smaller, more strategic stacks absolutely can be better,” he said. “They can be incredibly effective, especially for companies that can’t afford to keep buying things. A few pieces of open technology that help you scale can make you very efficient rather than gathering as many tools as possible.”

It’s no longer enough that solutions work. They need to be flexible enough to work with everything else. In fact, Zinsmeister recommends that businesses conduct a technology audit every quarter or so, just to evaluate how tools are integrating.

“Businesses are volatile places,” he added. “They change strategies. They launch new products. They enter new markets. If a tool is not built to keep up with the pace that modern business requires, then maybe that’s not the right technology for you. And the idea of openness absolutely is part of that.”

So the revolution has begun. Pass it on.

Register for the webinar here.


About the Author

Mark Emmons

Mark Emmons is the staff writer at LeanData. He previously was a reporter at the San Jose Mercury News, Orange County Register and Detroit Free Press. He can be reached at mark@leandatainc.com.

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