Source:  Rosenfeld Media, LLC

It’s been crystal clear now for several years that marketing and technology have become deeply entwined, and that the number of marketing-related technologies has been growing at an exponential rate. The inaugural (2011) version of Scott Brinker’s marketing technology landscape graphic contained about 150 solution providers. The 2022 version of the graphic includes nearly 10,000 technology solutions. So, the marketing technology landscape has grown by an astounding 6,521% since 2011. 

Because of the growing reliance on technology, marketing leaders are acquiring new technology tools on a fairly regular basis. In a 2021 survey of marketers by MarTech, two-thirds (67%) of the survey respondents said their organization had replaced at least one marketing technology application in the previous 12 months.

There are an abundance of resources that provide advice on how to select new technology. For example, many technology vendors produce buying guides for the types of technologies they offer, and several analyst/consulting firms regularly publish “rankings” of various types of technology applications.

One of the best resources for marketers is The Right Way To Select Technology by Tony Byrne and Jarrod Gingras (Rosenfeld Media, LLC, 2017). Tony Byrne is the founder and Jarrod Gingras is the Managing Director of Real Story Group, a buy-side technology research and advisory firm. It works exclusively with enterprise customers, and the firm emphasizes that its advice is vendor agnostic.

The Right Way To Select Technology provides a detailed road map for making sound technology buying decisions, and it contains a wealth of practical suggestions and tips. The book focuses primarily on information technologies that an enterprise acquires to improve customer or employee digital experiences. However, the authors note that the methodology described in the book can be used for selecting any information technology.

What’s In the Book

The Right Way To Select Technology contains six major parts.

Part I (Chapters 1-3) – In Part I, the authors discuss the “business foundations” that are essential for making smart technology buying decisions. They argue that a realistic business case is needed for prospective technology acquisitions, they describe the importance of choosing an appropriate selection team, and they explain why the selection team needs to determine how decisions will be made before the selection process begins.

Part II (Chapters 4-6) – Part II of the book focuses on how companies identify the business needs and articulate the “requirements” associated with a proposed technology purchase. In Chapters 4 and 5, the authors introduce the idea of using principles of user-centered design in the technology selection process, and they argue that user stories should be a core component of the process. Chapter 6 outlines the kinds of questions that the selection team should be asking prospective vendors.

Part III (Chapters 7-9) – In this part, Byrne and Gingras describe how technology selection teams can ensure they identify the right vendors to consider, and they explain how companies can decide which solicitation vehicle (request for information vs. request for proposal vs. request for quote) will work best for their situation.

Part IV (Chapters 10-12) – Chapters 10 and 11 discuss how selection teams can interact effectively with prospective vendors, including how to create RFI’s/RFP’s/RFQ’s that actually work and how to respond to vendor questions. Chapter 12 explains how selection teams should review vendor submissions and how they should approach the task of reducing the number of vendors under consideration.

Part V (Chapters 13-14) – In this part, Byrne and Gingras cover two of the most important steps in the technology selection process. In Chapter 13, the authors describe how to structure and conduct demo sessions that will provide the selection team relevant and useful information. Byrne and Gingras strongly argue that selection teams should include a competitive proof of concept – a “bake-off” – in their selection process. A bake-off would typically involve two vendor finalists. Chapter 14 explains how to design and conduct an effective bake-off.

Part VI (Chapters 15-17) – The book concludes with chapters that explain now to effectively negotiate with vendors, how to make the final selection, and how to adapt the process described in the book when selecting a services firm such as a consulting firm or a systems integrator.

My Take

The Right Way To Select Technology is a must-read for anyone who is responsible for acquiring information technology solutions for their organization. The book is well organized and clearly written, and it covers the technology selection process in a comprehensive and practical way.

The central theme of the book is that the most important goal of business leaders and managers in any technology selection process is to identify the vendor and solution that will be the “best fit” for their organization.

The emphasis on choosing best-fit technologies is present in virtually all of the steps of the selection process described in the book, but it plays the starring role in how the authors approach expressing the requirements for a new technology tool.

Byrne and Gingras recommend capturing requirements primarily through user stories. A user story is a short, real-world narrative that describes a company’s available data, work processes, business needs and desired business outcomes.

A user story speaks from the perspective of a specific user persona, which can be defined as an archetype of a type or group of users. Users will always include certain company employees, but for some types of technologies, users could also include customers, suppliers and/or channel partners.

User stories enable the technology selection team to capture how real people will interact with a technology application and what they need to accomplish.

Selecting the right technology tools is now one of the most important responsibilities of business leaders, including marketing leaders. That’s what makes The Right Way To Select Technology a valuable resource and a must-read.