Minimizing Tech Debt in your RevOps Stack
Making your CRM a system of record to simplify your life
The RevOps stack has grown significantly in the past 10 years. According to Scott Brinker, it mushroomed from approximately 150 solutions to around 10,000. But the economic downturn has now put pressure on marketing budgets, and marketers are now taking a second look at their stacks. The old playbook of throwing more tools and more people at a problem simply won’t cut it anymore, and marketing software is on the chopping block.
MarTech’s 2022 Replacement Survey shows that the most replaced software are marketing automation (24%), CRM (23%), SEO (23%), email marketing (22%), and project management (19%). Another insight from this survey is that it’s common for marketing organizations to upgrade applications in favor of solutions with better features that integrate seamlessly with the rest of their marketing technology stacks.
Data centralization and, in general, data capabilities was the next factor in choosing a replacement. Marketing and sales organizations don’t run on stand-alone applications. They run on stacks of interconnected solutions, which makes connecting applications and sharing data essential.
The last factor listed was the ability to measure ROI. This is how revenue teams justify their spending decisions and make the business case for more investment.
Salesforce is the CRM of choice for most companies. It’s safe to say that when you think about sales and marketing automation, you think of Salesforce.
Salesforce CRM was launched more than 20 years ago, when there were just a few channels to get leads into the database. Salesforce has evolved over the years through innovation and acquisitions, adding more functionality to keep up with the dynamics of the market.
Today, the explosion of point solutions and digital touchpoints tests the limits of Salesforce’s data management and processing scalability. Adding point solutions like LeanData, which shares resources with Salesforce, can choke the system.
Salesforce’s sweet spot is being a system of record; a single source of truth about customers and sales numbers. Unfortunately, many companies create a complex martech stack that dumps a lot of duplicate data and garbage data into their CRMs. We know one company that burned down its Salesforce instance twice in two years. Others end up with multiple instances due to M&A, experiencing syncing issues and all sorts of delays. We call this “tech debt,” and the root cause is CRM overload.
Applications like Salesforce, HubSpot, Eloqua, Microsoft Dynamics, and Marketo are platforms with workflow engines that can be configured to automate all kinds of tasks. Real-world implementations of these platforms are often chock-full of triggers, validation rules, calculation formulas, webhooks, segmentation rules, and data cleansing programs—many of which are too data-heavy for these platforms to handle.
System performance degrades, synchronization lags, and real-time mechanisms become not-so-real-time. Degradation often creeps into other solutions in the stack, throwing off timing and creating unpredictable outcomes.
Tech debt in marketing and sales operations means anything that impacts your systems of record and that doesn’t provide value to your business process. Tech debt originates from:
- Custom functionality (both configuration and code based)
- Third-party managed packages that compete on resources and cause CRM overload
- Third-party applications that impact your system of record data
- Unnecessary metadata (fields/pages/record types)
- Unnecessary data that doesn’t drive your business process
- Mis-alignment between departments on how to use the fields in your system of record
You may recognize some of the symptoms:
- You have more than 1,000 custom data fields in your Sales or Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) and you don’t know what 50% of them are for, how they came about, or who’s using them.
- You have five or six seemingly identical data fields, like “industry,” “industries,” “industry_c,” and “industry__c” (yes, that’s one underscore vs. two underscores).
- You need to limit your bulk update batch size to fewer than 100 records at a time because of the many triggers, calculations, and validation rules that kick off.
- The sync time between your sales solution and marketing automation solution is longer than 30-60 minutes.
- A task that used to take seconds now takes minutes, even longer.
- Duplicate records are created “mysteriously” by unknown sources.
- You constantly try to sort out which application does what and in which order, leading you to manually orchestrate processes by adding wait steps to referee the applications within the stack.
- You have race conditions where a record’s value can change unpredictably depending on which application updated it last and which campaign is triggered first.
- You do the same tasks–data cleansing and standardization–in multiple applications.
- You constantly look at your CRM audit log to try to unravel what happened to your data like it’s an episode of “CSI: Marketing Ops.”
It’s very easy to see how quickly tech debt can get out of hand in growing organizations, and it can have a lot of negative impacts:
- Slowing down system performance
- Confusing your end users
- Breaking new functionality
Minimizing tech debt
Reducing technical debt is very hard, especially when it’s been accumulating over many years. That’s why it’s important to minimize it going forward by taking these steps:
- Do not over-rely on point solutions.
- Lots of applications and managed packages can impact your data without your control.
- The managed packages on top of your CRM can introduce net new fields, automation, and code that you have no control over.
How to avoid: Invest in platforms that solve multiple problems and maximize internal control of the functionality
2. Do not use too much custom code.
- For example, APEX code that can’t be maintained because it was written by a consultant who is long gone.
How to avoid: Invest in platforms that offer no-code development. If you have to have custom code, make sure it’s well-documented.
3. Do not put functionality above process.
- It’s often easier to throw money at an issue, or just add a new tool, rather than dig deeper into the business process and the supporting business logic.
- You realize once the new tool is live that it doesn’t fix your underlying business process issue and you’re left with tech debt.
How to avoid: Understand the business process, adjust it, then identify the technology gaps.
Follow this technical debt strategy to minimize your legacy debt:
- Inventory your tech stack and document how each solution is used and what it’s capable of. Figure out who’s actively using each solution. Determine the ROI you get from each technology.
- Remove any solution not being used.
- Remove any solution performing tasks that overlap with capabilities in other solutions.
- Re-assess your uncluttered tech stack. Ask yourself, “Can any of these solutions be replaced with a single solution, like a data orchestration platform?”
- Consider using a data orchestration platform like Openprise as a “data firewall” instead of plugging solutions you’re evaluating (especially data enrichment services) directly into your CRM. Use the data orchestration platform to incorporate third-party data into your primary data schema instead of letting these services add hundreds of custom data fields into your CRM systems, creating clutter you’ll have to remove later.
- Once you’ve eliminated the excess solutions, make sure to consolidate the data you want to retain into usable fields, and then remove all the data fields these solutions added to your CRM and MAP. Consider doing a data assessment offered by Openprise and its partners.
- Offload data cleansing and other data processing tasks from your Salesforce to a platform that is better at doing it. That will free up resources and let Salesforce do what is meant to do: being a system of record.
You can learn more about how to avoid creating and how to reduce technical debt in RevOps data platform buyer’s guide.