Five human issues that can wreck a technology implementation

There’s far more than tech to martech. That may seem counterintuitive, but the longer I work in this field, the more I realize it’s true. Especially when it comes to implementations and integrations. While there’s always the risk of technical problems, people-related issues can wreak as much havoc, if not more. Let’s examine some of those.

1: Time passes slowly

There are times when you’re asked to change something and it gets delayed because other business units need to approve it. For example, if privacy laws are involved. Legal, security and privacy teams may need a vendor to make changes to its product. This can take anywhere from months to more than a year to accomplish.

A lot can change in that time, including the reason for the change. 

  • If it was meant to improve user adoption – especially for an internal tool – users may find workarounds that accomplish what the integration was supposed to do. 
  • The user base and use cases may change to such an extent what you were asked to do isn’t needed. 
  • Turnover on the implementation team may mean no one is on it from when the change was requested. As a result they don’t understand why it was needed or what it is supposed to accomplish. 
  • People may even forget why they wanted the change in the first place. 

These are just a few of the situations that can arise.

2: Who’s project is it, anyway?

The reason for this is a lack of ownership and sponsorship. Implementations and integrations can require plenty of attention, resources and funding. Unless there’s someone senior and committed to the initiative it will likely wither on the vine. 

Employee turnover can also hurt a project, even after it’s up and running. Once the senior person who championed it leaves, the product or integration may be iced either by the staff who implemented it or their replacement. Sometimes the staff was never sold on the product and only selected it because of their former boss. Or the new boss may prefer a competing product. This may be a time to consider the pros and cons of practitioners specializing in specific martech products. It is nice to understand a product intimately, but a narrow focus can blind specialists to other possibilities.


3: User adoption

It doesn’t matter how great a tool or integration is if people don’t use it. A successful project must anticipate and address user and stakeholder resistance (see the change management link above). 

4: The shining

All of us are attracted by new, shiny things – especially if the cool kids are using them. While there is sometimes substance behind the hype, rarely does a product or integration shine on its own. Commitment and orchestration are needed; without them it may be best to leave that shiny thing on the shelf.

5: Relationship trouble

Relationships involving money are every bit as complex as those involving love. You want one thing, they want another. You say they don’t communicate well, they say you don’t ask enough questions. Friction is part of every client-vendor relationship. Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s them, maybe both. Sometimes you can get through the rough patches together. Sometimes you have to call in the lawyers.

Here’s a few issues that might crop up on the vendor side. Maybe turnover makes the account team a rotating cast of characters. With each change you have to get to know a new person and they have to get to know a new project. This makes it more likely critical details fall through the cracks. It could be the vendor is taking its product in a different direction than the client needs. Also, and this is a very common one, the account team can’t get client questions, requests and bugs addressed in a reasonable time. That one creates a lot of friction and bad will. No doubt you could add many more things to this list.

On the client side, maybe your team has high turnover, too. Then there’s the fact that getting good customer service requires you to be a good customer. To be clear, that doesn’t mean the vendor can do whatever. However, sometimes the client may have unreasonable expectations. Before going off on the vendor, look at your own actions. Clients need to contribute their fair share to maintaining a productive client-vendor relationship.

Don’t go it alone

This is why it can be helpful to have full-time buyers involved during the procurement process. They, along with the legal team, can spot potential challenges from the get-go. These can be anything from vague or unfavorable terms to problematic pricing to weak service level agreements. Lean on those colleagues. They’ve done this more often than you have.

Implementations and integrations rarely go without a hitch. This is easy to understand, but sometimes hard to apply when multiple stakeholders are clamoring for action NOW. There’s far more than tech when it comes to martech.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author


Steve Petersen is a marketing technology manager at Zuora. He spent nearly 8.5 years at Western Governors University, holding many martech related roles with the last being marketing technology manager. Prior to WGU, he worked as a strategist at the Washington, DC digital shop The Brick Factory, where he worked closely with trade associations, non-profits, major brands, and advocacy campaigns. Petersen holds a Master of Information Management from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Brigham Young University. He’s also a Certified ScrumMaster. Petersen lives in the Salt Lake City, UT area.

Petersen represents his own views, not those of his current or former employers.

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