With the recent release of Marketo’s “Abort” button for email campaigns, we are finally taking a step to making Marketing Automation Platforms more robust against human error. But if you reached a point where you need to press abort, then the platform has already failed you.
Marketing Automation is on a Data Tight Rope
In the past few months, I have committed, seen, and corrected massive data errors in my MAP. All were caused by human error in some way. As I worked to fix these, I reflected on just how delicate these systems are. We rely on our MAP to process huge amounts of data each day. We rely on these systems to make the correct decisions based on a rigid view of previously human processes.
I saw this fragility in my first implementation. The process we established to implement Marketo with Salesforce was very solid, from the human side. We did everything in a sandbox and I heavily researched just how things should work. We checked in with various teams before acting on data. And everything went smoothly.
But as I built out the lead management flows and important autoresponders, I began to think of the tool as a delicately balanced system, akin to erector set with very few bolts. It worked really well, but just one thing off could break the entire flow, collapsing my structure.
Years later, I see lead management flows and data management flows in the same way. Why? Because nothing has changed in the robustness of the tools themselves. From what I can tell, this is true for many major vendors. Where are the safeguards against someone accidentally breaking the carefully built erector set?
And I don’t mean an “abort button,” however useful to prevent external firestorms of criticism and embarrassment. I mean, how do I stop someone, myself included, from turning on a workflow, or changing a name, or moving something that causes massive data errors?
Common Solutions that are not enough
- Security by Role: most systems let you restrict untrained or those who don’t need to know from accessing key areas. What I have seen, however, is that core workflows like Lead Management are still vulnerable to people who have access to run email campaigns.
- Training: yes, that could work, to a point. I’m considered well trained and “experienced”, yet without proper documentation and checks, I can still do a lot of damage without intending to do so. Most marketing automation managers came up through marketing, not technology or system administration. Thus, a lot of data governance training is needed, and it’s not getting done.
- Workspaces and Lead Partitions: these do help. The impact on the system can be contained in many cases if a user is restricted to just their area. Depending on the setup, however, many users can still import data that runs amok across the system. They can also hose their own data!
- Don’t let anyone in: not really feasible for most organizations.
- CRM and Database Safeguards: this is often available to large organizations that can afford to add rules and logic to the system to prevent massive data errors. It can help avoid many errors, but not all.
- Design the system to be less prone to human error: this is more for the vendor to do, as the MAP rules are geared toward moving data round, not letting you prevent errors.
Real Safeguards for Marketing Automation Platforms
So what could real safeguards look like without ending up with an Enterprise System or custom tool?
- Lock Programs and Smart Campaigns after they are set to run.
- Lock Smart List configurations. [Vote]
- Change Logs with more detail that permit more filtering.
- Changed Data History expansion. I know this is expensive.
- “Are you sure?” dialogs with count information. (this usually appears on delete).
- Alert Dialog – “Changing this campaign will affect XYZ”. While “Used by” exists in Marketo, you have to look at it first. Same for other asset changes.
- Refined User Role Access: I’d like to see Role Security down to flow step permission and leads affected. [Vote]
- Schedule Tabs that display: Total Qualified – Total Blocked from Email = Total Estimated Send. [Vote]
- Order of Execution. This can be controlled with Campaign is Requested, however, this seems to be only something an advanced user would be able to setup. [Vote: idea 1 and idea 2].
- Individual record view should not permit editing unless you have permission and press “Edit Mode”.
- Hide Core Lead Management functions from other users. This would reduce the chances of “explorers” finding something and touching it. [Vote]
- Smart Campaign View Only Mode – Let people look at a campaign and then press Edit to modify the rules or workflow. [Vote]
You can vote for the ideas in Marketo. If you are using another tool, consider these as ideas for the integrity and security of your dataset.
Of course, the vendor cannot prevent all human error. As a marketing leader, you need to establish rules and processes for the team as well. Here are a few of my tips:
- Document everything and train people to read it first.
- Use diagrams to help understand dependencies.
- Four Eyes – two people check campaigns.
- Campaigns over 50,000 leads must be approved going up the chain.
- CRM Admins must be consulted and approve major changes.
- IT team should review and approve changes that would affect major systems such as websites, email, and other databases.
Do you have other ideas to help increase MAP robustness? Let us know in the comments.
Image Credit: martintaylor