The robots are coming (again): Tuesday’s Daily Brief

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Good morning, Marketers, and RPA isn’t a magic wand.

The news below about Salesforce’s acquisition of a Robotic Process Automation provider had me thinking back to the days when people were talking about an RPA bubble bursting. Around 2017 or 2018 there was enthusiasm for RPA as a core factor in digital transformation. Software robots, it was thought, could take over digital processes and execute them tirelessly and at speed.

One vendor known for its RPA offering back then was Pega, and with the kind of disruptive contrariness which makes him one of the more engaging CEOs in the industry, Alan Trefler headed to LinkedIn to explain why robots were not the magic solution to the challenge of transforming business processes (including marketing and sales) in response to the digital environment.

Robots, he said, are well-suited to performing tasks, not running complex processes. In fact, “RPA can’t fix bad processes – it just speeds them up.” Effective use of RPA requires a complete thinking through of business processes and the identification of repetitive tasks within those processes which can be automated to everyone’s benefit. Yes, the same familiar story: figure out what you’re trying to solve comes first; the technology comes second.

Kim Davis

Editorial Director

Why Kanban is more than a visualization board 

In her latest look at the world of agile marketing, agile coach Stacey Ackerman explains why Kanban is not just a pretty way to visualize workflows. It’s a mindset which agile teams need to come to terms with. “Kanban is really tricky for most people to get their heads around because it’s so much more about culture than process,” she writes. “To understand the cultural aspect of Kanban, we have to remove ourselves from thinking about a project and think of it instead as a practice.”

The practice itself needs to undergo evolutionary change. If teams continue to work as they always have, they’re not going to see improvements in workflows and cycle times. And teams need to be empowered to make these changes.

One way to start is to take a workflow with a longer cycle than desired and break it down into component parts, assigning times to each stage of the process. This will often reveal the bottlenecks which are slowing it down. Once identified, they can be addressed.

“Kanban is a great technique to use in agile marketing, but make sure that you have a culture that allows the team to own the way they work and continuously improve.”

Read more here.

There’s room for ABM to grow as a strategy  

Shifting from a reactive to proactive marketing approach is working well for many B2B companies. Marketers report account-based marketing (ABM) yields multiple important benefits, the Forrester SiriusDecisions 2019 State of Account-Based Marketing Study found, with 99% of those surveyed citing better engagement, 80% saying the practice improved their win rate, 73% reporting a higher deal size and 91% indicating they’d seen improved ROI.

Yet, few companies have fully integrated ABM within their operations. Just 13% of companies are at the highest level of adoption, ITSMA and the ABM Leadership Alliance found, while others are expanding their account coverage (20%), experimenting and refining their approach (38%) or planning an ABM strategy (29%).

This means there’s still plenty of room for growth for ABM as a strategy, though the organizations’ survey indicated that 27% of respondents’ marketing budgets were already dedicated to ABM.

Learn more about ABM and the tools that enable the approach.

Salesforce makes Robotic Process Automation acquisition  

Salesforce has entered an agreement to acquire Germany-based Robotic Process Automation (RPA) provider ServiceTrace. ServiceTrace will become part of Mulesoft, the integration platform Salesforce acquired in 2018.

RPA enables the creation of software-based (virtual) robots that can perform a range of digital tasks, especially the kind of routine and repetitive tasks, thereby freeing up human employee time. The aim is to add automation to Mulesoft’s API management and integration capabilities, thus increasing its speed and efficiency.

Why we care. RPA has been a slowly developing category. Among the enterprise customer experience vendors, Pega has perhaps placed the most emphasis on RPA as a key capability, having deployed it in its original BPM offering.

Earlier this year, however, SAP made a move into the space with its acquisition of another German RPA provider Signavio. Adobe has RPA capabilities, as does Oracle through a partnership with UIPath. This acquisition by Salesforce can only shine a brighter light on it.

Quote of the day

“If business is a family, then marketing and sales are siblings forced to share the same bedroom. Both think the other one is always invading their space.” Mark Hunter, author and consultant

About The Author

Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space.

He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020.

Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.

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