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CMO Glenn Flower: Getting martech right in high-growth environments

5G Networks rolled-up five tech firms inside 12 months, giving Glenn Flower a unique perspective on blending martech systems to benefit businesses and customers.

Large and small companies engage 5G Networks to manage and transform their IT systems. Over the past year, however, the Australian digital solutions startup has been getting a first-hand view of what it’s like to deal with new processes and complexity derived from exponential growth.

5G Networks is in rapid growth mode, having “rolled up” five technology businesses over the past 12 months. Staff numbers have jumped from 20 to 200 and business revenue from $5 million to $51 million. It’s ambitious to grow even faster.

5G Networks operates in the digital infrastructure space, managing data centres and IT systems as well as cloud- and premise-based networks. With its headquarters in Melbourne, the company has 12 offices across Australia servicing major metropolitan enterprises as well as businesses in regional areas.

Now put yourself in the shoes of 5G Networks’ Chief Marketing and Product Officer, Glenn Flower. His role has been to accommodate five different groups of people, who had developed independent processes and technologies – their own CRMs and ERPs – and integrate them into a single corporate vision focused on growth.

He’s also had to deal with significant issues associated with “data hygiene”, ensuring converging customer information is as complete and accurate as possible.

"If you think about bringing together several systems, several customer bases, several sets of processes and a diverse range of skill sets, you quickly have to demonstrate the ability to manage an integration program that can build a business, in addition to filtering through value to the bottom line," Flower says. "That's the biggest challenge from an operational perspective, as well as from a proposition perspective."

'Simple and elegant' martech

A former marketing head at Telstra Wholesale, Flower has more than 20 years’ experience in the ICT sector across marketing and product management. Marketers struggling to deal with their martech requirements may learn something from how Flower approached the task at 5G Networks since starting in October 2018.

Flower says he has spent a lot of his time considering the systems architecture, especially in the context of an acute focus on customers though journey mapping.

“We deliver services from cradle to grave in terms of how the customer experience is managed across the different elements of our business,” he says. “Through this design process, we exposed some delivery gaps and identified a number of our key strengths. Obviously the new initiatives have the potential to leverage and close those.”

"You've got to do a lot of education and stakeholder influencing so the boardroom and executives understand what you're building."

The next task was to look at the martech – CRM, marketing automation and website – exploring how prospective customers first engaged with the brand. But the job didn't start and end by choosing Salesforce and Pardot, he says – fully integrating platforms remains a work in progress.

“One of the biggest elements is the discipline required to close the gap between investing in new technologies and ensuring you can retire old systems and functions.” This is critical from both a systems and product perspective, he says, so “you’re not maintaining systems that support products you have determined to be end of life”.

"At the end of the day, we’re building a simple, elegant journey for the customer experience, supported by automation and systems architecture."

Flower says this approach asks several questions, such as: "How do we optimise those investments? How do we make our systems talk to each other more effectively? How do we look at future acquisitions and provide a platform that enables automation, allowing systems to integrate or exit quickly?"

No martech 'blueprint'

Flower says like many organisations, 5G Networks has to cope with the challenge of handling different platform and technology types. “We have a strong footprint in cloud as well as premise-based applications and infrastructure. That's why we’re investing in integration platforms that glue those elements together,” he says.

“One of the key elements that remains incomplete is ensuring all of the data is clean and hygienic; we’re now building a program that will continue to drive that cleansing process as we grow and bring in more customers.”

Flower says there isn't a one-size-fits-all blueprint when it comes to developing a martech strategy mixing and matching different technologies. What's needed is a clear plan while being nimble to fill in gaps when needed. For 5G Networks, speed has also been a significant consideration.

“I've come from large organisations where a mid-term strategic approach is probably north of 12 months,” he says. “What you're talking about here is a value horizon of between two and three months. It’s about being really agile while delivering value to customers, stakeholders and investors.”

After starting with customer experience uppermost in his mind, Flower says a major task now is to execute a plan laid out for shareholders and the board of directors. "The new remit is focused on being customer-driven in addition to activating new strategic programs needed to drive success for the financial year," he says.

"Ensuring you have the flexibility and agility to make decisions and change directions in accord with a dynamic situation is critical. Our business models are centred on technology, processes and skillsets attached to this environment anyway. I mean, we do this as part of our core function for our customers. So, in that sense, it wasn't too different."

Change management

He says the biggest hurdle for any management team embarking on a technology program is dealing with change.

“You've got so much going on in the context of moving from an existing framework or model to a new capability,” Flower says. “We've moved to Salesforce and Pardot and introduced a new website, which has forced quite a bit of change around the sales process and demand generation. It’s a challenge most marketers face. Not only the process implementation and educating stakeholders to use it but culturally – from the board to the execs.

“From a marketing perspective, you've got to do a lot of education and stakeholder influencing so the boardroom and executives understand what you're building, which is really a digital approach to the business.”

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Further reading: 11 ways B2Bs can shape up their martech