Growing a World Class Marketing Operations Function
Growing a World-Class Marketing Operations Function: From Nascence to SophisticationIn this second article in our four-part series, we will focus on more key aspects of the MarketingOperations journey as described in the 63-page report, Journey to Marketing OperationsMaturity—Best Practices in Marketing Operations Series. Specifically, we’ll look in more depthat how companies evolve their Marketing Operations function from nascent to highly-sophisticated. From a combination of one-on-one interviews and primary and secondary researchconducted last year, Marketing Operations Partners collected sufficient in-depth data to analyze25 companies in terms of their MO maturity and effectiveness.Key FindingsFour requirements that survey participants consider critical success factors in their journey to MOmaturity:1. Creating and positioning Marketing Operations based on an understanding of MO fundamentals.2. Gaining traction and momentum with a clear executive vision and steadfast commitment.3. Achieving true MO maturity with a formal MO function and dedicated staff.4. Using formal operations reviews effectively to enable accountability, cross-functional cooperation and learning, recognition programs, and measurement of success.Leveraging the study insights, let’s take a closer look at what survey participants tell us abouttheir own Marketing Operations journeys. What stages did they go through, what challenges didthey face, and which factors have seemed most important as they’ve created MO functions andthen moved them toward maturity and a fully valued ROI? It is interesting to note that only one ofthe companies surveyed has achieved MO “best practice” status, as characterized by process andexecution excellence, strong brand identify, and a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) ofmore than 20% over a five year period. Despite their apparent success, MO professionals withinthis “best practice” company would be the first to admit that they are still quite far from meetingtheir own internal expectations.What is Marketing Operations and Why Is It Important?Marketing Operations (MO) is a term that is sometimes used differently across organizations.Marketing Operations Partners defines MO as a thorough, end-to-end operational discipline thatleverages processes, technology, guidance, and metrics to run the marketing function as a profitcenter and fully accountable business.• Driving the achievement of enterprise objectives by reinforcing marketing strategy and tactics with a scalable and sustainable enabling infrastructure• Nurturing a healthy, collaborative ecosystem both within and outside the marketing department that optimizes marketing’s value and fuels enterprise-wide success.In this article, we will focus on responses to seven questions summarized in the Journey toMarketing Operations Maturity—Best Practices in Marketing Operations Series benchmarkingstudy report, seeing what bubbles to the top for those marketing executives working “in thetrenches” as they describe their MO journey and identify their most critical success factors.
How would you describe your journey to MO maturity, and what do you consider your mostsignificant success factors?1. The Importance of a Formal MO FunctionSurvey participants agree that true MO maturity requires a formal MO function with a dedicatedstaff. The companies considered nascent in their MO maturity had no such function and madestatements such as, “Operations is everyone’s job,” or “I have the MO responsibility by default.”In some cases this lack of focus, planning and accountability has led to a lack of executivesupport and unrealized investment. In other cases, it has stemmed from it.2. Stages on the Path to MO MaturityStudy participants describe three distinct stages on the path to MO maturity (Figure 1), with eachplaying a critical role as an organization thoughtfully introduces and matures its MO function.1. Fundamental MO Maturity Stage—the period during which a formal MO function is established and core MO processes begin to be introduced within the organization.2. Expanded MO Maturity Stage—the phase in which the MO function is gaining traction, expanding its reach and influence, and being more fully integrated into the organization’s ecosystem.3. Sophisticated MO Maturity Stage—the period in which organizations move beyond expanded MO activities into sophisticated and best practice marketing operations. MO is tightly integrated with sales operations and is recognized as a valuable strategic asset and growth driver at the company level, sharing company-wide visibility, accountability and recognition with other core functions.
Figure 33. High Priority MO ChallengesSurveyed companies were asked to rank their MO challenges in order of priority. Measuringmarketing ROI and demonstrating value topped the list. Other key challenges included achievingan optimal balance of strategy and tactics, negotiating shared goals and accountability withgroups outside of marketing, and establishing marketing’s value with C-level executives.A full list of rankings is shown in Figure 1 below. It is interesting to note that factors named ashigh priority challenges were also considered to be critical success factors. Survey results confirmthat “best practice” companies are the ones that manage to overcome these challenges in waysthat transform obstacles into opportunities, giving them market differentiation and competitiveadvantage.
Figure 24. Key Drivers in MO Journey to MaturityThe results of this study indicate that creating and maturing a valued MO function requires abasic understanding of MO fundamentals and its potential return at executive levels of theenterprise. For MO to gain traction and momentum requires a clear executive vision and steadfastcommitment, the investment in people and resources needed to deliver increasing benefits as MOmatures over time, and metrics-based accountability around clearly articulated goals. Studyparticipants highlight the importance of formal operations reviews that reinforce accountability,encourage recognition, proliferate lessons learned, and enable cross-functional cooperation andgoal sharing.In the journey to Marketing Operations maturity, accountability clearly jumps out as a criticalfactor, along with a related area, fact-based decision-making (see Figure 3). In the early stages ofMO development, respondents indicated that these were among the least consistently practiceddisciplines but added that they played an increasingly critical role as their MO functions matured.
Figure 3ConclusionResults of the recently published benchmarking study, Journey to Marketing OperationsMaturity—Best Practices in Marketing Operations Series, tell us that survey participants attributemuch of their MO success to a clear vision, shared goals, a supportive culture, an enablinginfrastructure, the effective use of metrics, cross-functional cooperation and alignment, processrefinement, thoughtfully deployed automation, and executive support.In this second article in our series, we have focused specifically on aspects of the MO journeythat enable companies to move from nascence to sophistication — the phases that organizationstypically go through as they internalize MO disciplines, refine MO processes, and optimize ROIto build increasingly mature MO function that can effectively deliver on aggressive corporategoals.Achieving MO excellence is well within the control of senior management, who can help theirorganization unleash the power of Marketing Operations with commitment and vision, an in-depth understanding of MO fundamentals, guidance from a trusted outsource partner, andeffective, sustained execution.
Call to ActionIf your company is facing challenges in any of the areas discussed in this article, or if you arethinking about creating a marketing operations function or increasing the effectiveness of the oneyou already have, you should start with a “current state assessment” that will help you evaluatethe overall health of your marketing (and/or) Marketing Operations today. This will help you zeroin on those areas that represent your most difficult challenges as well as your greatestopportunities for bringing the significant benefits of MO best practices to your organization.For a free Executive Study of the “Journey to Marketing Operations Maturity” benchmarkingstudy or to order the full report, visit www.mopartners.com.About the Author:Gary M. Katz is founder and CEO of Marketing Operations Partners, the first ready-to-go COOand change management team dedicated to changing the MO of Marketing by escalating theMarketing Operations function to a Chief of Staff role and helping CMOs to operate like CEOs.The company brings together leading subject matter experts and thought leaders to enable clientsto leverage process, technology, guidance, and metrics to run Marketing as a profit center andfully accountable business. For more information, visit www.mopartners.com.