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MRM Technology: Why You Need It, and How to Choose the Right Solution

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In this article, you'll learn...

  • Why companies need to embrace marketing resource management technology
  • Six features to consider when deciding on an MRM solution

The words "the paper trail" might evoke thoughts of modern white-collar crime thrillers in which investigators follow the money and the receipts, looking through ledgers to uncover how the criminals cooked the books and to identify who's to blame for the crime.

Well, paper is a crime. In today's marketing departments, using paper is a criminal offense. If you're relying on paper to track and manage the day-to-day operations of your marketing department, consider yourself on notice.

Is Your Organization Efficient?

We've made great strides in automating the delivery of our campaigns, but too many companies have yet to embrace marketing resource management (MRM) technology in their strategic and tactical activities. The fact is... people still use Microsoft Excel to manage complex marketing projects. But contrary to popular belief, opening another tab in a workbook doesn't bring greater efficiency to a department that's working on a deadline and on a budget, and creating material that needs to be critiqued, edited, and approved before going into production.

What every good marketing foot soldier, and general for that matter, needs is transparency and accountability in the department. The problem with a spreadsheet is that it's subject to "versionitis," the phenomenon of every person having a different version of the official document.

There's no accountability in saving a document to a local or network drive if your colleagues are working off another version. There's no transparency if deadlines are not met and no one knows that balls are falling and cracks are swallowing the whole of a program or campaign.

A Common Problem

Before centralizing and automating its marketing program, Laerdal, a leading global provider of healthcare solutions, would rely on "the pink sheet" or the document that contained the approvals for a given project.

According to Laerdal's senior marketing coordinator, Yvette Muccini, "it was literally a pink piece of paper with signatures on it, and without it we couldn't move a project into production." As the interface between the printers, marketers, and designers, Yvette spent the better part of her week hunting down the pink sheet and the people who needed to sign it, instead of strategically coordinating the marketing program.

Laerdal's problem isn't unique. Marketing departments are schedule-driven entities that plan campaigns, create or outsource collateral, and require approvals to go to market. In an ideal environment, a hosted master calendar would track all project work; it would link to a budget, and it would be accessible by a global workforce.

Embrace Technology

Sounds like pie-in-the-sky, doesn't it? It isn't, I assure you. Such tools do exist... at various levels of sophistication. From simple time-tracking mechanisms to complex budgeting and document-editing and markup capabilities, the MRM system can become the "brain" of a savvy organization.

Technology has made it possible for even the most-distributed workforce to act and collaborate as if all its members are in the same conference (and they have all dropped their smartphones in a bucket on the way in).

MRM is more than oversight and accountability; it speeds to market the tactical while creating the room and necessary bandwidth for decision-makers to focus on strategy, not on fighting fires.

Similarly, MRM solutions can empower outside agencies to deliver material more efficiently. A well-designed solution will allow for varying levels of access, connecting marketers to their creative, PR, and other key areas.

Choosing the Right Solution

Solutions come in all shapes and sizes but you should consider some fundamental features when you're done with the paper trail and you're ready to get serious about your own productivity.

  • Use a hosted solution. What good is a technological solution if you have to be in the office to use it? A good MRM solution will allow access around the clock... and around the globe.
  • Use a solution that meets current processes. Although we all have bad habits that need to be broken, a good MRM solution will be configurable enough to encompass your good in-house processes and eliminate the bad ones.
  • Calendaring is key. Think about all the time you spent creating timelines, gantt charts, and project plans. At the heart of MRM is the ability to project-manage complicated multivendor campaigns and marketing initiatives, so your MRM solution better have a good calendar from which you can easily report without straining your eyes.
  • Let's not forget the budget. Marketing departments do not have limitless funds. Well, some do. But let's assume you have a ceiling. Make sure your MRM solution can directly link your projects to your budget, alert you of cost overruns, and give you a means to approve monetary spend when necessary.
  • Collaboration tools are a must. If you're serious about getting away from spreadsheets and versioning control, you need your MRM solution to do those things for you. Look for a solution with a robust media library that allows for multiple users to edit the same document, a system for tracking changes, and real-time collaboration tools that'll bring everyone to the editing table at the same time.
  • Resistance is futile. Still, your coworkers will resist because, after all, we're all creatures of habit. Your MRM solution will be the toast of the town in 2-3 months, after you've trained everyone, ironed out the bugs, and demonstrated how you all have more time for beer on Fridays because you're no longer chasing one another. But anticipate pain initially, as your organization amends its wicked ways and embraces a new tomorrow.

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Len Shneyder is director of industry relations at Message Systems. He has 10+ years of experience in email and digital messaging.

Twitter: @LenShneyder

LinkedIn: Len Shneyder

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  • by Andrew Tompsett Fri Apr 27, 2012 via web

    Are there any suggested tool examples?

  • by Daniel Kuperman Fri Apr 27, 2012 via web

    Great post, and I agree with everything you said. Would also add one critical element for those looking at MRM solutions: Ease of use.

    It's great to have many features in a tool but the reality is that marketers don't have time to mess around trying to figure out how to use the app or spending months in training just to get started. When evaluating solutions, look at functionality but also look at how easy it will be to get you and your team using it. If people decide the software is too complicated or takes too much time out of their day, adoption will be slow and may not even happen.

    My company ( is developing an MRM solution that hopefully will be seen as the most user-friendly in the market. Stay tuned!

  • by Len Shneyder Fri Apr 27, 2012 via web

    Thanks for the response Daniel and I look forward to seeing your MRM solution.

    To answer your question Andrew, there are a number of solutions out there to be evaluated. IBM has two solutions that are designed to address the needs of a marketing organization to help speed campaigns to market.

    IBM Unica Marketing Operations OnDemand ( is a hosted SaaS solution ideal for creative groups that manage lots of collateral, tasks and projects. The software can be leveraged by every part of the organization from budgeting, time keeping, financial and strategic planning to providing oversight and tactical accountability.

    The other solution, IBM Unica Marketing Operations ( is an on premis enterprise MRM solution that brings together organizations under one management system. This product helps not only achieve that which Marketing Operations OnDemand does, but ties into IBM Unica Campaign so that the back office work can be seamlessly brought into production through segmentation/targeting and then sped to market.

    You can review the full set of Enterprise Marketing Management solutions from IBM here:

  • by Andrew Tompsett Fri Apr 27, 2012 via web

    Ahh, this looks really interesting. It's the sort of thing that I would love to spend a few weeks learning how to use in demo format - or maybe use for a volunteer group project.

    I find the concepts are easier to apply to business practices when I'm able to blend theory and practical application together.

    Very, very fascinating!

  • by Juri YTY Sun Apr 29, 2012 via web

    thanks Len Shneyder...tis article is really good, i would like to apply its to my daily work as well....

    hope you can post more MRM article for a reference

  • by pavan Wed Sep 12, 2012 via web

    an eye opening article ...

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