Not long ago, few B2B companies had a marketing operations function. Today, this function is becoming an important facet of the marketing organization.
The marketing operations function enables the marketing function to operate more like a business, with formalized processes, infrastructure, and reporting.
The bare essentials that a marketing operation function should perform are three functions:
- Drive the processes for budgeting and investment decisions and more-effective strategic planning.
- Lead the charge for marketing-performance measurement processes.
- Identify and implement the required infrastructure to maintain the consistent implementation of processes.
As this function matures, it is critical to have a strategic road map. Nikki Tyrer of Accenture articulated this need when she said, "While vision is a key aspect of marketing strategy, the failure to create a road map to move from concept to implementation leaves strategy on the starting block."
Marketing operations is a critical driver of marketing performance management.
High-performance marketing operations strategy road maps address the processes, data, resources, talent/skills, systems, and metrics needed to realize the strategy. A road map describes a future environment, objectives to be achieved within that environment, and plans for how those objectives will be achieved over time.
The purpose of a road map is to communicate the overall direction, priorities, and how the strategy will be executed. The operations strategy road map should be aligned with the specific objectives for the business, build on the organization's strengths, and provide a blueprint for future capabilities.
What are the basic components for the marketing operations road map? A marketing operations road map should address the following areas:
- Technology, systems, tools. Technology, systems, and tools serve as key enablers for creating performance-driven marketing organizations. The identification, implementation, and deployment of these enablers are now in the domain of marketing operations.
- Workforce. Marketing operations is responsible for ensuring that marketing personnel are adequately trained and educated, and have the skills necessary to be accountable for their work.
- Processes/process improvement. This is one of the primary responsibilities of marketing operations. It is important that the key processes be defined, monitored, repeatable, routinely evaluated, and refined.
- Performance measures. Also one of the primary responsibilities of marketing operations, this section of the plan should identify the standards and the timeline for defining and deploying new metrics.
- Capital allocation/requirements. This section should identify the capital investments and the timing of the investments needed to execute the operations strategy.
- Supplier management. Most marketing operations organizations need to leverage the expertise of third parties. The types of suppliers that will be needed, the timing, and how these suppliers support the road map should be documented.
A development process that we have successfully deployed to create a strategy road map is designed around three key steps: strategy, assessment, and blueprinting.
The process is designed to develop a marketing operations road map that focuses on those areas that will have the maximum value and contribution to the business.
- Strategy: A marketing operations road map needs to reflect both the company's and marketing organization's strategy. This initial step provides important context. A road map cannot be created without first understanding the vision and strategy, what the organization believes is the role of marketing and the role of marketing operations and planning in achieving the organization's business outcomes. Strategy development requires understanding the strategic priorities that the company has set for marketing and how marketing operations is expected to help achieve organizational goals. The best way to understand this context if you don't have a strategy document is to ask key members of your leadership team.
- Assessment: It is difficult to determine where you are going to go and how you are going to get there if you do not know where you are and the current capabilities, particularly in relation to the organization's strategy. Once you have the information from that first step, the next step is to assess the current marketing operations capabilities and performance and to compare this against other marketing operations practitioners. For this step you will want to review existing processes, data, metrics, analytics, plans and strategies, and marketing operations best-practices in preparation for the road map development.
- Road map document: Once the strategy is clarified and the assessment is completed, a specific action plan/road map can be developed to close gaps and leverage opportunities. One way to create the blueprint is to conduct a cross-function strategy session. The purpose of the session would be to identify requirements and elements to create an executable plan focused on building operational capabilities.
Creating a strategy road map communicates that the marketing operations has evolved into a bona-fide force within the organization. A strategy road map enables marketing operations to go beyond metrics and dashboards to serving as a key player within the marketing function. The strategy road map enables marketing operations to manage marketing from an end-to-end perspective.
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