When converting from traditional marketing to automated marketing, most organizational leaders underestimate the impact this change will have on their people. As with any change of this magnitude, people will fear an inability to adapt to new skill requirements, loss of personal connections and outright job loss. The first step in managing this type of change is to clearly understand the type of organization required to accomplish your organizational goals through automation.

In general, marketing automation is deployed through three very different organizational models.

1.     Integrated automation: automation tools become an integral part of your current organizational structure. The addition of these tools represents a change in the way marketers perform their jobs, but the job function remains essentially the same. While this organization model has the least impact on your people, it may or may not be ideal for meeting your objectives. Considerations include the ability of your current staff to accommodate new skill sets, the ability of your managers to facilitate process changes and integrate new external vendors into the mix.

2.     Distributed demand center: automation specialists perform automation tasks for specific groups within the Marketing organization. These subdivisions are usually along business units, product lines or geographies. Distributed demand centers are definitely not a hybrid between integrated automation and centralized demand centers. The skill sets and individual roles are likely to be very different and the processes will closely resemble the centralized demand center and look nothing like your current processes. Selecting a distributed demand center and expecting “the best of both worlds” will leave your organization frustrated and disappointed. Considerations include the ability of your current staff to accommodate new processes, the ability of your managers to facilitate process changes and manage to a very different set of SLAs.

3.     Centralized demand center: automation specialists perform automation tasks for all marketers within the organization, regardless of business unit, product line or geography. The centralized demand center will represent radical change from your current processes, unless you currently centralize all Marketing functions within your organization. Then it will only represent significant change. Many organizations select the centralized demand center expecting a significant reduction in head count due to the inherent efficiencies of automation. However, these efficiencies can only be realized once the complete process and infrastructure is built, overlaps are identified and the in-house marketing “clients” have adopted the new processes. Considerations include the ability to staff for completely new skill sets (including experienced demand center management suitable to the scale and scope of your organization), and the ability of your leadership to guide different business units towards cooperative collaboration that benefits the entire organization, not just their specific business unit needs. Centralized demand centers also need the ability to scale quickly in order to promote adoption.

Each organizational model represents a compromise and none is universally the “best” solution for any type of organization. Hybridization between the different types of organizational structures is difficult and, in some cases, impossible. Selection of the structure that best fits your organization is critical, so prepare to perform significant due diligence in selecting your best fit. Critical areas to consider are:

Overall organizational goals: Is there a consistency in expectations for Marketing across the organization? Are there one or more business units with radically different goals from the rest of the organization?

Overall marketing goals: Do different product lines or business units have radically different sales cycles, revenue expectations or methodologies? Do marketing and sales goals align across the organization? How is marketing perceived throughout the organization?

Organizational culture: Do you have a singular personality across the organization? Are business units or other subdivisions radically different in culture or personality? Is there consistency between marketing and sales cultures throughout the organization?

Organizational dynamics: Is your business cyclical? Do you experience cycles of rapid growth or decline? What is your reorganization cycle? Do you grow through M&A?

If you have the ability to frankly gauge your organization’s strengths and weaknesses, you will have little trouble defining the model best fit for your marketing automation needs.

In my next post, I will examine how the answers to these questions should shape the formation of your marketing automation organization. While there are no right or wrong answers, there are most definitely right and wrong matches of answers to organization types. A mismatch here may result in lack of adoption, frustration and inability to generate significant ROI results.