While I am not an organizational change expert, I do have a front-row view into how companies organize various functions including marketing operations (MO).

This group has literally exploded onto the marketing scene in the last two years, and rightly so. Before then, marketing struggled to transform into a revenue machine because of applying right-brained thinking to a left-brained problem. In response, marketing operations have become a reality. I’ve watched the rise and metamorphosis of this burgeoning function and clearly, it is maturing into a robust and critical function for the CMO. This article examines the key elements of a revenue-focused marketing operations organization and how it is structured.

The Basics

The charter of any MO group is to drive efficiency and effectiveness through technology and process optimization that results in marketing attaining specific revenue goals. The basic functions include management of marketing technology and data as well analytics and reporting.

The organizational structure includes a Director of MO who reports to a VP of marketing or operations. Direct reports include a marketing automation admin, an analytics and reporting person and a data czar. This organizational structure represents the early days when technology and its effect on marketing were just emerging.

Add Processes

If the charter for a MO group includes efficiency and effectiveness, it must be achieved not only through technology optimization, but process optimization as well. Seeing the MO group begin to re-engineer key marketing processes, such as lead and campaign management, has been an awe-inspiring event.

I was talking with a VP of Marketing Ops about why he thought the MO group was so much better at process work, especially the oft-debated lead management process with sales. His response was “We don’t have a negative lead history with sales and we have data to back up what we say and do.”

When the MO groups lead the charge on recrafting the lead management process it also results in an improved campaign process. Now that the lead process is bought into by all stakeholders and the technology is in place to ensure compliance and results, understanding when, where and how campaigns can be optimized becomes a piece of cake.

PLUS, what the marketing department doesn’t want is an MO group that is constantly advising on how to improve performance?

The other area of process optimization has to do with managing a distributed MO capability. For organizations with global and field marketing operations, defining who owns what and how things will be executed is a key business process.

Adding processes to the mix for the MO group is best organizationally represented by a dedicated process role (think lean manufacturing). So many processes in marketing and between sales and marketing are broken, and thus sub-optimized, that this role makes sense. In addition, calling out the importance of process re-engineering through a dedicated role demonstrates the importance of process optimization.

Add Business Management

As the MO group and marketing continue to mature, the MO group helps run marketing like a business and so adopts business management capabilities. These include vendor management (now that most MO groups manage at least 20 different technologies), budget management and professional project management.

Vendor management is an art within itself, and it closely ties to some elements of budget management. Efficient sourcing and contracting with software vendors can save money and improve effectiveness. Budget management includes crafting the budget across all elements of marketing and proactively managing the budget spend including ROI. Finally, professional project management is key to a successful MO team. Quite often, MO is so good at this that this capability is borrowed by other parts of the company.

Roles to add to the org chart in this scenario include an Office of Project Management, a Vendor Manager and a Budget Manager (usually the head of the MO group).

Add Training and Education

Often the MO function includes a dedicated headcount for training and education. This includes training on the systems (from advanced to novice), the new processes and basic marketing skills. I love seeing this position on the org chart because it tells me this is a group on a mission for growth.

Add Demand Generation?

Yes, I said demand generation. In about half the MO groups I work with, the demand gen function is held in the MO group. This seems to be mostly related to a lack of talent on the demand gen side of the house.

Having demand gen in the MO group has pros and cons. The pros include a seamless process and the cons include lack of more general marketing and creative skills. This is a HUGE hot button in organizations.

As MO continues to mature as a competitive-generating capability, MO brings in more and more roles to help attain goals and drive change. Key drivers for the evolution of MO include the growth of technology choices, the strategic need for digital transformation, the growth in customer control of choices and events and the ever-increasing need for marketing accountability. The MO function will continue to mature and in many ways, help marketing teams to deliver the promised accountability, transformation, customer focus and business growth.