The recent explosion of digital technology has changed how we experience the world. When was the last time you listened to a CD? Caught a taxi? We’re willing to bet you stream your music and use Uber or Lyft. The marketing world has shifted to digital too.

That shift has put new stressors and challenges on today’s CMOs. Challenges like digital transformation, new business accountabilities, and the need to pivot company culture towards customer centricity. The Strategic Marketing Operations Function has evolved to meet these challenges, helping CMOs become agents for change in their firms.

Let’s talk specifically about the challenges facing CMOs today:

  • Digital transformation
  • Business accountability
  • Customer centricity

Challenge #1: Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is a huge challenge in the CMO’s world today. Today’s executives estimate that, at best, their companies are 25% of the way towards realizing the end-state vision for their digital programs. And 33% of organizations see digital transformation as a huge challenge.

Over half (52%) of senior executives cite a lack of familiarity with technology to be a barrier to digital transformation. And marketers are not confident in their digital ability. Only 48% say they feel highly proficient in digital marketing.

At the same time, the majority of companies (87%) think that digital transformation is a competitive opportunity. And 27% of senior executives think digital transformation is now a matter of survival.

Digital transformation requires technology, so how much do we have to choose from?

Clearly, choosing the right tech is a challenge all by itself.

Challenge #2: Business Accountability

The second challenge is business accountability. According to, 80% of CMOs feel pressure to deliver ROI, revenue and growth, but only a third report financial results.

For the CMO, financial accountability is essential to drive a true “C” spot at the table. With financial metrics accountability, the position of the CMO becomes boardroom relevant. This switches the focus from marketing being a “nice to have if we can afford it” to a true driver and supporter of the company’s revenue growth strategy that is a “must have” to succeed.

Challenge #3: Customer Experience

The third challenge is customer experience and customer centricity. According to Jerry Gregoire, former CIO of Dell, “The customer experience is the next competitive battleground. It’s where business is going to be won or lost.” Gardner predicts that by 2018, more than 50% of organizations will redirect their investments to customer experience innovations.

Bringing It All Together: The Strategic Marketing Operations Function

A regular marketing ops group is not prepared to face these challenges. A strategic marketing ops orientation is required.

Marketing operations is a capability. If someone leaves the organization, the capability does not. It is driven by strategy and operationalized through people, process, data and technology. It delivers a business result.

A regular marketing operations charter focuses on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of marketing through people, process, technology and data to help marketing achieve operational goals.

A strategic marketing operations charter still focuses on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of marketing through people, process, technology and data, so that marketing can enable digital transformation, drive business accountability and help lead customer centricity.

In our recent webinar, we conducted a poll of our participants. We asked them which of the following CMO initiatives were supported by their marketing operations function. These were the responses:

The Marketing Operations Maturity Model is a powerful tool you can use to benchmark your progress towards strategic marketing operations maturity.

Learn more about the strategic marketing operations function by downloading our recent webinar, hosted by Debbie Qaqish, on the strategic marketing operations function and how it can be leveraged by CMOs today.