Opinion: Marketing resource management is not a threat!by
As the explosion in digital channels, complexity and personalisation fuels the volume of work managed by marketing, marketers need to adapt and change. Bob Barker examines the role that marketing resource management (MRM) has to play in this - and the cultural change that has to occur for MRM to be accepted.
By Bob Barker, Alterian
Within large companies or brands, there are an increasing number of activities and people to manage, including suppliers and relationships with third party agencies. These activities are quite often supported by underdeveloped IT systems intended to support the planning, management and decision-making processes.
Yet, even as the marketing department is increasingly affected by the changes detailed above, marketers are still using tools with very little funding to run its daily business and the marketing team is always ‘too busy’ with campaigns, events, web content and other deadline driven activities, to do anything about it.
Marketing resource management – MRM (or marketing operations) - systems can manage this activity and accountability, providing the evidence chief executive officers (CEOs) and chief finance officers (CFOs) require to sanction the necessary changes in marketing, such as increasing marketing infrastructure budgets for company wide projects rather than surcharging the marketing execution budget.
But that can only be possible if the CMO’s marketers support and understand the benefits of MRM, against the perceived intrusion – the consequence of higher levels of monitoring their activities and daily tasks. No-one likes to feel that someone is looking over his or her shoulder, so some resistance to change and accountability is to be expected. The people and process side is at least 90% of the potential success or failure rate of any MRM project. The CMO therefore needs to ensure that he gains advocacy amongst his marketing personnel and the support of the key decision-makers within his organisation.
Advocacy begins with the development and implementation of an internal communications plan to explain the benefits of MRM. A considerable amount of change management is involved. People do not like change; they fear accountability, and marketers as people do not want everything they do to appear in a campaign task list.
Quite often they would prefer to emerge and raise their heads when a task or project has been completed successfully, while keeping their heads down when things do not go to plan. So MRM represents a cultural shift, creating greater transparency. This can raise a number of objections from marketers. Part of the change management process therefore necessitates applying some finesse and sensitivity regarding published workflow and task management.
Beth Weesner, founder and CEO of Marketing Transformation Services, explains that MRM need not be seen as a threat. “Marketers who understand the big picture will embrace MRM," she says. "Unfortunately, there are often those who will resist change. The goal is to minimise the damage caused by this. Change management and clear communication are critical to the success of the initiative."
The latter are the ones most likely to resist the introduction of MRM into their daily lives; they won’t be able to suggest they are too busy while a project lags behind schedule. “MRM will often highlight skill gaps that exist in resources, bringing up the need to refine roles and responsibilities to ensure you have the right people in the right jobs,” she adds. The process also involves explaining why and how marketing is changing in your company, how it is becoming part of the bigger picture. Individual activities form part of a critical chain. If one person does not perform, this will affect others within the chain.
On the other hand, an MRM system can save time and money, as well as reduce the impact of duplicated effort. “It meets the need to support collaboration," comments freelance marketing consultant Michael Brewer. For example, when you go to a meeting to review work, it can prevent you from spending the whole meeting telling each other how the campaign has progressed today. Instead you are able to discuss the issues that everyone within the room already knows, and this will increase productivity and empower decision-making.
Imagine too, the potential savings in a large financial organisation running 1,000 jobs a year, with 10 pieces of creative and 10 people involved in approving every single creative in five versions. An MRM system can take the pain out of managing such a large volume of tasks by getting to the heart of what people are actually doing in marketing. In fact, Brewer thinks that the heart of marketing is not about stars or one off successes, but it is about “commitment and consistency over time (as a study of branding, advertising and loyalty reveals).” One aspect of this is teamwork, from employees to suppliers.
Marketing is also responsible for integrating communications across markets, channels segments and so forth. In a large organisation, like the Alliance and Leicester for instance, a good MRM system helps to reduce the increasing complexity of marketing while making each activity that much more transparent, and easier to manage. It is also worth noting that analysts have found that productivity can increase by 25-30% as a result of either removing or automating the daily administration functions, such as status checking and reporting: e.g. “I have done this, you have done that, and can you approve this please?”
What if a team, or an individual member of marketing staff, were to tell the team leader: “Well, I am busy!” How can she really know that the particular individual or team is actually busy? MRM can provide the transparency, data, clearly defined processes and information required to define what ‘busy’ means. It then makes it easier for her to make the appropriate decisions; there could be a number of reasons why someone claims to be busy, and that might include a need for more training.
Some other elements in the mix, like inappropriate processes, could also cause bottlenecks which might reflect on the cause of the issue. Without the right metrics, the number of necessary processes, campaign, team, individual and term performance data at hand it is that much harder to make the right decisions.
Without this data it is likely that you would continue to make mistakes, and the project might lag behind schedule. It also becomes harder to allocate resources appropriately, and undertake effective planning. Marketing visibility is about making sure everything is running according to the marketing plan, and that each activity is measurable against both their efficiency and effectiveness.
So if you have 55 steps in a campaign activity template, which would include activities that marketers would normally complete manually, you need to analyse and measure them. This is to ascertain which ones add value and which ones hinder or are redundant from the marketing process. Even once you have done that inevitably someone will say: “I didn’t want to do this step!” Most of the aggravation is in defining the steps, after which support is then won.
Marketing is growing up
MRM is the start of the renewing, the growing up of the marketing department in terms of accountability, planning ability and of everything. MRM is not yet mature, but it is getting there. If the marketing function is working well, and has the infrastructure to support it, it will prove itself to be an invaluable asset rather than a cost burden.
MRM can help marketing to return even better results, and gain as much as it can out of the appropriate allocation of marketing resources. Beginning with who could actually benefit from accountability, the application of MRM should be measurable, sensible and allow for a degree of flexibility. Remember that not everything needs to be tracked or measured, and yet there is no excuse for being ‘busy’ when the case is not true.
Marketers should be rewarded though when they meet or exceed performance targets. After all, it is the results that count, and an MRM system can actually empower them to achieve more. It is a tool that enables successful marketing, and it makes each individual marketer and marketing as a function that much more invaluable as an asset.
Bob Barker is vice president for corporate marketing at Alterian.
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