Marketing and Data are an essential combination for today’s marketer. Analytics have taken their place alongside market research as tools to understand customer behavior and predict marketing outcomes. But because marketing analytics projects are rarely routine, they often face operational resistance.
This month, we discuss how organizational issues can impede marketing analytics project success. Two previous blogs focused on other common areas of potential difficulty: human interactions and technology/data. All blogs in this series include a helping of all-important “how to solve it” practical advice for overcoming potential weak spots in marketing analytic project implementation.
From our experience, 99.9% of marketing analytic projects are inter-departmental in nature. These projects, and the marketing programs they spawn, create a web of involvement that spreads across and up/down the organization. While marketing may own the mission, expertise needed to complete these efforts span the company. This organizational complexity creates the opportunity for rough waters.
The following are some common “organizational issues” rough spots, along with practical advice on how to deal with these issues when you encounter them.
1: LACK OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT
You can see this one coming. No clearly defined project timeline. No meeting summary and next steps. No one is holding the inter-department team accountable to move the effort along. When the next meeting comes, team members haven’t completed their tasks from the previous meeting, and so the effort founders. And so on.
Maybe it is culturally inappropriate for someone from one department to “manage” someone from another part of the company. Or staffing constraints mean no one has bandwidth to take on a new project. Perhaps it is as simple as no one thought a project manager was needed. In any case, your marketing analytic project is a runaway train without a conductor without a project manager.
Gain agreement from the project sponsors that the project has some priority and that the project manager has authority to “prod” team members to complete their deliverables on time and with thought (someone can always slap a couple answers on a spreadsheet and distribute them, even though the answers make no common sense at all). Select a project manager with an established reputation across the company and a broad understanding of the implications and potential roadblocks that the project could face. Have project readouts to senior management and make sure that everyone knows their work will be shown.
2: LACK OF SENIOR-LEVEL SPONSORSHIP
In the days before data-involvement, most marketing projects only required the approval of one level up the organizational food chain, with assurances/critiques from Legal. Marketing analytic projects are different. Because they tend to span the organization, senior-level sponsorship provides the necessary air cover when inter-department issues arise, and speeds up a satisfactory resolution.
If you’re a CMO, this sponsorship might be easy to secure. If you’re a director or lower, this sponsorship is even more critical and possibly harder to gain.
“Enlist” your senior sponsors before the project is initiated. Make sure each sponsor understands his/her role and the potential roadblocks they may be called upon to resolve. Develop a rough estimation of the project impact if completed and make sure all the sponsors buy into the potential benefits. Have them select the team members from their department for this assignment and let the sponsors inform the team members on their own.
3: PROJECT/BUSINESS MISALIGNMENT
This potential problem is closely linked to the senior-level sponsorship issue. Misalignment of project and business goals most often happens when your marketing analytic project lacks senior-level support.
For instance, your marketing analytic project can be running full steam ahead to gain new customers, for a part of the business that is being divested. Or the cost of your marketing analytic project could exceed the 5-year sales total for the product you are analyzing. Or create your own misalignment nightmare scenario. Believe me, they happen.
For a marketing analytics project to succeed, the outcomes must be placed as part of one of the top priorities in the organization. These projects will be unlikely to be a whole corporate priority in and of themselves, however they can be included as a critical part of the solution to a high corporate priority. In this way, the project is less likely to be deprioritized due to its high-level visibility.
4: SILOED ORGANIZATION
This last area of potential organizational project turbulence is the most common. The historical hierarchy, siloed structure of most companies doesn’t work in today’s multi-channel, multi-touchpoint marketplace. Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Merchants, even HR must to work together – to share one view of the customer, for your marketing analytic project to run most efficiently.
The higher the walls of division in your organization, the harder it is to tear them down or poke holes in them, so members of your marketing analytics team can work together, across departments, with a common sense of purpose, resolve and view of the customer.
Silos, and the politics that accompany them, are the most common causes of failure for marketing analytics projects. Departments with different metrics, priorities and compensation structure are difficult to lasso together to achieve a single objective. In order for a marketing analytics project to succeed, the benefits for each department (benefits that match the metrics for that department in specific) must be enumerated, tracked and treated as important. Even then, the project manager will have to be on the lookout for places where the benefit message may break down in communications (e.g. Divisional VPs of Sales commit to the goals, but the District Managers tell their people to ignore those goals and just focus on pure sales, anyway they can get them).
Now you can be on the lookout for these common organizational issues in your next marketing analytic project. When you find one of these common areas of rough water, you’ll have some strategies for smooth sailing.
Start a conversation and let me know how these solutions to organizational issues worked for you.