The Micro Picture: How good fences help marketing organizations activate 2018 plans

This is the third of 4-part blog series Consumed with 2018 Planning? Activation Needs Equal Attention. The blog series aims to support the timely issues marketing organizations and their leaders will face in activating their 2018 plans.


Activation Responsibilities Are Unclear Across the Marketing Organization

Marketing organizations are different than other functions. There's no pre-defined list of functional responsibilities to refer to. Instead, marketing must orient its offering and capabilities to what's going on elsewhere in the organization. Think of a chocolate chip cookie, where all the functions, departments, and teams -- across the firm -- are the chips, and marketing is the dough that binds the chips together to create the customer experience.

However, today many marketing organizations have evolved to an operating state where activation responsibilities across teams are nebulous, and the chocolate chips melt together. The integrity of the chocolate chips loses its composure, and the edges of each chip blur.

In large companies, the lack of boundaries (or fences) among functions and teams can have debilitating consequences. If the right fencing does not exist among resource areas, it's unclear how members of the marketing operating model need to work together to activate interconnected marketing. In cases where programming has interdependencies and no end-to-end processes, the nebulous operating environment can be catastrophic, with expensive overuse of external agencies, a fuzzy sense of capacity, and a degradation of quality (brand, messaging, unified experiences).

Fencing Builds Clarity

From the perspective of a business unit marketing manager, a body of work -- program, campaign, journey, etc. -- is set to be activated, then managers determine who will do the work. Often times, that determination is a discussion of in-source vs. outsource. And if in-source, it is a discussion of fencing, or figuring out who does what and how they will work with others to get the job done.

From the perspective of an activation team manager, their talent and scope of services likely has evolved the last several years to include new digital capabilities. But, at some point leaders must ask themselves the hard questions that will either trim back or extend their service offering to the BUs they serve. Specifically, in defining fencing, leaders should consider:

To create the fencing that prevents lines of responsibility from blurring and unites the entire marketing ecosystem, each firm and industry will have a unique set of forces to navigate. Financial services, for example, needs to bifurcate fixed/repeatable content updates (core) from digital experience design (edge); then separate resources accordingly to achieve scale and agility.

As another example, a grocery chain will need to unravel store experience/POS materials, from the (often hairy) print/couponing/circular legacies, from the creation of newer digital relationship with intention fencing between internal and external resources.

Solidify Fencing with a Firm Identity

The discussion of the "fencing forces" and the nature of the work each team performs should yield a point of view on what to retain and what to outsource. The collective point of view on fencing helps to further articulate a lucid identify for activation resource areas.

In the last 2 to 3 years, the trend has been to bring capabilities in-house and centralize. This is largely due to a focus on the customer experience and technology deployment, but this is a topic for another blog. Though many exceptions exist, companies choosing to centralize activation teams have several options as to where the fences are built.

Here, we identify 4 models for internal activation team leaders to evaluate, and declare their fences and identities.

Framework for Resource Engagement

With the table now set -- via the activation architecture, and internal teams' fencing -- marketing leaders may contemplate how everyone works together in a world where dozens or 100s of marketing managers interact across multiple internal activation teams, but within a common CX and digital platform. More specifically, leaders and managers need to determine the ownership to driving strategy and the approach to teaming.

Dimension 1: Strategy

When we say "strategy" in this context, we mean work that specifies the nature of the customer experience with only the minimum pre-existing context. This strategy is often manifested in briefs, stories and journeys. In the continuum of a large marketing organization, on one end, some teams will drive strategy, while other teams will align to the strategy set forth by others (recall "edge" and "core").

As an example we may apply 2 models from above table, where a BU marketing manager can activate work via a Full Service resource team (either an in-house or external agency) to drive experience design, while a Service Bureau model would incorporate already defined direction and standards to create communication jobs.

Dimension 2: Teaming

When we say "teaming" in this context, we mean the degree to which everyone works together (or not!), under the assumptions that (1) sometimes it will be best for teams collaborate by sharing resources, by creating together, by deprioritizing who gets credit, or by having complementary capabilities; and other times (2) it will be best to compete with bake offs, overlapping capabilities, limited sharing of insights and resources and “winning” over other internal and external teams.

If pursuing a competitive dynamic, a firm would engage a roster of Full Service and specialized internal and external agencies, and teams would build muscle in all areas. If a firm aims for a collaborative dynamic, the structure is more open, with resources from different teams involved in each other’s upstream work with opportunity to enrich strategies and concepts.

Implications of Strategy and Teaming Decisions

How teams across marketing relate to directing strategy and team together are not fluffy notions. They inform how work gets done in our rapidly changing, low tolerance environment; and require a long-term commitment to how we set up policies, processes and systems to support these dimensions.

Case Study: Application to 2018 Activation

In an example of a US-based financial services firm currently transitioning from annual planning to 2018 activation, leadership needs to make improvements that address:

  • Overall increases in cost with anticipated heavier use of external agencies
  • Demand for materials that exceed capacity constraints, therefore increasing In-House Agency operating budget
  • High impact Martech deployment, not aligned to future state marketing operating model

In parts 1 and 2 of this blog series, we discussed why marketing leaders are emphasizing a better approach to activation resulting from the blurred lines between planning and doing, the critical outputs of planning for successful activation (namely in-/outsource criteria around work types, requisite ccapabilities, and capacity needs).

In this case, the IA's current slate of services is vast, from quick-turn tactical provider to a consultative, multi-media creative offering. The two extremes in service offerings have created confusion regarding accountabilities as well as capabilities needed to deliver the services. The in-house agency is newly centralized, and the existing strengths in scaling fixed/repeatable deliverables was assumed in the centralization rationale, but the strengths of members of the operating model was not.

To add clarity for 2018 planning, Marketing leaders declared the in-house agency offer a modified full-service offering, where the group would offer a service bureau while growing into a full-service agency that would later compete with external agencies. In the short term, they would meet all fixed/repeatable needs, but limit capacity for specific type of digital experience work.

As the first and second passes of 2018 plans came down, the IA was able to illustrate where demand for different work types would fall, and in turn, where capability shortfalls would occur. To illustrate, we may plot current capacity for the types of capabilities and overlay 2018 demand (see diagram below).

A Rubric For Practical Application

More practically, from the architecture (see part 2), the financial services firm expounded on the members of the operating model by formulating a rubric to guide decisions on resourcing activation. The rubric applies all of the elements discussed in his blog series: fencing via work types and designing teams to meet the nature of the work (core and edge) by mapping types of work to responsibilities.

At the intersection of each work types and responsibilities is where we achieve clarity on:

  • Criteria for transparency on who does what
  • Capabilities needed to activate specific types of programming
  • Capacity estimation that directly responds to BU marketing manager's stated 2018 demand

Enjoying the chocolate chip cookie means chips that melt together as much or as little as your firm enjoys. Filling in the rubric reveals the much-needed clarity (see below). The pre-defined architecture helps to achieve scalability and agility, by applying a thoughtful architecture and team design to actual 2018 BU marketing manager plans.

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