If the world is your company’s oyster, then Marketing Operations is a grain of sand.
“What?!!” you say. “We’re WAY more important than that!”
Well. . .yes! Without that grain of sand, the oyster can’t make the precious pearl. The Marketing Operations group lies at the core of your company’s marketing efforts, delivering the services that enable the marketing team to do its job. A strong Operations team is critical: a team where no job is too big or too small for anyone, where everyone works together with the common goal of exceeding clients’ expectations. But how do you build that kind of a Marketing Operations environment?
As a virtual company, DemandGen staff is spread across the globe, so building a robust and effective Operations function has been a focus from the company’s inception. We’ve had to have our data organized, our lines of communication clear, our processes and methodologies efficiently managed. So as Director of Service Operations, I thought I’d share a few of the elements that we’ve found to be essential for the greatest operational effectiveness.
- Capture and document best practices for each department
- Make it easy for team members to find information
Knowledge management is all about sharing our collective knowledge across the team – and its benefits are truly incalculable. When best practices are documented, people can use them consistently.
When knowledge is shared, the clients enjoy better results, projects and processes move more quickly, and time and effort aren’t wasted recreating the wheel. A data repository or knowledge bank allows everyone to quickly search and find information, as well as get pointers to “resident experts,” templates, and other helpful tools. DemandGen depends on Box.com to give us a central home for all our process documentation, as it can be easily accessed from everywhere.
You can also keep people in the know through forums and discussion groups. For example, we hold monthly “Hot Topic” virtual meetings. Hosted by different DemandGen departments that can be located anywhere in the world, these forums give us a chance to come together as a team to look at what’s going on in our industry, discuss common issues, demonstrate new offerings, and share ideas.
- Adopt a standardized approach to delivering products/services
The greatest services or products ever invented won’t be successful if they don’t reach the clients in a high-quality form. A standardized approach to product/service delivery is an efficient, effective, repeatable process in which everybody knows their roles, everything looks and feels consistent, touchpoints are established, and “checks and balances” ensure quality.
- Leverage a resource manager, and allow visibility into the resource schedule to help the team prioritize and reprioritize effectively
- Train team members cross-functionally to eliminate single points of failure
Larger organizations should consider implementing a central resource manager who will oversee the operations function. At DemandGen we’ve found it very cost-effective for one central person to be able to “shift the pieces around” to maintain the greatest internal efficiency, and ultimately enable the team to meet and exceed expectations. If a dedicated individual isn’t possible, someone assigned to this role can do it part of the time with help from others. The important thing is to have the central function where the different pieces of the puzzle can come together in one place for prioritization.
Keeping your resource plans and schedules locked away might make you feel more in control. . .but it’s actually counter-productive. We share our plans and schedules using the LiquidPlanner dynamic project management solution, so everyone stays in the loop. When everyone can see what’s going on, they (and you) can more easily adapt to the changes that are part of our day-to-day reality as marketers! When priorities change, you can instantly see their effects trickling downline, so you can take action quickly.
In organizations of every size, take the opportunity to cross-train team members in various functions, to eliminate single points of failure that can be impacted by illness, vacations, or someone leaving the company. Whenever a new technique or process arises, establish a resident expert but also train others. Expanded knowledge is not only good for the team but offers education for individuals that benefits their career growth. You want them to get better at what they do, so support them to move up — not on.
Analysis and Improvement
- Derive objectives and means for improvements
- Proactively identify potential issues in the process, systems/tools, or final outcomes
As I mentioned, through documentation we capture knowledge as we learn it. But obviously, its value doesn’t end there! Use the information you’ve captured throughout each project to analyze with your team, uncovering areas for improvement and identifying issues that could arise. We’re always looking for better ways to do things, and to give our clients better deliverables, so every project includes an analysis step. Through our post-project analyses, we refine processes, systems, and tools, increase efficiency, and improve accuracy.
Ultimately, having a clearly defined process, and the right tools to document and share information, elevates your operational success.
Christina Yozallinas, Director of Services Operations, helps ensure our team’s operational effectiveness and utilization by establishing operating procedures, streamlining processes, monitoring performance dashboards, and managing our internal systems used for collaboration, and learning. She defines and implements our onboarding procedures for new team members and helps ensure smooth facilitation of resource management by aligning client needs with internal resources.