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A lesson in change management for marketers

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If I see one more op-ed piece calling for marketers to "break down the silos" between the various disciplines of the marketing function I think I'm gonna snap. The ugly truth is that such companywide integration efforts represent a change management challenge, and successful change management requires that companies first embrace the organizing principles of project management.

At its core, applied project management recognizes five process groups: initiating, planning, executing, controlling and closing. These five process groups also interrelate with nine knowledge areas spanning a series of proven delivery disciplines from communication to integration management.

While projects are "temporary and unique," with limited relevance to corporate strategy, a series of interrelated projects often serve as subsets within larger programs which are strategic. Additionally, such programs live squarely within a company's larger portfolio of strategic initiatives. This is important for silo-busting since all three levels (project, program and portfolio management) provide a systemic method for managing and coordinating work across an organization, from the lowest tactical deliverable to the highest strategic plan.

Before it was acquired by Oracle, Siebel Systems had won IDC's CMO Advisory Service's Best Practices Award by aligning its sales and marketing disciplines with IT to improve its lead-to-close ratio. "Such a worldwide, customercentric change initiative could not have been successfully realized without the shared language and understanding of project management," said Ted Chapman, group director, IT applications programs.

Unfortunately, such organizational alignment is more the exception than the rule. Despite marketers' desire to connect with the rest of the enterprise, the integration grease they require from the CEO usually gets passed to other executives rarely armed with the skills, plan or buy-in necessary to carry out such alignment. So a frustrating gap exists between the company's strategic wish to be integrated and its tactical ability to actually be integrated. This strategy-execution gap not only makes organizational change nearly impossible but the many failed attempts behind such initiatives (read: projects) are also, according to Gartner Group, one of the leading culprits for an astounding $75 billion in profit losses each year.

In a December interview in "iMedia Connection," Don Schultz, the father of integrated marketing communications, was quoted as saying, "The issue today, is not `integration.' The question is: How do we do it?"

Newsflash: If today's marketers really want to tear down the silos within their postindustrial organizations and embark on the journey of true integration-and the promise of integrated marketing-they'll be well advised to first take a page from the transformational sheet music of applied project management.

David Hutchinson is a marketing executive with Program Partners. He can be reached at hutch@programpartners.com.

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