Adobe Systems, BEA Systems, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard Co., Sun Microsystems and Symantec Corp. are just a few of the companies that have recently created a post of marketing operations director or its equivalent.
This new breed of executive is responsible for overseeing business processes, metrics, marketing infrastructure, budgeting and reporting, with the aim of improving the efficiency of marketing across the organization.
"One of the most significant trends for 2005 is investment in new processes and staff to help marketing run more like a business," said Rich Vancil, VP-CMO Advisory Service at research firm IDC.
"Many tech vendors have created a new position called marketing operations to bring marketing processes into a more scientific mode."
Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the Chief Marketing Officer Council, said: "There is definitely a big shift toward execution, process improvement, governance and alignment. Smart CMOs are hiring people with operations and execution backgrounds-someone who can be a hard-nosed interface between sales, channel groups and product planning."
While there is no formal association of marketing operations directors, an effort is under way to form an industry group to serve as a resource and forum for this emerging position.
In April, marketing operations directors from Adobe, Sun, Symantec and other high-tech companies met to discuss their job functions and share ideas.
"One of our strong desires is to have a venue to share our charter and challenges," said Chris Ewert, director of marketing operations at Adobe.
The group plans to meet monthly, with a goal of developing best practices for marketing operations.
Ewert, who joined Adobe three months ago, was previously a consultant at Enterprise Performance, where he specialized in change management processes. "The leadership at Adobe wanted to get ahead of the curve and have a formalized, centralized role that would be responsible for cross-functional operations," he said. "It is about formalizing the role of the analytical component of marketing."
Ewert is responsible for five main areas: marketing planning, measurement, marketing process management, knowledge management, and infrastructure and technology.
"Like a lot of companies coming out of the bubble and the burst of the bubble, Adobe has a renewed focus on the customer," he said. "We need to measure that on a regular and ongoing basis."
Adobe is in the process of developing a marketing dashboard that will help it measure specific results of marketing operations.
Need to learn from others
Mikel Irizar, director of worldwide marketing operations for Symantec, was also at the April meeting. "We need to set direction," he said. "The most important thing is to learn from each other and establish best business practices."
Irizar, who has been in his job for a year and a half, is a veteran in the emerging field. His job was created after Symantec hired Janice Chaffin as CMO two years ago.
"She started asking for information to understand the infrastructure," said Irizar, who previously managed Symantec's worldwide database marketing."We realized there were a lot of infrastructure processes that needed to be redone."
When Irizar's job was created, it was initially focused on developing marketing infrastructure and systems, including marketing resource management, marketing automation, customer prospect databases and reporting, he said.
Eventually, his job evolved to include more organizational activities, such as marketing planning, internal marketing communications, marketing processes and marketing knowledge management.
The main benefit to having a formalized marketing operations function is to optimize a company's marketing capabilities, Irizar said. "Through the different tools-developing dashboards, marketing processes and optimizing marketing practices-it helps you manage the business of marketing."
Laurie Cremona, VP-marketing, strategy and operations at BEA Systems, is new to her job. Her position was created in January after Marge Breya was hired as CMO in November 2004.
Breya was previously senior VP-marketing at Sun, and Cremona worked for her as a Six Sigma master black belt in marketing, a designation bestowed by the American Society for Quality.
"[At BEA] we created a new role that would be focused on analytics, intelligence and process excellence," Cremona said. "I am responsible for providing intelligence at every level," she said, pointing to operational analytics, market intelligence, market analytics, customer intelligence and customer analytics.
"We need to make sure marketing is aligned properly, and make sure people understand their roles and how to work with other departments, including sales, production management and engineering," Cremona said.
BEA has defined the following core objectives as part of its marketing operations: create a common vision and strategy, including brand value and brand perception; understand how much revenue is being driven by solutions; understand new growth and emerging products; build metrics around pricing; understand share of wallet for customers; and provide sales enablement.
"It has added real alignment across the organization and within the departments," Cremona said. "It is helping us analyze information at the corporate level and at the field level, and make sure we are working as efficiently as possible."