Gartner Research Maps the Landscape of Marketing Operations

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Image Source:  Gartner, Inc.

Gartner recently published the findings of the 2020 Gartner Marketing Operations and Organization Survey. The survey results are described in two reports – the 2020 Marketing Operations Survey report, and the Marketing Organization Survey 2020 report.

This year’s survey was conducted in May and June, and produced 429 respondents in the United States, Canada, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. All respondents were required to be involved in decisions regarding marketing operations and/or the alignment of marketing budgets, resources and processes. The respondents came from a variety of industries, and 91% were with organizations having $1 billion or more in annual revenue.

Given the composition of this survey panel, the findings are most reflective of circumstances in large enterprises. However, many of the findings will also be useful for marketing leaders in mid-size companies.

Here’s a  brief overview of some of the more interesting survey findings. Unless otherwise indicated, these findings are described in the 2020 Marketing Operations Survey report.

Adoption of Marketing Operations

Forty-nine percent of the survey respondents said that at least one marketing team in their organization has a dedicated marketing operations leader. Frankly, I was somewhat surprised by this finding. I would have expected this percentage to be higher, given the composition of the survey panel.

Other research has indicated that marketing operations functions have been implemented by many large and mid-size companies. In fact, Gartner’s 2019 Marketing Organizational Survey found that more than two-thirds of marketing organizations have a discrete marketing operations function. And in Gartner’s 2020-2021 CMO Spend Survey, marketing leaders ranked marketing operations as their third most vital marketing capability, behind only brand strategy and marketing analytics.

Current Scope of Marketing Operations

The 2020 survey also revealed that the responsibilities assigned to the marketing operations function vary significantly across companies. Gartner presented the survey participants with a list of 12 marketing activities and asked which of these activities was currently led or managed by their marketing operations function. The following table shows the percentage of respondents who selected each activity.

As this table shows, companies are using their marketing operations function to manage a wide variety of activities, and no activity was selected by a majority of survey respondents. This finding should not be surprising, given that marketing operations is still a relatively young business function.

Gartner hypothesizes that marketing leaders often create a marketing operations function to address whatever operational issues are most pressing at that time. Therefore, Gartner contends that the marketing operations role resembles that of a “chief of staff” whose primary job is to support the CMO.

Marketing Operations is Expanding

Gartner’s research also indicates that marketing leaders plan to expand the scope of their marketing operations function in the near future. Gartner presented the survey participants a list of 12 marketing activities – plus a “none of the above” choice – and asked which of these activities would become part of their marketing operations mandate within the next 12 to 24 months. The five most frequently selected activities were:

  • Data sourcing, consolidation and management (29% of respondents)
  • Performance management, benchmarking and analytics (29%)
  • Strategic planning, alignment and oversight (28%)
  • Marketing technology management (27%)
  • Maintaining talent audits and capacity needs (26%)

My Take

In my view, marketing operations is destined to become a more important function in the marketing departments of most large and mid-size companies for two main reasons. First, marketing is increasingly dependent on a multitude of technology applications, so the selection, implementation, integration, and management of technology tools is increasingly critical. That is a classic role for marketing operations.

Second, many companies are moving significant portions of marketing work in-house. In Gartner’s 2020-2021 CMO Spend Survey, the respondents reported that they had shifted an average of about one-third of the work previously done by external suppliers to in-house teams. For “in-housing” to be successful, companies will need to design and implement effective and efficient work processes, and that too is a classic job for marketing operations.

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