Monday, November 24, 2008

A View from the CFO's Office. . .

I recently attended MIT Sloan's annual CFO Summit in Newton, Massachusetts; not just to earn the CPE credits needed to maintain my CPA certification, but more importantly, I wanted to gain an understanding of CFOs' perspectives in this difficult economic environment. This is something that every CMO should understand to help optimize their management strategy as well as their tenure.

It was no surprise that the theme of the conference was "Relentless Volatility". Jack McCullough, one of the two co-chairs of the event, put it well in his opening remarks: "My investment banker friend in London described this environment as being similar to a divorce but worse. . . 'I've lost half of my net worth, but I'm still stuck with my husband.'" I'd like to summarize several key comments from the event that may offer you some ideas for how best to not only ride out the storm in the upcoming year, but even perhaps to leverage the situation to improve your position and take share in this tough market:
  • As part of your annual and intra-year planning process, ensure that you leverage scenario planning to best identify what challenges you may encounter in the next quarter or year, as well as what steps you need to take to minimize the potential damage from these risks;
  • Communication in this volatile environment increases in importance. . . not just with your functional team, but also with senior management; (i.e., don't be intimidated to better engage your CEO and CFO, especially when you need help or need their advice)
  • Ensure that your executive team knows that you not only understand the current challenges you face, but that you also have a plan to address them; (and meeting with the CFO offers a great chance to ensure that your plans are grounded in reality, as well as a chance to share your vision and increase their comfort level with your management framework and strategy)
  • "We've spent a significant amount of time reallocating our budgets to ensure that we're focusing on investment in the high growth, high profitability areas vs. in the "harvest" areas that may not need as much investment", Norman Robertson, CFO Progress Software; (e.g., IDC CMO Advisory Practice research indicates that the average technology vendor allocates 38% of their marketing budget to newer, higher growth business areas or product lines vs. existing, more mature business areas or product lines)
  • The large companies will no doubt be reducing their on-campus recruiting efforts this year. Therefore, now is a great opportunity to hire the best and brightest individuals from the top schools.
  • And finally, continue to drive innovation within your team, motivating individuals to take chances in an effort to change how they do business today. We need to give our staff the opportunity to be leaders, stepping into the light that no one else may see.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Marketing's Planning Process: An Ongoing Activity, not an Annual "Trip to the Dentist"

As your marketing organization approaches the end of its annual planning cycle, remember that it shouldn't end on January 1, 2009. As marketers we must get better at managing our annual and intra-year process as a part of our regular business processes vs. a once per year disruptive event. Doing so could be a helpful step forward in improving our ability to manage investment, shift resources in response to market conditions, and improve alignment within marketing and with the rest of the organization. Based upon interviews with marketing leaders in the technology industry and findings from IDC's recent Marketing Operations Board meeting, I'd like to offer the following "food for thought":

1. Staffing: Do you have an individual or team who's accountable for developing, executing and governing your planning process? The marketing operations function can provide the foundation and discipline for a well-orchestrated and managed planning process. Although this role has been effective in planning and orchestrating marketing's annual and intra-year planning process, marketers' view of planning as a separate activity from their daily job coupled with their lack of financial acumen continues to hinder the success of planning. (email me to receive a copy of our recent mktg. ops. study. . mgerard@idc.com)

2. Process: Marketers have made significant progress in establishing planning processes, such as global marketing leadership boards, a consistent taxonomy, financial tracking and other performance measurement processes; however, the lack of consistent adoption of these processes across the organization including a lack of alignment with finance, sales and regional marketing must be overcome to advance marketing to a higher level of operation and performance.

3. Technology: It is only in the past 3-4 years that most marketing organizations have actually achieved an understanding of how much they spend on marketing across the organization, mostly leveraging highly manual processes and Microsoft Excel. A recent IDC study revealed that 40% of IT marketers in companies >$3B in revenue continue to use Excel and other manual processes vs. a more automated MRM(marketing resource management)-type solution. It is time for us to advance to the next level of marketing, including tracking of investment at a more detailed level. (e.g., by objective, campaign, activity, brand, product, country, or segment) MRM applications offer the opportunity to do this in a more systematized and efficient manner. But remember, process first.