August 24, 2014

Marketing: Organize for Productivity

People.  Processes.  Product.


When I was a software developer, a good practice for staffing teams was to balance PPP. If your people were very familiar with the product (its technology and its user stories) you needed a lot less process. Conversely, if the people were not familiar with the product, or if there were not a lot of people, you needed more process.

The state of PPP subsequently drove the time and cost of the project. So, if you have good processes and people who know them well, you can make a better product in relatively less time.

The PPP relationship comes into play when you organize your marketing team as well. You can apply PPP when staffing a project or when reorganizing the entire department.

Lets face it, marketing is getting more responsibility without the chance (not to mention the funding) to manage the people, process and technology required to do a good job. For the people in PPP, that leads to what Gary Katz, Chair, Marketing Operations & Technology Summit recently summed up as, "a career in marketing that feels like repeat episodes of Survivor – fun and exciting at first; overwhelming and exhausting after that"

So what are our options. One thing that shouldn't be up for debate is the need for a layer of technology, data, and measurement. We've reached the point where all but the smallest marketing department NEEDS it's own IS and Program Office. Only a very small shop should bake this directly into the marketer's roles. For one you need consistency in handling data, web engagement and CRM. Same is true for measurement. You want the latter to be both comprehensive in scope and independent of marketers.

Working above the Ops layer, we have some options.

Here's where we can PPP! What type of people do you have or can you recruit? Should you organize horizontally or vertically? That depends on your people, process, products.

For example, is your product a highly technical, B2B offering that requires rocket scientists to understand the product, its uses, and the marketplace? Probably these product marketers won't have the depth, or the inclination, to also execute a campaign. You'll thus need a layer of marketing execution specialists--web, search, automation, content.  This creates a more horizontal structure where a layer of planners who don't execute work with a layer of execution specialists who do.

On the other hand, if you have a more general use product, you could build a team of marketers who work the messaging and targeting strategies and then execute the tactics to deliver.  The extreme example of this is the marketing-department-of-one at a startup.

The People and Process you need in these scenarios are different.

Note too that the slices, vertical or horizontal, can be teams as well as individuals. And within these the same rules can apply, recursively. In the example above, maybe Campaign A has Planners and Executors in a horizontal relationship. Campaign B though has several vertical people, one for social, one for search, one for events.

If you're marketing function feels a lot like Gary's Survivor mode, you may need to step back and balance your PPP!

August 11, 2014

My Conversion to Evernote

I've been a OneNote user for some time. For taking notes, especially during meetings and calls, and for capturing ideas quickly, it really does the trick. The integration with Office and the ability to access online notebooks from multiple devices--especially mobile phones--means I'm never far from my notes.

Happy with OneNote, I never understood the enthusiasm around Evernote. But count me among the converted.

It began, innocently enough, when I was looking for a better way to track projects and tasks.

The Getting Things Done (GTD) techniques kept appearing in searches. Eventually, I ended up on Lifehacker with articles galore about GTD and Evernote. Finally, I came across TSW--the secret weapon.  Reading through, I realized it was a good system for managing projects, and even though it could be done in a number of software (or "hardware" notebooks), the example used Evernote.

That's where it started to click. Evernote has a number of features and an ecosystem that makes it so much more than a note taking tool or web clipping utility. Notebook Stacks and tag hierarchies, along with search, index, OCR and a host of other functions turn it from utility software to the way to manage your own, unstructured, "big data."

(One curious fact, as I draft this in Evernote, the word Evernote is flagged as a spelling error.)

Which in many ways makes it even better than specific task and project solutions like Asana and Wrike. And even my favorite, Trello. These tools try, but don't really succeed, at letting you filter your views and lists as quickly as Evernote. Both the functionality and the UI of Evernote lets you get to what you want quickly. And it is a intrinsically a workspace for file and content storage. Whereas that always feels bolted on in task software.

At this point, I've only managed my own task and project list with Evernote. I still have to find out how it would work for a team of people to share projects, tasks, and workspaces. If anyone has used it in a collaboration environment, let us know how it works.

August 04, 2014

The Marketing of Data Blending: Is It as Simple as All That?

The automatic data blending features in a number of new or updated BI and visualization tools offer to bring complex analytics to the ubiquitous “Non-technical Business User” without the need for data scientists. Is it as simple as all that?

One thing that is telling is that the examples and demos by the vendors employ fairly simple data--clearly already cleaned up to Join easily. With the examples, one often could have made the conclusions simply looking at the data in a table.

Still, some people simply work better with visuals than with tables of numbers. So there is potential for big value in end user tools.

But there is also a big “Only” in vendor statements like “only requires user intervention to resolve conflicts.” Pulling together data from disparate systems, even when they are modeling the same entities, is rife with conflict.

Having “manually blended” data myself many times over the years, I know the drill. Export from a variety of sources; upload into Access or SQL Server; change up data types to get them consistent; use SQL queries to join, sort, filter and explore; finally generate charts. I can tell you it is easy to get the wrong results when you are not careful with your joins. I believe that if the source data is clean and obvious enough, then automated blending tools can do a good job with this. But there’s the rub, the data isn't always clean and obvious. And the non-technical business user isn’t in a position to know it.

To be clear, I’m not saying there isn't a place for these tools. I just believe that they still take a more “data aware” user to do the blending. In other words, they are great for analysts to do ad-hoc research projects and to figure out ETL jobs.

In fact that’s the way we've ended up deploying. Analysts use Tableau and Datameer to build dashboards for business users without having to make a data mart first. This is a great benefit because users get the visualizations in hand and can make change requests. Over time, this iterative period winds down and we have a very good model encoded in the blending setups should we choose to implement a structured data warehouse or mart.

I really like these tools in the right hands. I simply believe the technology hasn’t caught up with the marketing yet.