Marketing ops & maturity

Frans Riemersma
November 21, 2022

This blog was adapted from BrandMaker’s: “Marketing Ops Now” podcast. Each installment discusses valuable ideas for both management and marketing executives. You can listen to this 20-minute podcast here.

Pros and cons of maturity models

The notion of capability development is essential to the modern marketing organization. Many marketing leaders ask themselves how to develop their capabilities as an organization and generate more positive outcomes faster and more predictably?

This is where maturity models can help. Maturity models show in a structured way which disciplines to develop. A good maturity model allows teams to easily identify what the interrelated capabilities are, where they stand, and what to grow.

Many maturity models come in maturity stages, often visually represented as columns. Normally the first column is where all teams start, as absolute beginners. It shows a particular set of capabilities across three, five, or seven columns allowing you to indicate where your team is and which stage to move forward to.

There is a flip side, however. Maturity models are easy to misuse. Some teams get a little bit too hung up on treating each of the columns as absolute truth. Real-life capabilities cannot be shoehorned into columns. Some capabilities are just more developed than others. This is where the majority of the maturity models start to lose efficacy. Then, it becomes a purely theoretical exercise.

Capability Maturity Model

A maturity model should be intuitive. The moment we need it is not when we have hours to contemplate. Mostly we need to apply it when we are in the line of fire.

Looking at a great number of maturity models, we found the Capability Maturity Model most useful. The term “maturity” relates to the degree of formality and optimization of processes, from ad hoc practices, to formally defined steps, to active optimization of the processes. In 2006, the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University developed the Capability Maturity Model

BrandMaker’s “Marketing Ops Now” podcast series has officially started. In each podcast, industry luminaries and deep thinkers share valuable marketing ops ideas for both management and marketing executives (some worth stealing). 

For every podcast in the series, we’ll do a blog post to share the highlights with you. You can listen to this 20-minute. podcast here.

Three maturity levels

While the original CMM includes five stages, we have simplified it into three levels. 

  1. Ad Hoc. This stage feels like chaos. Processes are mostly reactive and ad hoc. This is where companies or marketers are hacking and stacking to find a product-market fit. This is where local heroes operate, i.e. very smart and skilled individuals who are highly effective at their job. In a chaotic environment, they are ideal to find a product-market fit, but once the fit is established they increasingly become a hurdle to scaling the company.
  2. Standardized. In this stage, we have taken out all the clutter, standardized business-critical processes, and establlished a consolidated set of systems of records. We can cost-efficiently scale the organization. The company can solidify its market position in a relatively predictable market.
  3. Synced. Companies at this level have an organizational infrastructure that is entirely in sync with the market dynamics. Their infrastructure is wired to continuously optimize itself. Think of Google AdWords or Apple iTunes. If there is a sudden change in demand, they can easily scale their infrastructure up or down.

Three maturity capabilities

As mentioned before, some capabilities are just more developed than others. This is also true for marketing. Based on research with 200 marketing experts across the globe, three different marketing capabilities emerged.

  1. Strategy. This capability is about defining strategic company goals and translating them into marketing goals, and further down to corresponding marketing materials like campaigns, collateral & content.
  2. Teams. The capability to streamline processes and skill sets reflects in topics like numbers of FTEs, talent management, internal roles and external suppliers, workflows, and processes.
  3. Technology. This capability is about managing stacks and technology solutions cost-effectively, while supporting business critical processes and strategies.

Source: boardview.io

What stood out from the results was that across industries, there was one constant: the strategy was always more mature than teams & processes. In its turn, teams were always more mature than the technology stack. In short: stack follows strategy.

The same model can also be applied to the martech market at large. Since the eighties and nineties, thousands of unique isolated tools grew all over the place. We depended on brilliant minds understanding how to deliver huge value from technology applications. 

Early this century we saw some monopolies coming up, such as Microsoft, Apple, SAP, Adobe, Oracle, Apple, Android, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. These monopolies are inherently bringing us some sort of technical or digital standardization to the market as they need a critical mass (that other companies don’t have) to thrive. Not only does Big Tech bring standardization, but they also create a kind of centralization. This Standardization level is where we are today with the big tech companies. 

Martech platform and its ecosystems are taking us to the final level, Synced. Innovations and new technology are all about optimization. And where big tech companies bring centralization, new technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain bring decentralization. It enables some sort of distributed environment that nonetheless provides a common backbone, but it’s not controlled by any entity. This is how democratized technology will ultimately democratize companies (or even society).

For those who find that hard to believe, here is an interesting anecdote.

“Back in the days of the Cold War, a Russian official visited London. He wanted to meet the person in charge of the bread distribution. He could not believe what he learned: there was no overarching central plan; it was spontaneously ordered and working just fine.” The rest is history.

Please join us

BrandMaker’s “Marketing Ops Now” podcast series has officially started. In each podcast industry luminaries and deep thinkers share valuable marketing ops ideas for both management and marketing executives (some worth stealing).

For every podcast in the series, we’ll do a blog post to share the highlights with you. You can listen to this 20-minute podcast here.

Share on
facebook icon linkedin icon twitter icon

You may also like:

The Evolution of Marketing Resource Management

Marketers have an undeserved reputation for just “making things pretty” when really we…

Why use marketing playbooks?

This blog was adapted from BrandMaker’s: “Marketing Ops Now” podcast. Each installment discusses…

Unplanning and Agility: The New Approach to Marketing Plans

How do you measure the success of a marketing plan? Many marketers (and…

Three marketing ops trends to watch

This blog was adapted from BrandMaker’s: “MarketingOps Now” podcast. Each installment discusses valuable…