Chloe Washington, HubSpot
As GE Digital’s VP, Marketing Strategy and Operations, Neenu Sharma’s job is all about enabling the marketing organization—in other words, setting marketers up for success. She creates and manages the structure, processes, and technology that GE Digital’s marketers need to be effective. Neenu and her team run marketing, so the other marketers in the organization can do marketing.
In our Marketing Planning Master Class interview series, Uptempo’s CMO, James Thomas, sat down with Neenu to chat about:
Aggressive growth goals as a catalyst for changeIn Fall 2015, GE announced the formation of the 26,000-employee GE Digital unit, bringing together a number of its existing tech and analytics businesses.
Despite being a large organization within an even larger one, Neenu notes that GE Digital still considers itself a startup, albeit an exceptionally large and well-funded one. There are a few reasons for this. For one, like a startup, many processes in Marketing at GE Digital are still nascent, leaving great opportunities for improvement.
Perhaps more notable, though, are GE Digital’s startup-like growth goals. When GE Digital came into existence, then-CEO Jeff Immelt publicly announced the goal of becoming one of the top ten software companies by 2020, which put them in direct competition with IBM and a host of other behemoths. GE Digital is also vying to double revenues to $15 billion in the same time frame!
Upon joining GE Digital, Neenu was already a GE veteran. Looking through her marketing operations and strategy lens, she could see that the company would need to completely reshape its approach to marketing planning if it was going to achieve that outsized growth.
The evolution of marketing planning at GE Digital
For Neenu, the job of evolving marketing planning at GE Digital was all about building consistency. When she probed around the various business units, geographies, and functional areas within Marketing, what she found was a hodge-podge of formats, spreadsheets, and documents for each group’s marketing plans.
What she didn’t find was a consistent process that everyone could get behind and work towards. “It was a lot of work to mash it all together to make sense of the story and the plan—it was like matching apples to oranges to bananas,” Neenu said.
It was clear to Neenu: in order to build the cohesive marketing planning process that GE Digital needed, significant change was required.
Managing through change
Even at a company with a startup-like mentality, ushering in change at a large, matrixed organization the size of GE Digital is never easy. Over a period of roughly two years, Neenu and her team used a variety of tactics to improve marketing planning. Here are the top ones she told us about:
Thanks to Neenu’s leadership, GE Digital’s marketing efforts are now much more cohesive. The improvements she’s made in how the company runs marketing will help others do marketing more effectively. This startup-within-an-enterprise is well-positioned to hit their ambitious growth targets for 2020.
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