How Cisco Drives Agile Decision-Making
for 1,000 Marketers

About Cisco

They are a leader in emerging technology spaces, with a presence in 100+ countries. Cisco’s products, including Webex, OpenDNS, and Jasper, help businesses worldwide stay connected. Over 85% of Fortune 500 companies rely on Cisco products and services to keep their operations running smoothly.

“Our ability to see what that impact is—or could be, if we make changes—is a lot more effective than when we were living in slides and didn’t have a standardized platform where all the information was rolled up into one spot. Now, we can see what changes mean for our activation dollars, how to maximize return, and which tactics make sense.”

Thomas Gunter
Director, Partner Marketing Contra Program & Performance at Cisco

The Challenge: A Lack of Budget Visibility Leads to Shrinking Marketing Spend 

What would you do if your marketing team was asked to make a commercial for the Super Bowl?  

Most teams would use budget constraints, production timelines, and past performance data to figure out if such a costly ad spot is—or isn’t—a good investment. 

But for the marketing operations team at Cisco, explaining the “why” behind decisions wasn’t so straightforward. Cisco has hundreds of marketers around the world working to grow demand for thousands of products. Yet, the company’s marketing ops team was reconciling spend manually from static presentations, spreadsheets, and purchase orders—which made getting a clear picture of what was (or wasn’t) moving the needle extremely difficult. 

This lack of visibility and standardized data collection was hurting the marketing function.  

It was difficult to see how much each team spent on their solutions. The marketing operations team could only articulate approximately 10% of the budget. “We didn’t have a shared view of data or a shared taxonomy around how we talked about investments or campaigns,” says Thomas Gunter, Director, Marketing Investment Operations at Cisco. “And without that basic structure, we couldn’t really model ROI effectively and make decisions quickly.” 

The inability to accurately tie marketing spend to outcomes led to a loss of confidence–and marketing funds. “We saw our marketing budgets shrink because we couldn’t demonstrate our impact,” says Thomas. Cisco’s marketing team knew they needed a way to help leadership make decisions based on accurate, timely data. 

The Solution: Moving from a Resource Management System to a Marketing Business Acceleration Platform

The marketing operations team used several different marketing resources management systems in the past to improve budgeting and planning. However, they were difficult to configure and maintain—which led most users to abandon the platform not long after onboarding. “We would spend a year just building and figuring out a user experience and our workflows. It was like building from scratch with Legos,” says Thomas. “We didn’t want to get stuck with a platform that would require a lot of effort and resources to build.”

The Cisco marketing operations team knew their next solution needed to have an easy-to-learn interface, low ongoing maintenance needs, and after-sales support. After a comprehensive search and speaking with many vendors, the Cisco buying committee chose Uptempo for the following reasons:

  • A superior user experience that would make user adoption easier. 
  • A fast set-up process that could deliver value quickly. 
  • It didn’t require a full-time developer to make future changes. 
  • A unified, connected system that met all of their needs in a single platform. 
  • Advanced features, including predicting outcomes and what-if scenario planning.  

Within six months, the operations team had configured the platform and started inviting users into it. Users quickly adopted the tool—and started asking what more they could do with it. “Our team members were putting pressure on us to go deeper, faster than we expected,” says Thomas. “And we were up to it, now that we had the right foundation and level of granularity to work off of.” Today, over 1K+ marketing team members benefit from the insights Uptempo delivers.

Thomas says the fast ramp time is due to Uptempo’s easy-to-use design and supportive services team. “Onboarding with Uptempo was phenomenal. They provided amazing guidance every step of the way. They’re incredibly attentive to our needs and their support continues to be exceptional to this day,” says Thomas. “The partnership that we have with them is one of the strongest we have with a platform provider at our company, and we have hundreds of platform providers globally.”

The Results: Accurate Budgets, Agile Planning, and Accelerated Growth   

Within the first year of implementing Uptempo, the Cisco marketing operations team saw the following results: 

  • 99.5% marketing budget accuracy. Before Uptempo, the team had ± 2% accuracy when reporting on spend. Now, they’re within half of a percent. Thomas says this makes it easier to see where they may be over overinvested or underspending. “With Uptempo, we have the clarity to see that and course-correct early.” 
  • Budget approvals in less than 48 hours. The accurate budget data available in Uptempo helps the marketing operations team handle financial requests faster. They can quickly ask others if funds can be moved around to accommodate new opportunities—and sometimes get responses within 20 minutes. It’s also helped them get approvals from leadership on their recommendations within 48 hours. “We can be really fast now and move with almost surgical accuracy,” says Thomas. 
  • Saved 25% on external agency fees. Now that the team tracks their spending in Uptempo, they can more easily spot unnecessary spend. With the level of detail Uptempo provided, the marketing operations team was able to see when an internal agency could be used instead of an external one—which drove a 25% improvement in agency and contracted services costs. “Uptempo really optimizes how we buy goods and services, and it lets us be very thoughtful about our overhead costs—and that’s incredible,” says Thomas.  
  • A clearer picture of investment data and marketing ROI. Cisco struggled to measure ROI across its vast product portfolio and overlapping SKU structures. Now, the team uses investment data from Uptempo’s software to better measure campaign performance. Cisco did this by integrating Uptempo data with Tableau, Snowflake, and Salesforce for streamlined reporting across platforms. “Now, we can see what changes mean for our activation dollars, how to maximize return, and which tactics make sense,” says Thomas. 
  • Accelerated strategic planning and go-to-market execution. Uptempo has helped strengthen recommendations provided by the marketing operations team because they’re based on accurate data. And that’s helped them create a much smoother decision-making process with Cisco’s leadership team. “Uptempo helps us draw more realistic timelines for the planning process,” says Thomas. “And when leaders can make data-informed decisions in time, we can turn those decisions into plans and execute faster.” 
  • Stronger finance and marketing alignment. Uptempo has helped procurement, finance, and the central marketing team collaborate better through a consistent, cohesive approach to budget allocation. This helped the finance team gain a stronger understanding of how marketing functions—and allowed them to help marketing better articulate its impact to the business. “This growing partnership will help the CMO and CFO work better together to deliver results. And I didn’t expect that to mature so fast.”  

Learn how 625k of your peers run marketing like a business with Uptempo.