How Marketing Operations Established Disciplined Spend Management at Hitachi Vantara

The Task: Enable Proper Marketing Investment Management

Today’s marketers are being held to new levels of accountability when it comes to proving the value of their investments and efforts. But when your marketing group struggles to manage actuals against forecasts and present credible numbers to finance, it’s challenging to satisfy these expectations. This described the situation for the marketing group within Hitachi Vantara when Jeremie Audran was brought on board as the Director of Global Marketing Operations. In just 12 months, Jeremie established process and discipline around marketing performance reporting to significantly elevate marketing’s standing within the company, with the help of Uptempo.

Lacking a Financially Sound Approach

Hitachi provides information technology (IT) infrastructure, analytics, content, and cloud solutions and services to Fortune 100 and Fortune Global 100 enterprises. To market its offerings, the company calls upon more than 250 marketers in over 30 countries around the globe.

When Jeremie joined Hitachi Vantara, marketing operations was in charge of data quality and spend tracking – but no one was tasked with managing the marketing department’s strategic planning and investments.

With marketing programs and budgets subdivided among different geographies – and tracked in an inconsistent manner – the CMO found it challenging to ensure marketing plans were well organized and budget was allocated as effectively as possible. Moreover, he was not in a position to plan strategically because he was relying on anecdotes and arbitrary details instead of accurate data and consistent reporting.

Compounding matters was the disconnect between marketing and finance. With financial details managed separately by each group, numbers often did not match up. Based on past experience, the management team expected marketing to be over budget but could never be certain by what amount each quarter. As a result, there was little faith throughout the company that the marketing department could accurately measure and report on the effectiveness of its spend. Jeremie knew a concerted effort was needed to enable marketing and finance to work together in a financially sound way.

Establishing a Data-Driven Framework and Process

As a strong marketing operations leader with extensive experience optimizing marketing performance, Jeremie needed to end the reactionary approach to spending. That would require that he put in place a new marketing operations framework to enable a data-driven approach to marketing investment management. And he knew Uptempo was an essential part of that data-driven foundation.

“I wanted a system purely focused on the financial aspects of marketing. My job is to ensure that marketing is accountable for what it does and I knew Uptempo could help me do that. I like the ease-of-use and focus of Uptempo,” he explains.

As a first step in encouraging the adoption of better methods, Jeremie first needed the company’s marketers to feel the pain of the current techniques. Every quarter, Jeremie gathered all marketing leaders to present their key performance indicators (KPIs) to their peers and the CMO. While the KPIs covered a wide range, investment-related measurements comprised a significant part. “It doesn’t look good to show up empty handed – especially when some peers are making valiant efforts to present meaningful numbers. Our marketing leaders quickly recognized the need to embrace a more rigorous, data-driven approach to measuring their performance,” says Jeremie.

Jeremie worked with each marketing team to define long-term KPIs, goals, and realistic milestones, all aligned with the overall marketing investment and business strategy.

Next, Jeremie took steps to implement the formal marketing operations framework. As he recalls, “Marketing needed a reset to determine whether or not it was effectively delivering on its mission. To do that, we needed the right tools and information to understand where our money was allocated and how it was being used. With that foundation in place, we could make better informed decisions.”

Not only did Jeremie institute a new process and framework for marketing planning and budgeting, he rolled out the changes in an impressive time frame. In spite of the size of the organization and the many layers within Hitachi, Jeremie was able to use technology and data to gain visibility and respect for his marketing operations strategy. Within one year, he had proven the benefits of the new approach and secured buy-in from the company’s executives. In fact, the CMO mandated that all marketers adopt this formal, standardized approach and process.

Moving from Reactionary to Prescriptive

The use of Uptempo enables Jeremie to be prescriptive instead of reactive when it comes to managing Hitachi’s global marketing investments.
In one case, Jeremie saw that a marketing vice president was in danger of losing budget because departed employees’ salaries had not been reallocated. Jeremie recommended that the vice president distribute the untapped funds to another marketing group that could immediately put the money to use.
In another situation, a vice president had an unallocated amount of budget in his plan that was due to be absorbed by the company at large. When Jeremie noticed this in Uptempo, he compiled a list of marketing needs so the marketing leader would decide how to redistribute the funds.

Uptempo also enables Hitachi Vantara to better manage and spend its millions in market development funds (MDF). “We need to understand our total buying power and allocate these funds fairly. However, our CMO and finance had no visibility into where these funds were, how they were being spent and by whom as MDF was tracked via spreadsheets across the organization. Through Uptempo, marketing can enter a request for approval or denial and the funds can be transferred.” By providing transparency into where MDF was applied, Jeremie’s team could understand which geographies would double their spending power if they had their budgets augmented with available funds.

“We can use our investments more wisely and efficiently because of the insight we gain through Uptempo. Going forward, I expect we will more systematically allocate funds to ensure the best possible use of our budget,” says Jeremie.

Now each marketing group is entering its plans and budget into Uptempo, enabling the CMO to see where funds will be spent. “You will never hit your target if you don’t strategically plan your marketing spend. Uptempo enables us to make and follow those plans so we can market more effectively,” explains Jeremie.

Today, Marketing Enjoys Better Alignment with Finance

With 80 users across Hitachi Vantara’s geographies along with field marketers and finance use Uptempo regularly to view and track the marketing investments and help optimize performance. As a result, Jeremie and the marketing and finance departments gain full visibility into marketing investments, where they are applied, and the ultimate return. In fact, after implementing Uptempo, the marketing department was able to manage its spend so well that it came within dollars of its target on a multi-million dollar base budget. “This is a huge accomplishment for an organization of our size,” says Jeremie.
“With Uptempo in place, our finance department has newfound confidence in marketing’s ability to track and report on its performance,” concludes Jeremie.

“I run marketing operations like I play golf. Playing golf is not just about hitting the ball. You have to manage the course and work backwards from the green to achieve the end objective of sinking the ball in the hole, using the fewest strokes possible. The same is true in marketing: to reach your objective and optimize your performance, you must start with strategic planning.”
– Jeremie Audran, Director of Global Marketing Operations, Hitachi Vantara