state of marketing operationsIt’s hard to believe it’s been a dozen years since the predecessor of Marketing Operations Partners launched a Marketing Operations service that would one year later spawn the world’s first dedicated Marketing Operations strategy consultancy.

At the time, the CommPros Group’s tagline, “Your Marketing Operations Partner”, became the name of the fledgling firm. Naturally, Marketing Operations Partners was abbreviated to MO Partners, which led to the tagline “Changing the MO of Marketing.”

Over the next few articles, I’ll share my unique perspective as a pioneer in the field since 2005, contributing to its evolution as a practitioner, consultant, educator, community organizer, thought leader and champion.

Today, I’ll give you a peak into what it was like in the early days and my impressions of the current state of the field. In future articles, I’ll detail the gaps we still need to address and offer guidance on how we can better align our thinking, actions and collective interest to maximize the impact of this fast-growing career path, professional discipline and enterprise difference-maker.

Flashback: May 2006

The Marketing Operations profession was very immature when MO Partners was established in 2006. Henry Stewart Events was running a mostly vendor-dominated Marketing Operations/Marketing Operations Management symposium side-by-side with its Digital Asset Management Conference. A small band of MO practitioners from Adobe, Hyperion, Symantec and other companies founded MOCCA (now MO-CCA, the Marketing Operations Cross-Company Alliance).  The number of people with MO titles was probably around 100 globally, representing maybe 2-3 dozen companies. Analyst firm International Data Corporation had recently noted the rise of the MO function in its Tech Marketing Benchmarks study.

The word “MarTech” wasn’t even in the industry vernacular. Marketo was in stealth mode, just about to enter the scene. Eloqua (now Oracle), Unica (now IBM), AssetLink (now SAS Institute), Aprimo, and others were all trying to address the marketing efficiency and effectiveness gap with technology solutions. Most of the subject matter experts, in-house and on the consulting side, were putting their energies into deploying and getting bang for the buck from those very complex, very expensive, non-SaaS technologies.

The Marketing Operations Partners team saw this as a golden opportunity to bring formalization and standardization to the practice of MO, first with thought leadership and then with specific initiatives, such as publishing the first benchmarking study on MO,” Journey to Marketing Operations Maturity” in 2007.

It’s been a decade since we published the study. How has the field evolved since then and what’s coming next? Where are MO practitioners shining and where are they struggling? And, perhaps most importantly, what can the value chain (i.e., MarTech solution suppliers, consulting services firms) do to help our MO colleagues in the enterprise have the most sustainable impact imaginable?

Marketing Operations Today

Marketing Operations has become synonymous with the marketing technology stack (MarTech); data, insights and reporting (analytics); and sales enablement (campaigns, funnels, leads, segments, account-based marketing, sales and marketing alignment). An increasing number of practitioners are being asked to focus on the customer journey, not just the sales process.

In some companies, Marketing Ops is responsible for strategy, budget management, capability building, talent, and performance methodologies (Agile/Lean/Six Sigma).  Demand Ops, Channel Ops, Dev Ops and Content Ops have split off in some organizations as distinct functions (similar to how employee communications, marketing communications, investor relations, government affairs and even institutional advertising spawned from the public relations field).

In the more evolved businesses, the Marketing Ops leader is also the chief of staff to the CMO. We’ve seen several instances where that role eventually leads to the C-Suite.

The value chain in the Marketing Operations field is making strides too. While Henry Stewart has dropped out of the scene and a couple of other Marketing Operations conferences (including the Marketing Operations & Technology Summit I chaired for two years) have come-and-gone, there are some great resources for MO pros.

Naturally, I’m proud to spotlight the Marketing Operations Partners website and the public portion of the Marketing Future Forum as great examples of resources any serious MO pro would be foolhardy to ignore. We’ve made a ton a free and low-cost premium content readily available and get consistent feedback that it’s been very valuable to CMOs and marketing ops leaders as they set up their MO functions or seek to increase the maturity of their marketing organizations.

As a consumer of marketing operations thought leadership, I greatly value the insightful content published by Laura Patterson, Adrian Ott, Mayer Becker, Romek Jansen, Frans Riermersma, Jim Lenskold, Debbie Qaqish, Anand Thaker, Simon Daniels, Adele Ghantous, CMO Council, Marketo, Oracle Marketing Cloud, Integrate, Wrike, Red Bamboo Marketing, Centric Consulting, Bizible, Allocadia, and others.

Scott Brinker has been a beacon of wisdom and inspiration, beautifully articulating success factors for MarTech adoption. Scott has also done a great job, in concert with Third Door Media team, delivering a trade show where those MarTech companies can show off their solutions and marketing technologists can learn from one another. MOCCA continues to generously serve the field with distinction with no- or low-cost events. A later addition, – for which I’m a board member– is making an impact as well with useful initiatives including a salary survey.

Hats off also to the market analyst firms in the space for their helpful frameworks, benchmarks, reports, events and thought leadership: IDC, Sirius Decisions, Aberdeen Group, Forrester and Gartner, to name just a few.

Thanks to all these great resources, you can get a quick grounding in all things strategic, tactical and operational aspects of marketing. So, what’s missing?

Trust me, we have a long, long way to go. Tune in next week and I’ll dive deep into what I call the Marketing Operations Value Chain Gap.

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