When it comes to enterprises with a complex range of marketing needs and seemingly overwhelming goals, few stack up to GE. That’s why we were very excited to have the opportunity to interview Ramiro Ramon, General Manager of Marketing Strategy & Operations for GE Healthcare. Over the last two decades, Ramiro has focused on generating innovative strategies and customer-centric business models that have maximized revenue, market share and profits for both GE and Johnson & Johnson. Moreover, he serves on the Editorial Advisory Board and is a writing contributor for PM360 – the premier magazine for marketing decision makers in the pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device industries.
We spoke with Ramiro about his take on the ways marketing technology is both influencing and being influenced by the marketing’s transformation. We also delved into the mindset, strategies and characteristics needed to be a great marketing ops leader in this evolving tech-focused landscape.
David: What fascinates you the most about the marketing tech space right now, and in what ways do you see it evolving in the next few years?
Ramiro: I feel like a kid at the candy store!
As a B2B commercial leader, my fascination comes from the integration of marketing technology to our sales processes, with clear linkages to customer-centricity, revenue and profitability. Partnership with our sales teams in driving revenue is a key priority for us. The industry investment, advances in technology and solution innovation in the commercial landscape is exhilarating.
According to all the major analysts, this will continue well into the next 10 years. The challenge for us will not be the technology, but rather the strategy and execution of how new tools will help us drive our business. I tell everyone who I mentor: “Get behind the technology boom or you’ll become irrelevant.” I mean it and I’m hiring with an eye towards this future.
David: How do you do set goals to ensure you’re effectively aligning technology with processes?
Ramiro: While I’m a technology geek, I never buy a hammer then look for a nail. The decision cascade for alignment starts first and foremost with business objectives, followed by process, then people and finally technology:
- Objective: We follow both three- and one-year business plans concurrently. In our future we seek to understand the business drivers necessary to unlock value for our customers. Those drivers then get prioritized into a roadmap for execution. In the shorter term, we fiercely execute the plan, challenging each other to remain true to the mission and making real-time adjustments as needed.
- Process: The scale and depth of our business requires us to consider process as the core common denominator. We apply LEAN methodologies to simplify, expedite and align our team around common processes. We select small pilots to deploy our minimally viable recommendations, pivoting as needed.
- People: We assess competencies, fit and training needs of our current staff in evaluation of our newly developed requirements. We make outsource versus insource decisions for critical gaps in our competencies. We invest where the business case demands, always with an eye towards simplification, speed and flexibility.
- Technology: Finally we evaluate technologies based on our simplified processes and acquired capabilities. As aforementioned, there simply is not a one-size-fits-all or an out-of-the-box technology that can fuel our needs. We make technology fit trade-offs based on our future needs, scale and business case.
Every day we are faced with new threats and opportunities that demand our short-term attention. Despite responding to the daily operations, we have to be strategic about what we invest on and the resolution to execute our plans to deliver the projected outcomes. By sustaining a North Star perspective toward our mission, we build for the long-term, while remaining flexible in the short-term.
David: You’ve overseen the implementation of many different technologies over the years. How have these experiences shaped the way in which you select new tech solutions and vendors? Are there certain red flags you’ve come to look out for?
Ramiro: The technology graveyard is full of great solutions and vendors – and yes, even ex-employees who’ve risked their careers on terrible implementations. Concurrently, competition compels us to innovate and technology plays a large role in our everlasting aspiration to be more efficient, productive, better understand our customers and leverage our scale to improve our bottom line.
In selecting new tech solutions and vendors, I refer back to the decision cascade that starts with first and foremost with business objectives, followed by process, then people and finally technology. This may not be welcomed within this readership audience, but technology is the last component of the cascade.
On the other hand, some intelligent partners are helping the C-Suite with business objectives, thereby paving their path towards success deeper in the sales process by adding value early on and winning trust, sponsorship and an invitation to compete.
There are a couple questions I like to understand early on, which usually unveil red flags:
- What problem are you solving for?
- What is the scope of your initiative?
- What is your hypothesis?
- What is the business case?
- What are your underlying assumptions?
- What are the goals and objectives of your pilot?
- How will you scale?
- What direct and indirect costs do you forecast?
- What are your dependencies, constraints or risks?
- What is your exit strategy?
I’m a big fan of the “measure twice, cut once” approach to innovation. You can take this brief questionnaire into any meeting and quickly diagnose where red flags will arise. While we want speed to execution, we first seek to want to make good decisions.
There are rare times where we exercise our right to make strategic leaps of faith, but we’re cautious to outline our risk/reward tradeoffs early.
David: You’re a prolific writer and serve on the Editorial Advisory Board for PM360. In what ways have these experiences benefited you as a leader?
Ramiro: I have a deep respect for the written word as it lasts forever. As Yogi BhajanI said “If you want to learn something, read about it. If you want to understand something, write about it.” As a leader, I’ve benefited from writing in three primary ways:
- Sharing begets sharing: When you write, you give a part of yourself. People who read it often appreciate it and let you know if they get value. In turn, you build equity in those relationships, not for the sake of transactional gain, but for a mutually beneficial relationship.
Recently I asked a very senior leader to be a career coach. She graciously accepted my request and we met to establish our relationship. At the end of the meeting, I asked her what I could do to provide her value, and she told me: “Keep writing and sharing on LinkedIn, I read all your updates, it keeps my finger on the pulse.”
- Builds humility: It takes a level of courage to put your opinion out there for all to see and weigh in. I recently wrote an article, to be published in November, challenging the personal branding hype. It’s a bit of a contrarian view at this point in time. I have strong convictions, but I’m always open to corrections, different points of views or just downright getting schooled by someone who knows more than I do – it keeps me growing.
In August, I wrote an article about unplugging from work and taking downtime to increase overall performance productivity. A couple of weeks later, I was reminded of my convictions by my wife when I was checking email at my son’s Saturday soccer game – busted! She was right and I’m better for listening.
- Expanded networking: By far, the biggest surprise to writing is how it’s expanded my network. People absorb a tremendous amount of data and have an incredible capacity to recollect. Search engines pick up even the most obscure sources, opening your content to potential connections.
A few years ago, I was checking my LinkedIn when an ex-colleague posted that he was looking for a replacement writer for his book review articles on PM360. I’m a bookaholic, so I replied that I’d be interested. After the editor checked out my work, I was given the quarterly publication. Through this writing, the President of PM360 asked me to join the Editorial Advisory Board. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of seeing PM360’s robust growth, quickly becoming the premier magazine for marketing decision makers in the pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device industries. It’s expanded my network in unforeseeable ways.
David: The adoption of marketing technology is rapidly expanding, and in your role at GE’s healthcare division, the challenges/opportunities of guiding such strategic transformations are in your hands. How do you ensure that such transformations are carried out successfully?
Ramiro: At GE Healthcare, our mission is to make the world a healthier place by supplying the healthcare technology that, in partnership with our clients, saves nearly 3,000 lives every day. Our focus is on helping medical professionals make an earlier, more accurate diagnosis of disease and then better equipping them to treat it. Anywhere there is a need for better healthcare, we are there.
To realize this mission we go to market with a wide portfolio of products, services and solutions. We execute across multiple geographies, segments, channels and tactics – simultaneously. There simply is not a one-size-fits-all or an out-of-the-box technology that can fuel our determination to execute our mission.
Transformational change in our environment is complex and unpredictable. To improve our probability of success we utilize Change Acceleration Process (CAP) – a process developed by GE that equips leaders with a proven method of managing change and prepares them to succeed as change agents. The team becomes a living organism within our organization with the ability to govern, direct our course of action and develop a roadmap to achieve the desired outcomes.
The CAP Model has seven steps:
- Find the “right” leaders for the change. Have a senior executive program sponsor and the right team members who demonstrate visible, active, public commitment to the change – People who walk the talk.
- Create a stakeholder shared need. A compelling business case for change, whether motivated by threat or opportunity, is instilled within the organization and widely shared through data, demonstration or demand. Relevant stakeholders need to be evangelists of the need creation.
- Create and communicate a vision with input from stakeholders. The desired outcome of change is clear, persuasive and widely understood. Outline your behavioral expectations for all stakeholders.
- Mobilize commitment, down to the lowest levels. Demand a strong commitment from stakeholders to invest in the change, co-own the outcome, and provide the appropriate resources for success. Stakeholders must commit to driving the change across the enterprise.
- Help to make the change last. Provide communication vehicles to expedite change throughout the organization. Milestones and early wins are publicized to build momentum for the change.
- Monitor the progress. Progress is benchmarked and realized. Create relevant metrics by stakeholders to ensure transparent, real-time accountability.
- Changing the systems and structures. Making sure that the management practices (staffing, development, rewards, measures, communication, organizational design, IT, etc.) are reassessed to complement and reinforce change. Eliminate barriers for new desired behaviors.
The scope and diversity of our businesses challenges us to achieve a balance of scalable, repeatable processes with speed and competitive intensity. In essence, our goal in deploying enterprise-wide technologies requires a strategic level of standardization and a flexible level of customization to coexist in harmony within our technology ecosystem. In transformational change, CAP is a process that has been scientifically proven to multiply our probability of success.