What Can LinkedIn, SAP & Netflix Leaders Teach Us About Marketing Ops?

MOPS_summitLast week, I participated in the inaugral Marketing Ops and Technology Summit chaired by Gary Katz, Chairman and VP Strategy for Marketing Operations Partners. 60+ practicing executives bantered for two days on the present and future of marketing and tech operations (MOPs). While there were “speakers”, this interactive conference tapped into a seasoned group of practicing marketing and tech leaders. Collectively, this very experienced cadre included executives from powerhouse companies such as LinkedIn, SAP, Clorox, At Home, GoGo, and NetFlix. Since this was invite-only session, here are insights I pulled direct from these accomplished leaders.

MOPs’ purpose is to run marketing like a business.

Discussions started around defining the role, including “Should the marketing ops exec be the ‘chief of staff’ to the CMO?” Consensus was that chief of staff is not a positive position for what marketing ops needs to achieve. While this role exists in a few companies, the most powerful marketing ops pros/teams focus on key business metrics and outcomes like revenue, customer satisfaction, team productivity and delivering ROI to the business. This differs from chief of staff-like roles, which typically focus more on who does what and managing priorities. With the importance of MarTech investments rising to serve always-on customers and ops sitting in the center of sales, marketing and technology, MOPs is in an unprecedented position to truly advance the business.

Yes, marketing ops is about powering marketing, but more and more it’s all about the customer.

While MOPs has traditionally viewed the marketing department as their “customer”, more marketing operations leaders and teams are prioritizing initiatives around their end customer (consumers). Saad Hameed, Head of Marketing Technology at LinkedIn, summed it up well: “Customer experience is the unifying force for marketing and tech to come together to deliver innovative ideas and solutions that can truly impact the business.” 

Experience in marketing is great,  but not essential for ops pros.

One example is Tony Ralph, Director of Ad and Marketing Technology at NetFlix. Tony was plucked from engineering after being under the tutelage of an innovative CIO who believed in immersing ops and tech talent as close to the business as possible (in the case that marketing part of the business). This discussion blossomed into the importance of getting key stakeholders outside of marketing excited about the possibilities of great marketing. Such an approach can quickly create marketing “mini-mes” (inspired by Mike Myers’ infamous Dr. Evil character), who evangelize the power of marketing, shared Kim Johnston, CMO of UnifySquared and former Symantec marketing chief. Mark Verone, product ops exec at inflight network provider GoGo, weighed in on the importance of job rotation inside and outside of marketing to truly get the empathy and the experience to build a world class organization.

 You do NOT want to be known as the “Land of No.”

Marketing operations is often a central group, and like its IT sibling, MOPs can quickly gain a reputation of having a “no first” mentality when marketers come with their needs and intiatives – the exact opposite of a business-enabling role. As stated by Stephan Steiner, ops and tech leader at global software power SAP:

“What happens is this ‘land of no’ quickly creates a ‘black market’ where marketers simply go around or look outside the company for solutions to meet their needs…also known in MOPs slang as “going off the reservation.”

This can be disasterous, further siloing systems, processes, tech and people, and often creating competing agendas that hamstring the organization.

Focus your energy on “What problem are we trying to really solve?”

There’s no lack of projects or intiatives in today’s dyanmic, fast-paced world of marketing. Priorities change constantly. The MOPs experts all talked about the importance of responsiveness with a big caveat on the need to take the time to realize what the team is trying to achieve. The add-on to this is MOPs’ need to work with executive leadership to determine and agree on what’s truly mission critcal to advance the business. Tough choices need to be made.

It was both enlightening and motivating to share and learn from a great group of marketing operations and tech leaders who are making a big difference for their companies and for the profession.

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