The marketing operations function is maturing, and strong individuals are thriving, but what’s next for them? Here’s a progression that we have seen work well.

Keeping good talent – especially in sales and marketing – can be a struggle. One of the biggest challenges organizations face is the need to expand existing roles beyond their current responsibilities so that individuals stay engaged and continue to be challenged.

Account Based SellingMarketing operations, a function that barely even existed 10 years ago, increasingly encounters this challenge. The function is maturing, and strong individuals are thriving, but what’s next for them? One way to chart the career path of an operations resource is to think about how he or she may be able grow into a more holistic and business-minded role. Here’s a progression that I’ve seen work well:

  • Technical analyst/administrator. In this role, the person is largely responsible for “lights on” type activities on a particular system, such as the marketing automation platform. Tasks might include adding and deleting users, managing licenses, configuring the system and providing level-one support, maintenance and release upgrade execution.
  • Product owner. As a product owner, the person now takes on full ownership for the system that he or she supports, rather than just executing tasks within the system. His or her job is to think broadly about how the system is used within the organization and solicit feedback on enhancements, facilitate internal power user groups, manage upgrade projects and negotiate contracts.
  • Process owner. The perspective of this role is not on the tool itself, but the business process it supports. Responsibility shifts to ensuring that the process is running smoothly, the customers of the process are satisfied and the technology used to support the process – including the original system – are the best tools to facilitate the work to be done.

As with any role arc, the Peter Principle (under which candidates are selected for a position based on performance in their current role vs. their suitability for the new role) is always a risk factor. Just as high-performing sales reps don’t necessarily progress well into sales management roles, it’s not always feasible to promote a deeply technically minded resource into managing a business process.

For more advanced roles, look for candidates with mind-sets oriented toward operations, efficiency and customers. These are the people who can grow over time and continue to add value to the organization.