Process in a Time of Crisis
- In the “people/process/technology” triangle method of issue resolution, process is the underutilized approach
- Automating processes, conducting process audits and adopting agile methodologies can drive effectiveness in times of crisis
- Process improvements are a low- to no-cost approach for greater efficiency in uncertain times
It’s safe to say that we are not in a time of business as usual. The COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic upheavals are challenging businesses of every size in every industry. B2B marketing leaders and their operations teams have been grappling with the urgent near-term challenges of pivoting to virtual events, addressing projected pipeline shortfalls, and suddenly managing virtual teams. But the challenges don’t stop here.
Marketing leaders are starting to look at the longer-term implications of the “new normal” that we will be coping with for the foreseeable future. Likely scenarios include budget cuts (for 2020 and beyond), an increased dependence on digital marketing tactics and delivery channels, and structural changes to marketing teams — whether from continued remote work, hiring freezes, or formal restructuring initiatives. All of this sits on top of the normal day-to-day pressure to support the revenue engine and enhance the company brand.
Normally, operations leaders look at their challenges through the lens of the evergreen people/process/technology triangle. They ask themselves, “Can I address this issue by adding or reallocating people resources?” or “Can I bring on new technology to capitalize on this opportunity?”
In the past several years of business expansion, the people and technology sides of this triangle have been used frequently to help B2B marketing teams grow and scale. Need proof? Look at the exponential growth of the marketing technology space or the breadth of company martech stacks. Also, consider the war for marketing talent in certain regions. But the process side of the triangle? Not so much.
Process improvement can be seen as boring — nowhere near as exciting as bringing on a new system or sourcing new hires with mad skills. Process improvements can also be seen as too complex to implement, especially when processes cross functions and require collaboration among personnel not in your direct span of control.
However, given the new normal that we are facing — one with restricted funding for new tools or new headcount — process can be a powerful approach for driving greater effectiveness and efficiency from the marketing organization. It can also give the marketing team ways to be nimbler and more adaptable in the current state of business. Consider these opportunities:
- Process documentation and automation to support a distributed workforce. If the new normal for your organization includes remote workers, now is the time to start documenting, communicating, and automating as much process as possible. The office “sneaker net” is down, and employees can’t wander over to someone’s cubicle to ask, “Who do I talk to about launching a new campaign?” Marketing operations teams can leverage existing intranet sites and project management tools to quickly publish process steps, guidelines, and templates to the distributed team to reduce confusion. Calendars of in-flight work and upcoming milestones should be created and widely shared. Develop standard intake forms for work requests to get at the information needed for the timely execution of new work — and reduce the number of online meetings required. If your organization has a work management tool, look at expanding the number of workflow processes you have already automated to support additional marketing teams.
- Business process audits to reduce waste. Now is also a good time to take a hard look at your existing marketing processes. Are they unclear? Too cumbersome? Do they require too many meetings? Conduct process audits and interview stakeholders to determine what is and is not working for critical business processes such as content development, program design, or product launches. Use team feedback to streamline workflows, reduce waste, and drive greater efficiency. Develop RACI decision models to provide role clarity for process owners and all participants.
- Introduce or expand agile process methodology to marketing. Agile marketing has been used to enable teams to be more effective when collaborating and executing their work. It’s often used in digital marketing, content creation, and web teams. It is a great approach that allows teams to improve work quality, productivity, and accountability. It gives teams a flexible approach to respond to changing customer needs, promotes ownership of the work effort, and allows teams to make fast strategic shifts in their approaches to the market. All these are desirable attributes in a time of crisis. If your marketing organization has not adopted agile, look at setting up a pilot to test the methodology.
While not inherently glamorous, process is an area that marketing leaders and operation teams can take advantage of in uncertain times. Even better, it is a low- to no-cost lever to effect change in a time of crisis. Need help getting started? The Forrester SiriusDecisions Marketing Operations Strategies analysts are here to help.