At Yesler, we have a global, cross-functional marketing operations practice of more than 100 people working across nearly every time zone in the world, and we support clients with similar and larger marketing operations organizations.
It might sound like it’s just a group of people working to get marketing into market, and in fact, that’s how it’s typically thought of: as a task center. But for us at Yesler, it’s an interdisciplinary group with the potential to realize efficiencies and scale that tech alone can’t.
Marketing operations makes marketing run, period. That includes building and running marketing automation programs, creating processes, and everything in between. In other words, marketing ops is the glue that holds the enterprise marketing team together.
The critical element is collaboration. Large teams like ours and those of our clients need to be able to collaborate efficiently and in a way that doesn’t disrupt workflow or projects. Doing this is an ongoing effort that everyone on the team will need to commit to and put the work into achieving.
Collaboration starts with company culture by ensuring that commitment to this kind of collaboration is valued and is a prerequisite for efficiency. For smaller teams this kind of commitment is more natural and easier to do. The larger and more specialized the roles across a team, the more challenging it is and the more structure required.
Changes to the team, processes, tools all affect how teams collaborate. Given that there is nothing constant in a large global org except change, you need to account for constant change as part of how you approach your organizational structure and your work.
Here are practices we use at Yesler to promote collaboration in a cross-functional marketing operations organization to achieve global alignment and efficiencies at scale.
Establish a leadership team
Identify leaders in the marketing operations crew to help lead and pave the way to a collaborative future. Call them “Collaboration Champions” and ask them to demonstrate a commitment to both collaboration and efficiency. Nominate those who work well with a lot of different types of people, who show aptitude for getting it done and understanding how marketing works, strategically and tactically. Those are your marketing ops leaders.
The leadership team must know the ins and outs of projects, stakeholders, and teams. Mixing and matching interpersonal styles and skill sets ensures that your best is represented on the team. Involve risk takers as well as the cautious and those who think short-term and long-term and the more process-oriented and detail-oriented.
Don’t expect leaders to possess skills in all disciplines in practice across the org but do expect them to know enough that they can speak the language. Leaders must be able to check each other and the team to improve collaboration and they must work through resistance to new tools and new processes.
Give the leadership team the leeway and runway to make decisions that will affect people outside of marketing ops. If marketing ops changes an SLA, the change will ripple through the larger marketing org. Setting SLAs seems like a small thing but think about the effect a change in SLA might have on a marketing org of 115 marketers, all of whom are trying to use marketing ops to get their campaign into market. So, leaders must be able to oversee these kinds of decisions to be able to communicate changes and adjust other processes as needed to keep things running smoothly.
Identify successes and challenges
Gather feedback from all teams on what’s working and what isn’t. (It might surprise you to find similarities among them.) Then turn challenges into common goals for the team.
For example, Yesler’s marketing operations had difficulty assigning tasks to teams in another practice area. Different disciplines use different terminology and have different requirements, so communication between them about what is needed to complete the tasks was often missed. It frustrated both requestors and receivers. We turned the challenge into a goal by creating request forms to gather required information for a task. And then we gathered feedback two weeks later to see how well it worked.
Connect the team
Don’t let the teams work in siloes from each other. Select key members of each team and set up meet-and-greets. You can’t collaborate with other teams if you don’t know who is on that team and who you can contact for help.
Define roles and responsibilities
Document the roles and responsibilities of each team member and store it in a central place (i.e. a knowledge base, like a Wiki, your intranet, or a product like Confluence) so that everyone knows what role does what or can find out by looking at the list.
Speak the same language
Review terminology with your teams. This will prevent confusion and extra work in the long-term. Do you use three different terms to refer to one thing? That’s a problem. Establish consistent terms so everyone understands what is being discussed.
Make sure that teams are trained on communication tools and team processes. These could be Microsoft Teams, Google Drive, or a project management tool. Everyone needs to understand the purpose of each tool and how to use them for the processes in place. Make it a required training when onboarding and training new team members.
Getting pinged from all different directions isn’t collaboration. Centralize communications into one system. Is it email? Is it a project management tool? Is it chat? Having all, or most, of your communication in one system makes it visible to the rest of the team.
Yesler’s marketing operations team uses a project management tool called Wrike to centralize communications about projects, and we use Microsoft 365 tools, like Teams, to help keep conversations out of email.
If you don’t have a process for each repeating scenario, you’re going to get a lot of head-scratchers coming to you with a lot of questions. Document what works and what needs improvement, then reduce the steps it takes to accomplish a task.
When there is a new change or request, take into account all who are affected by the change and ask them for feedback. Also consider the impact on any existing tools or processes. If you want to know more about how intake processes typically work, read more about it in our post on the topic.
Make collaboration easy
Whatever you do, make sure that the tools and processes you’ve got in place facilitate collaboration. Gather feedback from the teams about what’s working and what needs to improve. Completing tasks shouldn’t require long or complicated processes; simplify them so you can scale and working together is easier.
As your team or work grows, you’ll outgrow tools, too. When you do, this will hinder collaboration. You’ll need tools that can handle increased complexity. Yesler’s marketing operations team has helped clients switch project management tools so they can handle higher volumes of work and work more flexibility than the previous PM tool could do. We moved to Wrike when lightweight PM tools like Microsoft Planner and Trello couldn’t scale with us.
Before switching tools or changing processes, identify pain points and compare tools and different processes against your requirements. Make sure to test new tools and processes with a smaller team before you roll it out globally!
In an always-changing and always-growing environment, training is ongoing. Schedule cross-functional trainings held by team members about different aspects of the projects they work on. Hold a weekly video call with your teams to give updates and how-tos or trainings. For more technical or complicated changes, schedule a separate time for focused training. It’s all about sharing knowledge and staying up-to-date.
And continuously gather feedback because there is always room for improvement and your teams are motivated to do their best work. In the beginning, gather feedback more often as you fine-tune processes. Once teams get into the swing of things, go to a monthly cadence and then quarterly after that. Gather it during one-on-ones with team leads and send surveys to broader teams. Just make sure to give teams enough time to gather their thoughts after you’ve implemented a new process, tool, or change so that the feedback is helpful.
Cross-functional alignment on a global scale is achievable—it just takes time and diligence to get it right. The key to improving cross-functional collaboration on a global team in an always-changing environment is to continuously evaluate what’s currently in place so that you can identify steps to improvement!
Want to talk shop? We work with companies like yours to run complex global marketing programs efficiently at scale. Just get in touch.