As I’ve been preparing for Martec%E2%80%99s” law>, what I consider to be agile” marketing> and made that the focus of my book, illustrated at the top of this post, I see two axes balancing four forces:
- Centralization vs. Decentralization
- Automation vs. Humanization
I have a few preliminary thoughts on the dynamics between these forces, but I’d love to hear your thoughts and perspective.
Centralize vs. Decentralize
One of the main responsibilities of marketing operations and technology management is to centralize processes, data, and tools that span the marketing organization as much as possible. In larger companies, this often includes different regions and possibly even multiple business units. This drive is primarily about achieving benefits of scale:
- Share common customer data to deliver a more consistent customer experience
- Standardize other data formats and repositories for global analytics and insights
- Eliminate redundant or duplicate tools in the global the map and the terrain differ, trust the terrain.”
With automation and technology, decentralization is often the fire where innovation is forged — it is faster and easier to try something, without herding global consensus or running the gauntlet of multiple stage-gate approvals from a centralized committee.
Remember, most experiments don’t work. The goal is to experiment quickly and cheaply with relatively low risk. The duds get filtered out in real-world practice with minimal overhead. The winners can grow into “local” best practices (i.e., for a particular tactic or team). In time, some may get promoted up to a centralized standard, if they’re globally applicable (not all of them will be).
So which is better, centralization or decentralization?
Both, of course.
Every marketing organization needs to balance these two forces to some degree. The answer as to where that balance should be, however, is not universal. It depends on the company, its strategy, its capabilities, and a particular moment in time.
The trade-offs made between centralization and decentralization change over time. It’s usually a pendulum: a company may become too centralized, sapping its agility, so it will then lean into decentralizing more power and control. If it becomes too de-synchronized or siloed as a result, it will then pull back through greater centralization.
Often specific events, such as a new competitive threat, a big missed opportunity, or a major customer failure will trigger an explicit, top-down rebalancing. But the balance is continuously shifting in small ways through the natural course of business.
Automate vs. Humanize
The other axis of opposing forces that marketing operations leaders must carefully manage is the balance between automation and “humanization.”
The automate end of this spectrum is pretty obvious. After all, there’s a whole category of “marketing automation” software that you could argue sparked the modern marketing operations revolution as we know it. The top half of our illustration is focused on harnessing marketing technology as a competitive advantage: