Home Newsletters May 2014 Newsletter Marketing Operations

Marketing Operations: Project Acceptance and Prioritization

May 01, 2014

Projects outside marketing operations’ daily responsibilities must meet acceptance criteria before being prioritized

When candidates apply (or are recruited) to fill a job opening, they progress through a series of gates: Resumes are reviewed, some applicants are phone-screened, and a few make it to a face-to-face discussion with the hiring manager. The finalists are then prioritized, and eventually the successful candidate is hired. The process is efficient and reliable as long as each gate admits the right number of correctly profiled candidates.

In B2B organizations, the marketing operations function must implement a system to efficiently review, accept and prioritize projects. If marketing operations accepts too many projects or the wrong types of projects, its productivity and value to the organization can suffer. In this issue of SiriusPerspectives, we outline the project acceptance requirements, prioritization process and criteria that marketing operations should apply when evaluating projects.

Project Prioritization

Acceptance Requirements

What do marketing automation platform selection and implementation, a Web site overhaul, a company-wide rebranding exercise, a data cleansing exercise and a global user conference have in common? They are examples of strategic marketing projects that require the coordination of multiple resources and have a significant budget or potential revenue impact. Each would benefit from being guided or managed by marketing operations.

Unfortunately, marketing operations is frequently referred to as the “land of misfit projects,” which means that in addition to strategic projects, the function is also sent jobs that no one else wants to do. Being burdened with non-core projects can take time away from strategic projects and diminish the function’s value.

Therefore, SiriusDecisions recommends that all projects submitted to marketing operations meet specified acceptance requirements before being considered and prioritized for execution. This ensures that accepted projects are in line with marketing operations’ focus areas. Consider the following acceptance requirements:

  • Core focus. The marketing organization is one of the primary beneficiaries of the project.
  • Formal approval. Senior marketing leadership (as defined by the organization) has sponsored the project.
  • Core team. The core competencies required to successfully execute the project – as well as the project’s primary stakeholders – have been identified.
  • Resources. Marketing leadership has allocated appropriate resources (e.g. equipment, budget) and personnel to execute the project. Because detailed resource requirements are not known at the project’s inception, this is a judgment call.
  • Project charter. A charter that specifies the scope of the project, impact and risk factors has been completed (using a corporate template).
  • Duration and effort. The estimated project duration includes a timeframe of more than two weeks and more than 80 hours of estimated work effort.
  • Impact. The project’s potential impact on revenue or costs is sizable (under the company’s definition).

Prioritization Process

Projects that meet acceptance requirements should be assessed and prioritized against other current and upcoming projects. Follow these steps to conduct the assessment:

  • Select project criteria. For structured selection, define the criteria with which projects will be evaluated. Include financial, schedule-related, organizational and alignment-related considerations. The goal is not to provide a full list of every criterion that could be used to judge the value of a project, but to provide for a rough prioritization. Therefore, only the most important criteria (e.g. no more than 10) should be included.
  • Weight project criteria. Because project criteria are not of equal importance, the relative importance of each must be specified. For example, is risk more important than schedule? When developing a scoring framework based on a percentage scale, the criteria weights must total 100.
  • Score the projects. Evaluate each project against the scoring framework using a scale of one to seven, with seven as the most favorable (e.g. most benefit, lowest risk). Then calculate the project’s weighted score. Some organizations also ask the reviewers to record the reason for each score they give a project.
  • Prioritize the projects. Based on the projects’ weighted scores, set priorities. Move forward with projects that have higher scores before those with lower scores.
  • Review periodically. All projects that remain in the marketing operations project queue should be evaluated periodically – at least every six months – as their weighting can change over time, and organizational priorities and project-specific elements can evolve.

Prioritization Criteria

As noted above, projects should be prioritized using a consistent set of criteria. Through our review of client project prioritization frameworks, we have identified the following frequently used criteria:

  • Project management impact. The degree to which it is believed that the involvement of the marketing operations project management office will benefit the project, as defined by positive impact to the project’s schedule, budget and quality.
  • Strategic alignment. How closely the project is aligned with the marketing organization’s primary strategic drivers.
  • Organizational commitment. The degree to which the organization is committed to the change that would be required for the project to move forward.
  • Return on investment. The amount of value that will be generated by the project (in total dollars and percentage return).
  • Break-even time. The estimated amount of time before a return on investment will be obtained.
  • Internal impacts. The degree to which the project will require internal changes.
  • Risk factors. The cumulative risk factor of the project, as defined by likeliness of occurrence and the severity of impact to project quality, schedule and budget. This criterion should also address the potential risk of doing nothing.
  • Resource requirements and availability. The degree to which relevant resources are available to successfully complete the project and maintain it after completion.
  • Total cost of ownership (TCO). The ongoing cost to manage the result of the project after the project has concluded.

The Sirius Decision

Resources, time and organizational focus are finite. If marketing operations receives a large number of ad hoc project requests, establishing project acceptance and project prioritization gates will enable it to focus on the initiatives that will drive the most value for marketing and gain the most benefit from project management. This process will also ultimately reduce the number of project requests. Once project owners recognize that their proposals will undergo this level of scrutiny, they will avoid submitting lower-priority or less-relevant initiatives.

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