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Allocadia Enables Excellence in Managing and Operating Marketing

The relevance of marketing to an organization depends on planning and performance measured against it. In writing about marketing management I have observed the marketing mayhem that can occur but also have noted that organizations that take marketing performance management seriously are in better position to assess their efforts in relation to goals and outcomes. VR2014_TechInnovation_AwardWinnerI have a little experience in having been a CMO and VP Marketing in my career and know how frantic it can be to managing marketing. Taking it seriously requires more effective technology than spreadsheets and presentations; we recommend using a dedicated application that supports management of both marketing operations and processes that contribute to optimal performance.

Allocadia is a vendor of such software. Its core principles can help every marketing executive, CMO or not, engage with and lead marketing effectively. Its founders brought passion to the pursuit of marketing excellence that inspired the organization to advance performance management in this discipline. In 2014 our firm recognized its purpose and approach with a Ventana Research Technology Innovation Award. Its software enables marketing departments to take a more methodical approach that manages operations in line with the budget and plan and measures progress toward goals.

Allocadia’s products help organizations define the marketing budget and plan how to use it, and then track actuals to the budget and link it to strategy and goals. In recent releases Allocadia has advanced its applications in planning and analytics to derive further insights from marketing operations and performance. Its impact modeler helps users see how plans will contribute to revenue goals. In the past year the company has increased flexibility in modeling input and currencies and enables more granular time intervals for months and quarters. For example, marketing professionals can model complexities in accounting of the budget through purchase orders that might be split across time periods and projects. Allocadia also has made the applications easy to integrate with project management tools such as that from Workfront in which projects created within Allocadia are linked to the budget and plan.

Allocadia has an aggressive product schedule that releases new advances almost monthly; this helps marketers incrementally improve their flexibility. It is continuing to advance its visualization capabilities while simplifying presentation of data so marketers can understand and act on insights. Under the covers Allocadia ensures that analytics applied to the model can be linked to ongoing activities and projects. This approach to analytics empowers marketing organizations to directly link strategy, goals, budgets and plans to resources. I know from engagements with marketing leaders that many are unable to unify their operations in such a manner and still use ad hoc approaches. Allocadia is continuing to improve its modeling so it can fully allocate spend and results from top to bottom and also from the bottom up to represent marketing activities and their attributed results.

Marketing organizations can get started with Allocadia by focusing on the marketing planning process. I recently articulated the relevance of marketing planning in a perspective that outlines best practices and steps forward. By aligning the budget to goals and projects, marketing teams can work collaboratively to optimize the actual spend. This is something that many need to do: Our benchmark research into marketing planning finds that only 10 percent of organizations are able to accurately measure the plan’s impact. I would like to see Allocadia add more workflow, approval and collaboration in the context of budgeting and planning to eliminate the painful inefficiencies of management by email, spreadsheets and presentations. Allocadia must also further deepen its unique support for marketing and approach to projects and spend so that it is not easily compared to planning and budgeting tools that are deployed by finance. This will not be easy as many of them can provide fairly sophisticated modeling, analytics and presentation for use across business today. Ensuring Allocadia can further its methodical approach to marketing performance management should be music to the ears of finance departments and corporate executives looking for visibility to ensure that the organization derives full value from the overall marketing spend but also the investment into people and projects. In terms of Allocadia products it offers simple pricing and easy, cost-effective deployment of its applications through subscription and software as a service approach to cloud computing.

After assessing how organizations use Allocadia’s products, in 2015 we awarded Juniper VR2015_LeadershipAwardWinnerNetworks the Ventana Research Leadership Award in marketing excellence for its work in utilizing Allocadia to develop and apply metrics to manage its spend in the budget to goals. Marketing organizations that do not use a dedicated application risk both their success and the careers of those who work there; everyone should be able to see the results of their efforts and work as a team to achieve their goals. Used properly Allocadia helps enable a sense of accomplishment and pride in both management and operations. There are many in the industry who like to talk about what marketing needs to do, but that have not experienced it or have advice marketing executives like I have in the last 15 years to understand what specifically needs to be done to reduce the mayhem and master marketing successfully. If you have not seen marketing performance management at work, I recommend evaluating Allocadia in the context of establishing inspiration and teamwork in your marketing efforts to achieve the outcomes you and your organization deserve.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO and Chief Research Officer

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Workiva Automates Composite Documents with Wdesk

Workiva offers Wdesk, a cloud-based productivity application for handling composite documents. I use the term “composite document” to refer to those in which text is created and edited collaboratively by multiple contributors and which incorporates tabular and numerical data from multiple sources in a controlled process. Composite documents often have formats defined by law, regulation or contract and must be created at periodic intervals. To comply with the requirement by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that companies “tag” their financial filings using eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), many companies acquired software to automate the creation and tagging of these composite documents.

Workiva began as WebFilings and initially offered software to streamline the SEC document submission process. In 2013 it released Wdesk to address the larger market for composite document creation. The software has uses beyond SEC filings. They include a variety of documents or presentations for external or internal purposes that corporations routinely produce, including board presentations, management reports, audit management, disclosure documents and other regulatory or compliance filings. Using such software, companies (and especially finance departments) can cut preparation time, complete documents sooner and substantially reduce errors in them.

Software products for handling composite documents like Wdesk have capabilities similar to those of document management applications except that they are designed to be easily used by business people with limited or no involvement by technical specialists and at much lower cost of ownership. This is especially true for cloud-based software. As is the case in using document management software, the text portion of the composite document is produced and reviewed by many people in multiple departments for various purposes in a defined workflow that includes approvals. To facilitate reviews, Wdesk enables approvers to read, comment on and accept a document or any component of it on a mobile device. In the process of creating the document multiple versions are created and the software ensures that people work only with the current version. Permissions for creating, editing and approving the document can be granular (such as limited to a specific paragraph or table or even a single data point). Especially for internal documents (such as Sarbanes-Oxley Act attestations) Wdesk can connect substantiating documents directly to specific parts of a document.

vr_fcc_data_quality_significance_updatedThe sections and basic form of a composite document may be highly structured, in which case the software automatically maintains this structure and all formatting. The format includes the order of the sections, the section headings, specific wording in boilerplate sections, paragraph styles and even the typeface, to name the most common requirements. If the document is a periodic filing, it must be consistent from one period to the next, keeping the format and structure of each individual section exactly the same. Wdesk also ensures that text and numbers that are reused across multiple documents and presentations are consistent.

In addition to consistency, another major advantage of using Wdesk to automate the document creation process is that it can significantly reduce the incidence of errors while reducing the time devoted to checking the document for them. For example, numbers referenced in the commentary must agree with those in the tables. These numbers often change over the course of the drafting period, sometimes frequently and on occasion late in the process when deadlines are short. A composite document application will always contain the most accurate and up-to-date numbers. This is important because in our benchmark research on the financial close research three out of five participants said that the consistency and quality of data in company reports is a significant or very significant problem.

As the numbers (such as financial and operational results) referenced in a table change, the numbers in the narrative associated with those numbers, as well as any associated percentage, change citations. For example, in the statement “advertising expense was $X, up Y%,” the numbers X and Y will always be in agreement with each other and any table containing them. Automation can also help because some types of regulatory documents and filings have particular requirements that must be enforced. For example, when financial data is presented in a shortened form (in thousands or millions of currency units, for example), the rounding often must adhere to a specific convention.

Using a software application designed to automate and support the process of creating filing documents can reduce the amount of time and effort necessary to produce the final result. It does so by establishing a repository of record for the text and data, automating the compilation of the document including the tabular data and individual text sections, using workflow to manage the process, and applying controls and audit features.

Using such software enables corporations to achieve substantially greater efficiency as well as tighter and more consistent control over this process. Process management capabilities can cut the administrative workload for people who “own” the filing document and reduce the possibility of delayed handoffs and missed deadlines. Document management features enable administrators to track the progress of the individual components, automate reminders to individuals as deadlines approach and generate alerts if they miss start or completion times. In contrast, when regulatory filings and similar composite documents are assembled using personal productivity software and orchestrated through email attachments and notifications, the process needlessly occupies the time and attention of highly trained, well-compensated people who have to spend hours performing dull, repetitive tasks that require their skills. Automation on the other hand leaves only the essential work to be done, allowing expert individuals to focus only on that and have more time to concentrate on their real jobs.

Using software to automate and control the creation of composite documents for external or internal users can substantially cut the risks of errors and missed deadlines. This software can be used broadly to address multiple regulatory and legal requirements in the finance, legal, internal audit and other departments. I recommend that companies – especially their finance and legal departments – that create composite documents automate their production and investigate whether Wdesk will address their requirements.

Regards,

Robert Kugel

Senior Vice President Research

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Marketing Planning Improves Performance

As global business increases competitive pressures, marketing departments face new challenges. They must anticipate and respond to frequently changing customer preferences and produce effective programs and campaigns to attract them. In the online world where customers can jump instantly from one company to another, Marketing must develop new ways to catch and hold their attention. Doing this well requires systematic, flexible planning that begins with the CMO and engages the entire department to utilize the full portfolio of resources and act as one to serve their mission.

In this fast-changing environment, Marketing itself must modernize with the times, adjusting its efforts to shifts in markets and keeping up with the accelerating pace of change. Aligning the department’s activities with strategic corporate goals is more than ever an essential activity for Marketing, and to do that requires planning. And marketing planning is a required part of what every CMO should have established in what is called marketing performance management that I have recently discussed. However, our research finds that many marketers aren’t satisfied with their department’s ability to do effective planning. Fewer than half (48%) of marketing organizations participating in our recently completed benchmark research on next-generation business planning said they are satisfied with their organization’s current process of creating marketing plans. More than 40 percent said the marketing planning process is too slow, has too few skilled resources and lacks readily available data; more than one in three (36%) said their technology is inadequate. In addition the frequency vr_NGBP_12_performing_marketing_planning_updatedin how often organizations create, review and revise their marketing plans is in half of organizations done annually or quarterly. Clearly not as frequently as they should be reviewed and revised to adapt to changing requirements. Overall only 15 percent of research participants said they manage their marketing planning process very well.

Executive management expects Marketing’s allocations of budget and people to align with the organization’s strategic goals and correlate directly to sales and revenue results, but it can be a challenge to connect marketing spend to planning, execution and outcomes. A major reason is that marketing business planning requires data to enable comparisons between actual spending and the budget and results. Many organizations lack complete information about their marketing and sales environments and activities; without it, developing plans and setting objectives is difficult. For example, most marketing plans can’t compare actual spend information to the budget without time-consuming manual effort.

A further complication is what is goes into plans. One-third of our research participants reported that the accuracy of their plans depends on having accurate and timely data from other parts of the organization. Thus effective marketing organizations must integrate data about sales, customers, operations, suppliers and accounting to develop a complete picture of activities. Only with such a picture can the organization improve the accuracy of the marketing plan. In addition, having data on marketing activities is essential to determine how fully goals have been achieved.

To achieve this level of integration, organizations should build a single repository for all marketing-related information. Doing so will enable them to use analytics to measure the results of marketing efforts and track alignment between spending and execution. Such an information repository can help marketers accelerate the review process, which most departments need to do. According to our benchmark research, more than one-third (36%) of marketing organizations currently take 10 days or longer to review marketing spend vs. budgeted amounts, and nearly three-fourths (73%) take at least seven days. To manage strategy in today’s business environment, this is too long.

Furthermore, rather than being done once and remaining untouched thereafter, planning should be a continuous process designed to manage marketing performance to achieve objectives. More than half (53%) of organizations in our research create a marketing plan annually or semiannually. Fewer than that review it quarterly (28%)  or revise it quarterly (34%). In our view, greater frequency improves effectiveness in management. Organizations that perform these activities less often are likely to struggle in aligning marketing spend to the budget.

Marketing should be able to update plans when changes necessitate it, but the research finds that organizations have difficulty in developing such flexibility. When major changes take place from the original plan, the largest percentage (34%) do a shorter revised plan while only one in five (22%) do a complete revision. In large measure that’s because most organizations use inadequate technology tools, primarily spreadsheets, for planning. For example, in linking their plan to the budget, 38 percent consolidate individual spreadsheets manually, and one-fourth (24%) each link them on the server or paste information from systems and spreadsheets into other systems and spreadsheets. Two in five (39%) use a spreadsheet by itself for marketing planning, and one-fourth (25%) use spreadsheets in conjunction with another application. Yet among those that use spreadsheets almost half (42%) admitted that those tools make it difficult to manage the marketing planning process. To determine the impact of the budget on marketing and business, most organizations copy and paste data into spreadsheets and manually update it. Very few (5%) use a dedicated business planning application.

To develop flexible, accurate marketing plans is a complex challenge that requires focusing on all aspects of planning: people, process, information and technology. It is a challenge well worth taking on. Toward that end we offer the following five suggestions for practices that if instituted can provide an advantage over competitors.

First, Marketing should align plans to business objectives – and keep them aligned. Marketing should have the ability to usevr_NGBP_10_trade_off_in_marketing_planning_updated what-if scenarios to determine investment priorities and be able to conduct collaboration to establish and maintain Marketing’s alignment with other functions. To perform what-if requires ability to conduct trade-off analysis and scenario planning are key tools for discovering the best opportunities and deciding where to shift invest­ment priorities if necessary. Yet when trying to assess potential trade-offs, fewer than one-third (30%) of organizations said they have all or most of the numbers needed to measure their impacts on the plan’s alignment to strategy. This will require the adoption of purpose-built technology that supports marketing planning processes and users and can measure how well current marketing investments optimize spending.

Second, in today’s fierce competition for customers and market share, marketing groups must be able to judge immediately the effectiveness of their spending and its impact on sales and business results. In our research just 10 percent of organizations said they can vr_NGBP_11_impact_of_marketing_plan_updatedaccurately measure their marketing plan’s effect on the rest of the company; the largest percentage (45%) have only a general idea of the impact.

Third, Marketing should plan routinely. Groups that do this are more able to track alignment to goals than those plan sporadically. Frequent planning can ensure that necessary changes are made promptly. However, doing this requires appropriate processes and tools that most organizations don’t have. Marketing leaders must take responsibility for the accuracy of their plans, but our research shows that many cannot assure this. Only 37 percent said their marketing plans are accurate or very accurate; most (48%) are only somewhat accurate. In addition only a slight majority (56%) measure the accuracy of their plans. Even fewer (10%) can accurately measure their plan’s impact on the rest of the company.

Fourth, managing marketing planning effectively requires applications that support these efforts. It’s never too soon to modernize marketing practices and improve the department’s contribution to the company’s competitiveness. Implementing a dedicated tool for marketing planning can alleviate a number of issues, such as those mentioned above, that hinder productivity and diminish the department’s importance to the business. An effective tool can enable the organization to move beyond sporadic, partial reviews and manual tasks that waste time, and use that time for core functions that add value to the business.

Finally, we urge marketing leaders to take steps to achieve excellence in their organizations. They should assess current marketing performance and its alignment to corporate objectives; review the portfolio of assets and resources that are managed by the CMO or head of marketing. Identify areas where small improvement can have a large impact, and select systems that can help realize the improvements. Use the new systems to track progress toward objectives. Focus on efforts that can optimize spending to reach revenue goals. Review planning to adjust marketing activities to reach performance goals.

If marketing planning is taken seriously as a process and has a dedicated application to support, the CMO and marketing department can improve outcomes from its budget and resources and add value to the enterprise and do what I have written and master the marketing mayhem in a meaningful manner.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

Follow Me on Twitter and Connect with me on LinkedIn


 

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