Ventana Research Analyst Perspectives provide unique fact-based insights and education on business, industry and technology vendor trends. Each Analyst Perspective presents the voice of the analyst, typically a practice leader and established subject matter expert,  reporting on new developments, the findings of benchmark research, market shifts and best practice insights. Each Analyst Perspective is prepared in accordance with Ventana Research’s strict standards for accuracy and objectivity and reviewed to ensure it delivers reliable, actionable news and insights.  

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.


Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

Follow Me on Twitter and Connect with me on LinkedIn

Cloud-Based Analytics Still Don’t Deliver Self-Sufficiency

Cloud-based computing has become widespread, particularly in line-of-business applications from vendors such as Salesforce and SuccessFactors. Our benchmark research also suggests a rise in the acceptance of cloud-based analytics.  We’ve seen the emergence and growth of cloud-only analytics vendors such as Domo and GoodData as well as cloud-based delivery by nearly all the on-premises analytics vendors. Almost half (48%) of organizations in vr_DAC_04_widespread_use_of_cloud_based_analyticsour benchmark research on data and analytics in the cloud are using cloud-based analytics today, and two-thirds said they expect to be using cloud-based analytics within 12 months. In fact, only 1 percent said they do not intend to use cloud-based analytics at some point. This popularity leads to the question of how to maximize the value of investments in cloud-based analytics. We assert that one of the most important best practices for cloud-based analytics is to empower business users with modern analytics tools they can work with without relying on IT.

Part of the premise of cloud computing in general is to reduce reliance on in-house IT. Line-of-business groups are drawn to the cloud because it enables them to concentrate on the business at hand. They don’t have to wait for IT to set up systems and often can purchase cloud-based services without a capital requisition process. Not only do users want this independence, but cloud-based systems benefit IT, too, by reducing the administrative burden – there’s no need to acquire, install and configure hardware and the associated software. They also help reduce ongoing maintenance since some of that is the responsibility of the cloud application provider.

Cloud-based analytics have benefits that go beyond reducing the administration burden. Organizations in our research most often ranked first or second improved communication and knowledge sharing (39%), improved efficiency in business processes (35%) and decreased time to market (24%). In the context of cloud-based applications of any type, these findings should not come as a surprise. These systems enable access to data from any device in any location. Ready access to information should improve communication, efficiency and consistency. Workers can review and share information as they are performing their jobs in the field, on the shop floor, in the warehouse or when meeting with customers. In addition, more than half (52%) of organizations reported improved data quality and data management as a benefit.

For these and other reasons users want to be self-sufficient. Usability is consistently the most important software evaluation criterion in our various benchmark research studies. vr_DAC_22_self-service_for_cloud--based_analyticsIn the data and analytics in the cloud research, usability was the highest-ranked of seven evaluation criterion: Almost two-thirds (63%) of participants said it is very important.

However, the research also finds that most users do not access their cloud-based analytics without the help of IT. Only 40 percent said they are able to analyze their data by themselves. Is this important? If we look at the results organizations are able to achieve, the answer is yes. Those that operate without IT are both more confident (77% vs. 44%) and more often satisfied (71% vs. 55%) in their ability to use cloud-based analytics than those that do not.

As our research shows, the advent of cloud-based analytics is here. Empowering business users makes it possible to improve business outcomes. The IT organization will be free to focus its attention on critical issues only it can address. Thus modern tools for cloud-based analytics can benefit both the lines of business and IT.


David Menninger

SVP & Research Director

Follow Me on Twitter @dmenningerVR and Connect with me on LinkedIn.

Contact Centers Need Radical Change to Meet Consumers’ Expectations

I have been involved in the contact center industry for more than 25 years and often see organizations that are slow in keeping up with consumers’ expectations; many of them seem reluctant to change, regardless of the need to do so. For example, agents of my cell phone operator ask the same four questions at the start of a call as they did 30 years ago; my bank supports several channels of communication, but it doesn’t provide the same information on all channels; and a well-known airline couldn’t tell me where my bag was for 36 hours (it was at the airport where I departed!). My list goes on, and I am sure you have your own.

On reflection, I trace much of this behavior back to early call centers. They were created essentially to centralize call handling, thereby making the process less expensive. There was a heavy focus on technology and call-handling metrics such as queue times, average handling times and number of call transfers. As companies saw the real cost of handling calls, they introduced cheaper, self-service channels such as IVR and Web-based Q&A, which typically were done so badly that the majority of customers resorted to phoning the call center. In summary, centers were inwardly focused and obsessed with cost savings, and the customer came a poor third. Our research into next-generation customer analytics strongly suggests that little has changed: Companies more often use financial metrics (such as adherence to budget) and process metrics (such as performance vs. SLAs) to assess contact center performance than customer-related metrics (such as customer satisfaction).

However, it is certain that consumers and their preferences have changed, and I don’t mean just millennials. Mobile devices have basically changed the way consumers communicate; even I use text messages and text-based apps more often than calling people. I also find more and more people will do anything to avoid ads; we record TV programs to watch when we want to, and fast-forward through ads; read news online rather than in print; and use filters to send email straight to the spam folder. Millennials in particular have changed the way they shop, preferring to search and buy online rather than visit a retail outlet. To do things when we want to, many of us prefer to use self-service technologies (if they work well) rather than meeting or talking to someone. And we have more choice, so companies have to provide products and customer service that meets our expectations or we will look elsewhere. To respond to this drastic shift, innovative companies are rethinking their business models and using technology to reinvent outdated ways of doing business. Uber is one of the most obvious cases – it uses a mobile app, chat, GPS and a website to change how people hire a “taxi” to get from one place to another – not always successfully in my case, but it has undeniably changed the taxi business.

For the same reasons, contact centers and customer service departments need that degree of change, and they need it now. They have vast amounts of data that is waiting to be analyzed and understood to guide policies and practices. Yet I was astounded at a recent conference when I asked 120 CxOs if they know why customers interact with their company; only five said they do. If you don’t know why your customers are calling, emailing and texting your company, chatting with your employees, searching through your website, screaming at your IVR, posting things about your company on social media, how do you know what you are doing right and wrong, and what is good or bad about your products and services? How do you know what the impact of one business group is on other business units?  And very importantly how do you know which of your competitors are outperforming you? You have the data, so use it. Our recent research into next-generation customer engagement shows vr_NGCE_16_new_technologiesthat while three-fifths (61%) of organizations recognize that analytics will help improve customer engagement, only about one-quarter have applied it to big data. Records of interactions – recorded calls, Web or chat scripts, text messages and social media posts – are big data; they exist in huge volumes and are unstructured. Advanced big data analytics can provide insights from speech, text and event data, and by combining this with transactional business data such as CRM, such a product can produce a comprehensive view of your customers and your interactions with them. It can identify which of your employees are getting it right and which need extra coaching and training. Analytics can identify product and service issues as well as customer preferences, temperament, intentions and trends. It can identify inefficient processes, the journeys customers take across business groups and communication channels and the outcomes of those journeys. In summary, multifaceted analytics can tell you what your company is doing right and wrong, and what you can do about it. This is a key reason why many companies now see analytics as an essential part of any customer experience program, and this will become even more true as the Internet of Things gathers pace and companies acquire even more customer-related data.

Another essential step is to support customers’ choice of communication channels. Our next-generation customer engagement research shows companies moving in the right direction, as on average they now support about seven channels. It also shows that contrary to some opinions that the old channels are not dead or dying; phone calls are still the most popular channel, followed by email and the corporate website. New channels such as virtual agents, video calls and interactive video have begun to be used but only by early adopters. Perhaps even more importantly the research shows companies are expecting growth in all channels, revealing a pent-up demand for customers to engage with those that support their favorite channels. But there is a problem. There is a lot of discussion around omnichannel experience, but the reality is that most companies can’t provide such comprehensive service because their channels of communication have been implemented as silos and are not processed using the same rules or supported with the same information – different information on different channels is not omnichannel. To reach this goal my experience suggests that most vendors providing omnichannel support are based in the cloud – another change that many others need to embrace.

Often in the same discussions about omnichannel, reference is made to the “digital world” because many people prefer to use digital channels of communication rather than speak to other people. As I noted, above the telephone is not dead; some consumers still like to use it, and some are forced to resort to it if self-service or the mobile app fails. Likewise, the contact center is not dead; for example, I recently heard a case study of a company that did not provide a telephone number for its customers to call but had to offer one after an unexpected number of complaints. This means that people are still involved in engaging with customers, and our research shows that every business group except IT is involved with proactive customer engagement. To provide an omnichannel experience companies have to manage all employees who handle interactions to ensure that the right number of skilled employees are in place to handle any form of customer engagement, and to be efficient and effective, they need to use a common set of rules and information to provide this service. To achieve this capability I recommend evaluating suites of advanced workforce optimization systems, which should support collaboration so all employees work from the same basis and groups can work together to resolve customer issues.

Using analytics, omnichannel engagement systems and workforce optimization, all integrated with business systems such as CRM, most organizations can take the first steps toward changing customer engagement to meet customer expectations. But technology alone won’t be enough. Any such program is likely to require cultural change, putting the customer first and process change – changing the customer journey across business groups, communication channels and even during interactions, and focusing on customer- and business-related metrics rather than operational metrics. Several companies ask me which CRM systems can deliver satisfying customer experiences; the answer is that by themselves, none of them can. It requires the combination of systems I have discussed here. Companies that get that right stand a chance of meeting customer expectations and matching what successful competitors do.


Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director, Customer

Follow Me on Twitter and Connect with me on LinkedIn


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