Organizational alignment

project management meets marketing operations


One of the most misunderstood terms of the last ten years has been “customer relationship management.” Originally a marketing concept, CRM was hi-jacked in the early 90’s by the enterprise software community, forever associating it with the high cost and high failure rates of poorly planned “technology” deployments. Two key lessons, however, came out of that experience for many companies: 1) no amount of cash, technology, or consulting can fix a bad process and 2) never leave marketing out of the equation.

But the goal of CRM was, and still is, a sound one; to re-structure, or “align” corporate operations around customers instead of products. But at the heart of this transition is the stark challenge of trying to transform 100 years of vertical, “factory like” processes to ones that are more horizontal or relational in style. This paper proposes a solution to help meet this transitional challenge, laying a path for true organizational alignment.

The first section of this paper provides a brief history of the Marketing community’s attempts to operationalize Marketing through the various practices of integrated marketing communications (IMC) and enterprise marketing management (EMM), recognizing, however, that such practices only go so far toward uniting an organization’s processes around the needs of the customer. A “bigger” set of methods, tools and techniques is required. The second section, therefore, proposes that the marketing community adopt the interdependent principles of Project, Program and Portfolio management as a means to institutionally coordinate the changes that these modern marketing philosophies ultimately demand. The third section then offers up a unique Enterprise Change Model addressing these challenges through a connecting “framework” that can be embraced by all functions, including marketing, to align the company’s strategic ambitions of customer centricity with its organizational ability to actually be customer centric.

The conclusion finally proposes that such organizationally aligning efforts could even be represented in the context of an “Organizational Marketing Maturity Model” (OM3), once and for all shedding Marketing’s reputation for being “unconnected” from the enterprise while lending much needed context to the over-all meaning of organizational alignment.

Alignment in Marketing

Integrated Marketing Communications

In a survey by Gartner Group entitled “Top Ten Marketing Processes for the 21st Century” the marketing research giant concluded that, “due to increased competitiveness, product and channel proliferation, and greater market, media and interactive channel fragmentation, the complexity of marketing operations has increased. As such, the marketing function must strive for higher degrees of process standardization and automation to drive greater efficiency and productivity, as well as better alignment of resources and activities with corporate objectives.” (Collins, K & Marcus, C., 2005, p 2)

Some of the first signs of such process standardization can be seen within the marketing disciplines of integrated marketing communications, or “IMC”.

The American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) defines IMC as “a concept of marketing communications planning that recognizes the added value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines – general advertising, direct response, sales promotion and public relations, and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency and maximum communication impact.” (AAAA, 2004, ¶3) Of course, the key word here is combines, and systematically combining and coordinating so many brand communications requires a five step process.

5 Step IMC Process

Exhibit 1: 5 Step IMC Process

Source: IMC: The Next Generation, Don & Heidi Schultz (2003)

But collapsing messages and incentives, from TV spots to e-mail campaigns into a holistic, media-is-media dialogue between brands and consumers is no small task. The kind of “positive feedback loop” in marketing insight represented in the above graphic requires unprecedented coordination at the operational/structural level of the organization. In fact, IMC guru and Professor Emeritus at Northwestern University, Don Schultz (Shultz, 2003) laments that one of the most difficult challenges to the future development of IMC is organizational structure. “Our present organizational designs are a carry-over from the Industrial Age, where command and control structure puts people and processes into functional silos. The movement to a horizontal structure will be the most difficult change for any organization to make in the twenty-first century.” (p. 383)

Enterprise Marketing Management

Recognizing the need for a more “company-wide” approach to the change management challenges described by Professor Schultz, Enterprise Marketing Management, or “EMM” is a more recently established marketing discipline that combines process, metrics, organization and technology to marry strategy with execution. It employs one sub-process to generate insights, another linked sub-process to go from insights to innovation, and a third subprocess to get the innovation to market. EMM is also associated with the larger, inclusive, yet still developing world of “Marketing Operations”. Generally speaking, the processes of Marketing Operations can be distilled down to five key areas (Hastings, 2004):

  • Marketing knowledge management – collecting, sharing and retaining marketing knowledge, including consumer knowledge, success models, brand histories and other assets for reference and reuse.
  • Marketing data management – integrating data from internal company and external sources and providing analytical tools for the processing of data
  • Marketing Planning – developing, approving and tracking plans, whether at an over-all brand level or at an individual campaign level.
  • Program Management – defining, launching and managing marketing programs and projects.
  • General Collaboration – enabling knowledge sharing and topical collaboration among teams outside the context of the project.

Process Mapping

Articulation of these key processes is a great step forward for Marketing, since process is the foundation of organizational alignment, but one of the chief complaints about Marketing is that it lacks alignment with Sales, Finance, R&D and other parts of the organization. (Patterson 2007). Therefore, it is essential for Marketing to define and establish processes that facilitate alignment with these areas.

But articulating process or “process mapping” is still relatively new to the Marketing community. While organizations have implemented such efforts in other areas such as Operations, Finance and the supply chain, Marketing has been reluctant to embrace them. Marketing has no real history with process mapping, and even less experience with the kinds of company-wide change initiatives and collaboration that is required to “align” itself with the rest of the enterprise. Interestingly, however, the “Mark-Ops” processes listed above hint at a solution.

Project Management: Marketing’s Missing Link

Applied Project Management

At its core, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) incorporates five process groups; Initiating, Planning, Executing, Controlling and Closing. These five process groups also interrelate with nine knowledge areas spanning a series of proven delivery disciplines from communication to integration management. Slightly modified from the original PMBOK® Guide version, the following graphic includes the Project Charter as its own process group to demonstrate that it comes from the work of an overarching Program, or “higher” Portfolio level initiative.

Updated PM Process Groups

Exhibit 2: Updated PM Process Groups

While most marketers are quick to point out that project management’s “temporary and unique” tactical pedigree has little to do with corporate strategy, they just as quickly fail to recognize that a series of interrelated projects are the agents of change that form the critical sub-sets of larger programs which are strategic. Since such programs live squarely within a company’s larger portfolio of strategic initiatives – increasingly synonymous with today’s marketing initiatives – the vital “connection” between tactical execution (projects) and strategic vision (portfolio) becomes clear.

What’s more, this interdependence between Project, Program and Portfolio management not only provides the tools and techniques for a common operating theatre for organizational change, it also provides a consistent superstructure supporting strategic alignment and business integration; which for many companies navigating the transition from product to customer focused operations, are one and the same.

Portfolio Management and Strategic Alignment

When discussing organizational alignment, the first question has to be “alignment with what?” Within any business entity, executive management must determine the investments they are able to afford, the markets they will target, the core products and services they will provide, and the expected return on investments that are required. Within the PMBOK® Guide, this is the realm of Portfolio Management; the collective work that is required to decide which strategic investments the company will select.

While marketing departments using the IMC model/ lifecycle in Exhibit 1 can help drive a company’s Portfolio Management investment decisions through a continual streamlining of customer targeting “intelligence”, their work can not be done in a vacuum. The design, development, delivery, support, and maintenance functions within the organization all must contribute to the company’s ability to meet market expectations as well as the company’s ability to deliver against those expectations.

For that reason, cross-functional insight is necessary to see the totality of what is required to deliver the right product to the right market at the right price at the right time (the key bi-products of strategic alignment). But the cross-functionality required to deliver on these strategic ambitions, as Professor Schultz recognized, also requires cross-functionality at the structural level.

Built for Change: The Matrix Structure

Many business managers and virtually all project managers are familiar with the matrix organizational structure, and though there are several versions, a classic matrix organization is defined by horizontally aligning skills across vertical departments to address specific project or program needs.

The Matrix Structure

Exhibit 3: The Matrix Structure

Despite, enduring the classic “two bosses” challenges (allegiance to the project team leader while ultimately deferring to one’s Line of Business manager or operations-based functional manager), the matrix structure is a useful model for marketers interested in organizational change in that it combines all the necessary skills and resources of the company into a collaborative team to address a particular problem or set of problems. It is not hierarchical (industrial age). It is relational (customer age). Moreover, the cross-functional structure of the project/program team provides a microcosmic glimpse of how the entire company might move from a series of separate silos to a full blown, cross-functional organization!

A Matter of Maturity

In addition to being structurally built for integration, a business entity that aspires to reach superior business performance through organizational alignment will “strive to reach increasing project management maturity levels”, according to a global survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC, 2004)

In corporate culture, the concept of maturity is typically used to describe organizations that have reached certain levels of predictable, transparent, and repeatable processes. The Organizational Project Management Maturity Model Knowledge Foundation (OPM3®) is a Project Management Institute (PMI®)-based maturity model which embodies a set of tools and techniques that focus on the correlation between the capabilities of an organization to manage projects, programs and portfolios, and its effectiveness in implementing a portfolio-based strategy. It provides a model for deciding an investment strategy via Portfolio Management; efficient allocation and management of resources to execute the strategy via Programs with inter-related work; and at the lowest Projectbased level, achieving the scope of work authorized by the executives of the company within the portfolio.

As with any maturity model, however, the PMI does not attempt to tell companies how they should implement the mega-processes of Project, Program and Portfolio Management to solve a specific business challenge. This issue is further aggravated by the fact that the business challenges typically associated with achieving customer centricity simultaneously requires organizational change! Consequently an Enterprise Change Model must be applied as an “over-lay” to the OPM3 mega-process structure if true organizational alignment is to be realized.

Mapping Organizational Change

The following Enterprise Change Model (ECM) was initially developed by Gary Rupp (co-author of this paper) and a team of business consulting managers at AT&T Global Information Solutions.

The Enterprise Change Model (ECM)

Exhibit 4: The Enterprise Change Model (ECM)

Critical Enablers

From a macro perspective, the critical enablers of an enterprise are Solutions, People, Process, Information, and Technology. All are instruments that may be leveraged to create competitive advantage for the enterprise. As the name implies, Critical Enablers are the elements of the business that must be managed to ensure success in terms of growth, revenues and profitability.

Project Lifecycles

Within the PMBOK® Guide, a Project Lifecycle is the collective and generally sequential phases of work required to produce a desired product, service or end-result. The methods behind the lifecycles provide a “recipe” for completing a project to produce a specific result, within a budget and schedule, and with a desired degree of quality. Methodology is also a term used interchangeably with project, product and service lifecycles, but all generally include, Assessment, Analysis, Design, Prototype & Test, Develop, Support, Maintenance.

A Framework for Change

Assuming a general command of the tactical connections between Project, Program and Portfolio management (supporting organizational maturity), it is then necessary to juxtapose the Enablers and Lifecycles into a living “framework” helping identify the work that organizational alignment requires. The following view of the ECM, or “Portfolio Change Model (PCM)”, captures this process.

The Portfolio Change Model (PCM)

Exhibit 5: The Portfolio Change Model (PCM)

Within the PCM, the phases of Assess and Analyze, highlighted in Pink, indicate those activities that are associated with determining which changes need to be made across the enablers of the business (e.g. People, Process, Information, Technology and Target Markets). Analysis and Assessment activities, across the business enablers, results in investment decisions that are necessary to move the company from where it is (as-is) to where it needs to be (to-be), in order to build the right products and services. The authorized and funded changes become the portfolio investment decisions of the company. Programs and Projects are chartered and initiated as the deliverables of these two phases.

The Design Phase, highlighted in light Yellow, is a transitional phase between Portfolio Management and full establishment of the Programs and Projects that are necessary to complete the authorized “change” work. This is also the phase where detailed Program and Project Planning occurs.

Beginning at the Design Phase, and continuing on through the rest of the lifecycle phases to the End of Life Phase, Programs and Projects are set up to perform the scope of work authorized by the Portfolio Investment decisions. The Design Phase is considered “transitional” since the company may always need to verify its ability to achieve the desired change state, as well as verify the overall scope of work, resources and costs required to achieve the change state.

Design-oriented work is also execution oriented work, often requiring updates and adjustments to the Program and Project Plans as new information is acquired. The Program and Project process groups of execution, control and monitoring and close processes also continue throughout the remaining phases of the ECM. Change Programs may also require one or more Projects to efficiently manage the resources and work required to implement the approved changes within each of the business enablers.

Integration: Plan Do Check

Project Integration Management is an important capability and PMBOK-based skill as changes within one business enabler can and will have dependencies across the business enablers potentially influencing their respective programs and projects. Consequently, the Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle is an ever present part of the change management process, and is virtually identical to IMC’s virtuous improvement cycle illustrated in Exhibit 1, making it a concept/tool that can be shared by project managers and marketers.

Business Integration and Alignment

Few business enablers can be changed in a vacuum. Usually, there are dependencies across the business enablers. (ex: implementation of a new process or technology may require corporate training). But by leveraging the techniques of Project Integration Management organizations can manage change within and across the Enterprise Change Model. Specifically, Project Integration Management spans portfolio, program and project level functions via program, project and activity dependencies.

When done successfully, business/strategic alignment becomes a bi-product of resource alignment via the Portfolio Change Model, while the principles of portfolio, program and project management provide the process driven methods that are necessary to effectively manage portfolio/investment driven change initiatives. Represented visually, a “fusion” between OPM3 and the outputs of the Portfolio Change Model above might look something like this (Exhibit 6):

The Organization Marketing Maturity Model (OM3)

Exhibit 6: The Organization Marketing Maturity Model (OM3)

What sets “OM3” apart from other maturity models or consulting recommendations, is that it provides:

  • a centralized, shared and interdependent working business change model, which, like the famous Rosetta Stone, transcribes different languages from across many “civilizations” into a common language that can be understood by all.
  • an interface between the language, tools and techniques of strategy, with the language, tools and techniques of execution, helping close companies’ familiar strategy-execution “gap.”
  • an organizational roadmap contextually communicating which contributions are to come from which functions within the company, thereby putting all parts of the organization into the same cross-functional operating theatre.

The strategic wish to become customer centric or to improve revenues through improved customer relationship management often (and simultaneously) requires organizational change as our economy moves increasingly from products to services; from vertical to horizontal; hierarchical to relational. Hence the need for a centralized model which fuses strategy with execution across the entire organization, no matter how large that organization might be.

Before it was acquired by Oracle, Siebel Systems had won IDC’s CMO Advisory Service Award for Best Practices by aligning its sales and marketing disciplines with IT to improve its lead-close ratio. “Such a world-wide, customer centric change initiative could not have been successfully realized without the shared language and understanding of project management,” say’s Ted Chapman, Group Director, IT Applications Programs. “Not only were multiple people in multiple locations able to quickly articulate problems, they were able, just as quickly, to communicate solutions. There’s no guess work or finger pointing when everybody understands their responsibility.” (MSSIG, 2005)


While the practices of applied project management are universally understood by the Business and IT community they have historically been limited to traditional design, engineering and development disciplines. If they are not “updated” to align with customer needs as well as the growth, revenue and profitability objectives of the business, they will continue to be shunned by the marketing community. This disconnect between the marketing and project communities cannot stand, if organizational alignment is to be experienced in any meaningful (read: predictable and repeatable) way.

Management of the customer relationship is bigger than any one department or collection of three letter acronyms. Just as it “takes a village to raise a child”, it takes the whole company to navigate the changes required of customer centricity and organizational alignment.

The Organizational Marketing Maturity Model (OM3) above is an abstraction of reality, but it is a powerful abstraction in that it provides a practical way to observe, analyze and communicate the potential scope and magnitude of an enterprise change initiative. By combining a powerful set of cross-functional mega-processes (Project, Program and Portfolio Management), with a much needed framework for enterprise change (the Enterprise Change Model), it’s now possible to finally place project management and marketing operations on the same page, initiating the first most important step toward genuine organizational alignment.

Association of American Advertising Agencies (AAAA), Integrated Marketing Communication. Retrieved 6/29/2007 from account/summer_01/reinert/second/integ.htm

Chapman, T. (June 30, 2005) MSSIG online webinar (via MSSIG website) How Siebel Systems Used Project Management to Improve Sales, Marketing and Customer Facing Operations

Hastings, H, Wade Gordon, Duggal, S, & Saperstein J. (2004). The New Marketing Mission: How Process, Metrics, and Technology Can Unleash Growth New York, NY:ANA, The Association of National Advertisers.

Marcus, C. & Collins, K (2005, July, 20). Gartner Group Survey “Top Ten Marketing Processes for the 21st century. Retrieved from CMO Magazine (online archive)

PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Boosting Business Performance Through Program and Project Management. Retrieved 06/29/07

Schultz, D. & Schultz, H. (2003) IMC: The Next Generation: Five Steps for Delivery Value and Financial Returns, New York: McGraw Hill.

Patterson, L. (2007, March 13), The Science Side of Marketing and the Emergence of Marketing Operations. Marketing Profs Today [Electronic Newsletter],.

© 2007, David Hutchinson, PMP & Gary Rupp, BS, MBA, PMP
Originally published as a part of 2007 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Atlanta, GA



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