Strategy vs. Operations: How Splunk and Acronis Balance Both

marketing strategy operations

At the recent Forrester B2B Summit in Austin, we hosted a session with two of our customers, Splunk and Acronis. Marlene Chan, marketing business operations director at Splunk, and Hannes Migga-Vierke, VP of global marketing operations and demand center at Acronis, shared what it’s like to establish strategic alignment and support marketing operations at enterprise orgs in 2022.  

Here are five key takeaways from their session.  

1. Strategic marketing operations goes beyond the marketing department

Strategic marketing operations doesn’t just impact the marketing team but has far-reaching benefits to all the other cross-functional teams. Hannes explained how Acronis has been applying the Revenue Operations framework from Forrester.  

“The intent is to align the different organizations contributing to the revenue together,” said Hannes, “to bring them together and build up a joint execution of what can be done. In our case, it’s really bringing together sales, marketing, and channel operations, to work on one plan or one goal.” 

“On more of the operational side,” said Marlene, “I see our role as understanding ‘What is the strategy? What are the needs?’ And so, we helped build the framework and build the foundation on ‘How do we gather all of these data metrics? How do we pull it all together so that it becomes something that can be used and can be measured?’”  

 2. Good measurement can help orgs prove and understand ROI

When asked about how they define success and the frameworks they use, Hannes explained how they track budgets using Allocadia, while measuring the activities that lead to outcomes using BrandMaker.   

“It’s super important to understand budgets, how they work together,” said Hannes. Before using Allocadia, they were sometimes 10-20% off of their quarterly budget targets. Now, Acronis is within 2%. 

“The next step for us is bringing more insights about what we are doing, what activities lead to an outcome. That’s where BrandMaker comes into play, where we utilize the workflow engine of BrandMaker to be able to manage all our activities. This will also help us to understand our real return on investment.”

3. Transparency leads to executive buy-in

Marlene’s experience selecting tools and aligning leadership around marketing operations initiatives at both Salesforce and Box helped her recalibrate an implementation that was already underway. “When I joined these companies,” said Marlene, “they said, ‘we need to understand where marketing is investing their money. Sometimes they tell me they don’t even know where the marketing money is going.”  

That kind of transparency requires a more robust reporting tool, one that must also have the approval of the leadership team. “First of all, you have to get executive sponsorship,” added Marlene. “That is so key because you have to have all the different teams understand why this tool is so important—not just for marketing, but for everybody.” 

It’s of course much easier when you’re building from the ground up. But in either case, you need to meet people’s expectations for what they could do with it and what they want to get out of it.

4. Gaining alignment with the finance department is about building trust 

“It’s about building trust,” said Marlene of aligning with the finance department on budgets and goals. “Bridging that gap and making sure that whatever investments, whatever funds are available and are prioritized, we can actually show you what’s going to happen with those investments.”  

Gaining that trust can have a lot of upsides for marketing departments, added Hannes. “It also frees up budget for you to spend as a marketing organization,” he said, “because what finance is always doing, in case you are not successful, is they come up with buffers and they don’t tell you.”  

When the goals, outcomes and budgets can be shared more transparently, those buffers can be removed, freeing up more resources for marketing. “In our case,” said Hannes, “it gave us a good amount of money back into the marketing organization that we can use for doing programs. Now the finance team trusts us and trusts our numbers.”

5. The time for change is now

When asked how they knew it was the right time to adopt a new tool and change their marketing planning and budgeting processes, Marlene answered with her own question: “How much longer do you want to live on your spreadsheets?”  

Hannes chimed in, adding, “If you want to grow your organization, then you can’t do it on spreadsheets.” As a global organization, scaling your business around 25+ Excel tables just isn’t going to work. Finding the right tool and getting executive sponsorship was key for getting Splunk where they needed to be, agreed Marlene.  

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