June 17, 2008

Rebuild Your Database Marketing Department: Org Structure

The third most asked question is "how should I structure my database marketing department?"

Too often, we're served an endless array of pap about abandoning "silos". You know all about silos. Silos are the org structure where functional areas work together and sit together, working sometimes without knowledge of what somebody else is doing. The e-mail marketer doesn't know what the catalog marketer is doing, the web analytics expert doesn't know when an important telemarketing campaign is happening, yadda yadda yadda.

You don't solve these problems by putting all of these departments under one individual. I've observed horrible problems created by a centralized and powerful team that "make the rules". I've also observed horrible problems created by silos.

So what's the answer?

Try hiring somebody (and give this person the authority to make decisions) who collaborates between silos. Think about States. Here in Washington, we have different laws than the folks in Oregon have. Yet as a loose federation, States have rights to do things their way, but theoretically benefit from a centralized government in Washington, DC, where they receive proportional representation (house) and equal representation (senate).

We can debate about how government is mucked-up. But the concept of having somebody coordinate activities between "silos" works. The individual must have the right personality --- an extrovert who gets folks to do things without direct reporting relationships is hard to find.

In instances where I've seen different marketing disciplines get along, there is always somebody who "makes this happen". This person is seldom the actual leader of any given team --- it is usually somebody who simply takes responsibility. She might be a circulation manager who gets the e-mail folks to talk to the web analytics team (I see this all the time). He might be the business intelligence Director who needs to get the retail marketing folks to talk to the paid search team (I see this one too).

If you're looking for a career niche, this is one that will need highly qualified individuals over the next five years.

I'd focus on finding a person who fills this role more than trying to identify the perfect org structure.