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What do marketing business alignment and design thinking have in common?

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This post is by Zena Churchill, a Senior Consultant at TrinityP3. Over the past 20 years, Zena has worked for some of the biggest international and national brands. Having worked both agency and client side, Zena has strong insight and experience across most facets of marketing, specialising in media, strategy and BTL.

There’s a distinct noise building at the moment around the concept of design thinking and its application to management as a way of improving how companies are structured for optimal workflow, productivity, innovation and, importantly, competitive advantage.

If you are not familiar with design thinking, it is a fairly straight forward concept of applying the traditional design process utilised in product development, architecture, engineering and technology – such as stakeholder engagement, solutions modelling, prototype development and a focus on user experience (including emotional ones), and applying it across the total business.

Pepsico and Samsung are doing it to connect with their customers, both with much success, even though their transition to this business model was internally challenging and met with some initial resistance. But that’s to be expected as the real end goal when you apply this type of design thinking to the management of a business is change – at a cultural, organisational, resource and management level. Which is pretty much exactly the same as a TrinityP3 Marketing Business Alignment.

I have been a consultant with TrinityP3 for the past 12 months or so. During that time I have worked on multiple marketing business alignments that have seen me working closely with large, complex organisations to gain insight and understanding into how well their marketing is structured, and what they could do better – both internally and externally through supplier relationships.

Having started my marketing career in product development, what I have always found when I work on these business alignments, is how very, very similar the process we undertake is to that of product development, from go to whoa.

So, how is a TrinityP3 marketing business alignment like product development and design thinking? Let me take you through the process.

The deep dive

It takes strength of character and confidence to bring in external help, and what we often find during these deep dives is that the business can no longer see the forest for the trees. This could be due to multiple reasons, including but not limited to a recent change in management or ownership, rapid market growth, rapid team growth or internal restructuring.

Once we are engaged by a client we undertake a painstakingly thorough analysis of the current situation from multiple perspectives, starting with the project initiator, across management teams and down into the day to day marketing teams.

We openly solicit feedback on how things are currently run and how individuals within the business think they should be run. We do this because amongst the team’s feedback are usually concise and relevant observations that can benefit a business.

At every step of this deep dive, we engage the key stakeholders to assess their level of awareness to the issues we are uncovering. What we end up with is a picture of what is working and not working with the current ‘design’, which is then compared to the project initiator’s brief to see if this was the picture they were seeing also.

Design the solutions

Back at TrinityP3 headquarters we meticulously analyse the information we have gathered to identify gaps, issues, wins and failures that will allow us to design solutions to help drive the business forward and keep them strategically on track.

As with most big businesses there is usually a mine field of vested interests in play, which comes down to how departments are structured and managed. We crunch the data so we can understand any internal roadblocks that may be occurring and gain key insights into workflow process and internal engagement.

Often we will identify a common element that is causing inertia within the current design and from this, we develop a number of solutions suitable for the business and its strategy.

We look for data driven insights that will cut through the existing complexity and result in operational efficiency. Key to the success of this stage is to engage with the key stakeholders to present possible solutions so the best approach can be identified.

Design some prototypes

Once some solutions are agreed upon we design some prototypes. These are workflow and structural prototypes that lay out how the suggested solutions should actually be implemented and how they will work.

The prototypes cut across all marketing resources, both internally and externally and give detailed insight into how an implemented solution will benefit the business – from resources, process, workflow, remuneration, supplier arrangements and budgets. These prototypes are complex but their sole aim is to lead insights driven innovation around the function of marketing, not an authoritative driven change based on ‘because we said so’.

The prototypes show how the solutions put forward by TrinityP3 will build strong functioning teams that will put marketing in a stronger competitive position from which effective and innovative decision-making becomes the norm.

‘User engagement’ is common during this leg of the process, which gives those who will be implementing the solution an opportunity to see it, feel it and identify any fiddly bits that may impact on its implementation.

This involvement of key stakeholders builds confidence that the solution being undertaken is focussed on implementing beneficial change for the business and is imperative in making sure the buy in at the end is a mere formality.

Applying it to the business

A well-managed implementation plan can be the difference between broader business acceptance and rejection of the new ‘design’, and like any shift in the norm, implementation of a new way of doing things can take time. A Marketing Business Alignment ultimately results in a new way of working and depending on the size of the shift, this can be anywhere from a 3 – 18 month rollout.

Actual time is dependent on the individual situation of the business, however TrinityP3 always factor this into the solutions and prototype stages to give stakeholders a clear view of how changes can and should roll out. Pushing the changes through too soon, or taking way too long to implement them can often result in an internal breakdown, a loss of focus or quite simply abandoning it all together because it becomes too hard.

TrinityP3 draw on a wealth of experience to be able to apply this level of design thinking to a Marketing Business Alignment, with consultants who hail from a variety of backgrounds across all functions of business, assigned to a client based on the individual client’s requirements.

No two alignments are ever the same but the result often is – a marketing function that ends up being structured and set up in a way that it can deliver on its marketing strategy.

So is your marketing function strategically aligned?

You can find out more about our Marketing Business Alignment service here.

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Zena is a Senior Consultant at TrinityP3. Over the past 20 years, Zena has worked for some of the biggest international and national brands. Having worked both agency and client side, Zena has strong insight and experience across most facets of marketing, specialising in media, strategy and BTL.

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