What Marketing Ops Can Learn From DevOps

New Relic is growing fast, and keeping our customers happy along the way means that we have to grow smartly.

illustration of group brainstormingAs companies scale, many decisions become less about choosing between a right and wrong solution, but selecting the best option among two or more right answers. Figuring out which of the right answers to choose often comes down to prioritization of values: freedom and innovation versus processes and control.

Attaining and observing those values can end up requiring companies to set up formal processes (think: approval forms). Other times it can mean creating innovative projects that enable the business to move quickly (think: skunk work projects). Too often, though, we implement strict process controls to protect our most precious activities and assets at the expense of innovative and creative activities.

In Marketing Operations, I love helping my marketing team achieve their goals and contribute to New Relic’s overall success. But more than ever, Marketing Ops has constituents in every department. This broad and diverse group of constituents is an exciting challenge, but it also creates new occasions for conflicting priorities that threaten to derail organizational initiatives.

Conflicting priorities

In the past, I’ve been in roles where I over-optimized for each side. Having seen the pendulum swing both ways, I now believe that there is an art in finding a balance between protecting the “sacred” aspects and supporting creative and innovative enablement.

I wasn’t able to formalize this idea until I started thinking through exactly what MarkOps was, and searching for parallels in other parts of organizations. What I found was that DevOps has been working through this struggle for years, and that Marketing Operations organizations can learn a lot from DevOps.

Here are several best practices I learned in that discovery:

First, Ops is focused on enabling people to reach goals by applying strategic and tactical use of process and technological tools.

Second, good DevOps organizations have learned to negotiate the balance of velocity with stability in order to protect organizational values without sacrificing flexibility or the ability to innovate.

Third, they automate where possible, enable where necessary, but avoid premature optimization.

Finally, when struggling to decide between two right answers, a good Ops organization will look back to its mission of focusing on its goals, the activities the team needs to complete, and giving people the tools they need to perform those activities and achieve their goals.

Staying focused on who the customer is and what creates value for them will be the ultimate heuristic for defining “True North” and avoid many of the problems with imposing too much process or allowing too much flexibility.

Having realized the parallels between DevOps and MarketingOps, I started sharing these ideas in a Q&A with Scott Brinker, chair of the MarTech conference. I plan to discuss them in depth at #MarTech 2105 here in San Francisco on March 31st. If you are an Ops person, a technologist, or a marketing person doing either of those things, you are welcome to attend using the this link and discount code “MarTechSpeaker.”

Note: Event dates, speakers, and schedules are subject to change without notice.

MarTech promo for What Marketing Ops Can Learn From DevOps


Brainstorming image courtesy of Shutterstock.com.

Andrew Schmitt is vice president of communications and PR for New Relic. View posts by .

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