Building a Culture of Measurement

  |  October 9, 2013   |  Comments

The silos at work in academia have been a serious stumbling block for businesses; US universities are not adequately training students to meet the needs of the modern business.

convergenceI was sitting in my office the other morning, sipping a cup of coffee, when the phone rang. It was the chief executive (CEO) of a successful enterprise software company based in the Valley.

"Rand, we're looking for a head of marketing to build a demand generation machine based on a scientific approach. Know anyone?" I thought, good question, but is he really looking for someone to head marketing, or is it some other role? Today, who is responsible for this activity across enterprise silos of data and new worlds of applied creativity to the various emerging channels, like mobile and social? Do I know anyone? Clearly, this CEO wants to build a company culture of measurement.

In our recent Convergence Analytics 2.0 report, we explore these evolving roles. In the past, this responsibility might have been owned by multiple people across the organization -- the head of marketing, chief revenue officer, chief data officer (CDO), chief information offer, chief analytics officer, or other chief.

According to a recent Russell Reynolds article, there's been a rise in the popularity of the chief digital officer role and last fall, Gartner predicted that 25 percent of organizations will have a CDO by 2015. That's shaking up the corporate power structure in strange ways for many.

"The chief digital officer will prove to be the most exciting strategic role in the decade ahead," says Gartner vice president, David Willis. "The chief digital officer plays in the place where the enterprise meets the customer, where the revenue is generated, and the mission accomplished. They're in charge of digital business strategy." Is that what we need now?

The role and reach of the CDO seems to be evolving as rapidly as everything else related to the digital, as it's actually quite hard to find something that isn't related to digital in some way these days. CDOs are appearing in companies, not as business unit owners, but as hybrid marketing-operating agents of change, seated next to the CEO at the corporate table.

Our CEO is looking to build a culture of measurement, which requires new thinking, as the tools didn't even exist a few years ago. I told the CEO that it's difficult to find the right marketing individual, as they need to have both analytic and creative skills to fill his demand. Yet today, those hybrid skill sets barely exist; they're not being created in universities to address corporate demand for measureable results. Yet without those skills, it is impossible to fulfill the promise of the New Marketing Four Ps, the first "P" being people.

The new marketing leader will know when to hit the marketing gas pedal and how to analyze both program spend and macro shareholder value. They will be expert at driving company-wide KPI models that show when to invest in marketing -- and when to pull back. When I was chief marketing officer (CMO) of WebSideStory, we used "magic SaaS" metrics that (then) Omniture CEO Josh James has written about and many follow today. We built a culture of measurement and after our IPO, were acquired by Omniture (now Adobe).

The new marketing leader will know how to create relevant content that converts. Like Innis and Ogilvy, they will be experts in communications and persuasion.

"Our colleagues want marketing professionals who can measure and optimize marketing effectiveness; the demand for those roles is essentially doubling annually," says Alex Yoder, former CEO of Web Trends and director of The Oregon Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. "The amazing thing is this: despite a slow economy, the supply in these roles is just not there."

US higher education, long a source of pride and differentiation across the globe, is undergoing a true crisis of value and identity. Pundits wonder whether universities are the next "bubble" of the US economy, while university students question whether their high-priced education and gargantuan debt loads -- up 47 percent after inflation from 10 years ago -- will position them for a college-worthy career.

Simply put, US universities are not adequately training students to meet the needs of the modern business. An imbalance exists between skills taught in classrooms and the skills sought in the marketplace. This imbalance is only accelerating with the rapid pace of change in technology and product innovation.

The silos at work in academia have also been a serious stumbling block for businesses, as our CEO is recognizing. In recent years, many organizations have revisited their organizational charts to fix the misalignment between marketing, engineering and operations silos.

Recently at SXSW in Austin, I sat on a panel with an ad agency CEO to debate the question, "Is too much math killing creativity?" The crowd leaned heavily toward creative, but when polled, attendees overwhelmingly said, "No." They agreed that business value needs to be assigned to all creative and that conversions must be tracked through the sales funnel, from the very first level of engagement all the way through to revenue. The emerging paradigm in the news/media industry supports this; many are talking about a future that optimizes both ad spend and editorial content across acquisition channels, in "real-time," based on economic demand functions.

To address the skills issue, I propose that we create a new major, as some institutions have, that spans existing schools and subjects, yet adds a modern shine to the old school plaque. I have proposed a content engineering degree, which leverages the existing curriculum and talent in business, liberal arts and engineering, yet also remains adaptable, to train students in new competencies as the market changes.

Clearly, we need to create a hybrid university graduate, perhaps a CMO, content engineer or CDO, who understands that the building of a business culture is based on both creativity and measurement, across business and demand channels, all driven by technology.

Our CEO is looking for an employee who has market-based skills. Anthony P. Carnevale, director of The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, has called for a fundamental shift in thinking about the way students are educated. He writes, "The old model, where you go to college and then go out and find a job, is largely outmoded. It needs to be replaced with a new model, in which college years are spent explicitly preparing for an occupation."

Innovation is part of the US DNA and has been for centuries. Today, our institutions of higher education are moving at a glacial pace, not keeping up with corporate demand for high-tech skills. Maybe the high-energy heat of market demand for digital sophisticates can "melt" the slow rate of change in higher education

I need to get back to that CEO with my recommendation. Not sure what I'll say.


Rand Schulman

Rand Schulman is a pioneer in digital marketing and new media. He was founder and CEO of one of the first SaaS-based web-analytics companies, Keylime Software (Yahoo) and lead products and strategy at Webtrends; was CMO of WebSideStory(Omniture/Adobe) through its IPO; was general manager of Unica's Internet Division (IBM); and is a co-founder and board director, and is an emeritus board director of the DAA. He's been a trustee of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation and is an executive-in-residence at the University of the Pacific for New Media and Marketing and was managing partner at SchulmanThorogood Group.

He is currently board member and advises numerous mobile and social media companies and is a managing partner with Efectyv Digital. You can contact Rand at or follow him on Twitter at @randschulman.

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