Marketing Execs Excel — To A Fault

Businesses may invest in CRM systems and other reporting tools to track company data, yet many product marketing and product management executives rely on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and gut instinct to make business-changing decisions. That’s according to “Market Vigilance, Product Diligence,” a study released by the Business Performance Management Forum (BPM) and sponsored by the CMO Council and Vistaar Technologies

A previous study released by the CMO Council identified the need for marketers to have better tracking and reporting tools. This study finds product marketing and product management executives don’t have access to CRM and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and other tools, even when the organization has such data systems available.

Microsoft Excel spreadsheets often compensate for lack of technology. Over 78 percent of executives use Microsoft Office software to communicate key marketing outputs within their organization. Excel is used to formulate product profitability analysis (80 percent); competitive intelligence and market analytics (73 percent); long-range product forecasting (79 percent); product portfolio evaluation (79 percent); short-term product forecasting (78 percent); product category forecasting (77 percent); competitive intelligence and market analytics (73 percent); customer analysis (73 percent); supply chain visibility (56 percent) and demand chain visibility (54 percent).

Data in the spreadsheets may come from tracking and forecast tools operating within an organization, but it can often come from other silos. These data often use differing methodology and may not even match with data assets pulled from other departments.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents are unsatisfied with the results of a static spreadsheet. “Even if the data they are extracting is 100 percent accurate and use the same methodology [across the silos of an organization], they are till relying on flat, static data for pricing and forecasting, they could actually do ‘what if’ scenarios, and could extract these changes,” said Scott Buckley, director of product marketing at Vistaar Technologies.

“With the forward impact of the decisions they’re making today, Excel doesn’t provide the capability,” said Buckley. “You need a multi-dimensional approach to analysis.”

Where there are gaps in data, executives say they often rely on intuition and gut instinct when making decisions. “It’s about measurement and accountability,” said Buckley. “[Executives] might not understand that a simple change in one SKU can really ripple across products within the category, which can affect other stakeholders in the process.”

Respondents say better reporting tools would influence performance and their organization’s bottom line. “Sixty percent of participants felt they could boost revenue by more than 6 percent,” said Buckley. A further 30 percent said they believed they could raise margins by 10 percent.

To complete the study, a task force of 13 senior marketers from highly regarded companies such as Autodesk, Kodak, Xerox, Lucent Technologies, Avaya, Honeywell and Kyocera-Mita. Qualitative interviews were conducted with each individual to determine pain points, outstanding issues and best practices. The initial findings wer used to create a quantitative component where a survey was fielded through SurveyMonkey. Product management and product marketing executives from over 150 companies participated in the survey. Respondents are representative of the consumer electronics, high-tech, healthcare, software, telecom, office equipment and games industries.

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