Any service workflow can be consolidated, automated and published in a centralized service catalogue with ServiceNow – this is what we tell our customers every day. It could be processes to request service from IT, HR, Procurement or another service department within the company. But it could just as well be something else. Like the process to create and maintain the marketing planning. That’s what we did – in about 6 weeks.
Over the last weeks, we started using an application for Marketing Activity Planning. It’s a ServiceNow app, created in Amsterdam by a junior marketer and a developer. Credit to the ServiceNow team making this happen: Rinze Rijkmans & Ong-Aat Rutten and all reviewers along the way.
Common marketing flow
In marketing, the common process flow runs from planning to execution to reporting on marketing activities. Usually, activities are tied to overarching objectives defined as initiatives, programs or campaigns. In order to be able to execute activities, marketing departments contract with a plethora of vendors (agencies, venues, printing, localization services, marketing software and so on). To extend our market reach, we like to cooperate with partners – be it resellers, retail outlets, consultants et cetera. Finally, to understand the return on the marketing investment, us marketers always try to relate results back to investments. We want to prove our contribution to the bottom line, don’t we?
Current process and issues
The first phases of our marketing planning process – forecasting, budgeting, activity planning – used to be managed in Microsoft Excel. It relied on a shared spreadsheet sitting on a Box folder with the whole marketing team working on it simultaneously. Issues: multiple versions, no workflow, no approval engine, no link to company data, basic reporting capabilities. Basically, Marketing’s plan didn’t make it on to the corporate radar screen until we started raising purchase requisitions in the Purchasing system.
A Marketing Activity Planning app… YEAH!
To improve this situation, we did what we tell our customers every day: we created a ServiceNow application to get rid of the team spreadsheet. We called it MAPapp, short for Marketing Activity Planning Application. It took 2 minutes to spin up the development instance, about 1 week to develop the app, 3 more weeks to test, tweak and finalize it and 2 weeks to move into the live production environment. So about 6 weeks and 2 minutes later, we replaced our MS Excel sheet with a ServiceNow application.
The application allows marketing managers to provide full detail on the activity planned, in 4 sections:
1. General description. Information regarding name of activity, activity type (tied to G/L code), start/end date.
2. Targeting / Route-to-market / Objective. Target market, segment, direct or with channel partners, goals.
3. Financials / Vendors. Budget, quarterly spend, vendors involved, % covered by partners.
4. Campaign briefing. This section contains fields for additional information around messaging, call-to-action and internal resources.
Some of the first benefits the app is bringing to the team:
1. One data source. We no longer debate about which Excel sheet to update and review during our team meetings. Maintaining the planning is centralized and easy.
2. Data leverage. The app sits on the ServiceNow Service Automation Platform – our single system of record – and therefore taps into all available live data, including vendors (from purchasing), channel partners (from CRM), general ledgers (from Finance), and geographical information (from organisation setup, which also feeds into the approval workflow). We need not to worry about the status of data we use; it is up-to-date.
3. Platform leverage. Now that all activity data is in ServiceNow, we can take full advantage of platform technology. Already, we have improved visibility in reporting – more powerful and easier to use compared to MS Excel. Slicing and dicing the data to report on various levels (target market and audience, route-to-market, by program, quarterly spend et cetera) is simple now. This will only accelerate once we’ve started building more sophisticated reports and deploy Performance Analytics.
4. What’s next?
- We publish the app in the marketing section of our Service Management portal.
- Once management approves an activity, we’ll automatically trigger Purchase Requisitions for the relevant vendors in the Purchasing application.
- Once the Purchase Order is approved, we can automatically create visual task boards and projects in our Project and Portfolio Management application.
- We can give access to other groups (sales, channel management) to give early visibility of activities planned.
- We can give access to vendors and add briefing.
- We can compare our vendors using Vendor Performance management.
“There is an app for that.” Really?
So this is all great improvement. But – let’s be fair – I can get an app on every street corner these days, can’t I? The questions you should ask yourself, though:
- Could it be done by a junior marketer without any app development skills at day 1 of the project, with minimal support by an internal developer resource?
- Could it be done in 6 weeks?
- Would it be integrated into your CRM, Channel CRM, vendor management and Procurement systems?
- Would it put you on a path to extend the app’s functionality in short development cycles to continuously improve it at minimum cost?
- Would it come with the platform capabilities mentioned above?
I think it wouldn’t. I think it’d take vast amounts of time and money and it would just sit there as an isolated process, disconnected from the rest of your organization’s data, whilst slowing the marketing team down – wouldn’t it?
Talk to your IT team
This is how we replaced our Excel/Email process with an app – it is just an example of how the ServiceNow platform can consolidate and automate any service process using a flexible form builder, a user-friendly graphical workflow designer and strong reporting capabilities.
So if your organisation is a ServiceNow customer, don’t go out to spend big bucks on external app development. Talk to your IT team. They may have just the solution you’re looking for.
And if – by any chance – it’s a Marketing Activity Planning App you’re looking for, you can just drop me a note ☺