Gartner Marketing Organization Survey 2020: Functional and Agile Teams Win Favor

September 23, 2020
Contributor: Rama Ramaswami

Marketers retain their preference for functional and centralized organizational structures, but are increasingly overlaying them with more agile principles and practices.

If you’re a marketing leader looking for the “ideal” organizational structure, you may already have it. Marketing leaders who responded to the Gartner Marketing Organization Survey 2020 plan to optimize their current structures rather than make radical changes.

In today’s unpredictable business climate, marketers remain focused on creating more effective and responsive organizations while limiting internal disruption. Functional marketing structures — aligned by groups such as operations, creative, commerce or analytics — are the dominant organizational model: 27% of marketers use them, up from 23% in 2019.

“The growth in the functional alignment is consistent with a movement to more agile and agency-style operating models,” says Christopher Ross, VP Analyst, Gartner. “These models can be implemented regardless of organizational structure, releasing the pressure for structure to solve operating issues.”

Agile practices flex to fit most marketing organization structures

This year’s marketing organization survey highlights that marketing leaders rate agile project management as more effective than traditional project management across various dimensions. For example, they consider the former to be 25% more effective at responding to real-time changes in the business context and 21% more effective at executing projects on or under the projected timeline. Agile is also viewed as 20% more effective at adjusting content and messaging to reflect shifts in customer sentiment — an especially important capability during times of crisis.

“An operating model like agile can have a much more profound impact on organizational performance than organizational structure,” says Ross. “Capable of fitting with virtually any organizational model, agile empowers organizations to respond and adapt quickly and effectively without creating the disruption of a sweeping organizational overhaul.”

Marketing Organization Survey 2020

An effective organization structure and operating model can lead to an efficient marketing organization

Centralized marketing structures offer more efficiency and control

Many marketing organizations are divided on whether to centralize or decentralize resources. The Gartner survey makes it clear that respondents prefer the centralized approach, with 66% of marketing leaders indicating fully centralized (29%) or primarily centralized (37%) structures. 

In a fully centralized organization, all marketing staff operate as a centralized entity, whereas in a primarily centralized model, a limited number of staff may be distributed among other regions, business units or groups.

Along with greater efficiency and effectiveness, centralized structures offer improvements in marketing governance and control. Marketing organizations with a marketing operations leader — the presence of whom has a positive impact — are more likely to have a fully centralized structure, according to the Gartner Marketing Operations Survey 2020.

If your marketing organization has a decentralized structure, you may need to justify it explicitly or evaluate opportunities for greater centralization.

Marketers favor shared services and centers of excellence

In keeping with their preference for functional and centralized organizational structures, marketers lean heavily toward functional groups. The marketing leaders surveyed rely on shared services (49%), centers of excellence (48%) and in-house agencies (34%). Nearly one-fourth of respondents (23%) use pods — an up-and-coming model consisting of small, cross-functional teams that are often dedicated to a product, business unit, region or other business entity. 

Alone or in combination, these types of functional structures offer enormous flexibility. They can be created easily and, if not working as desired, disbanded without significant organizational disruption.

The key to succeeding in an uncertain environment is to optimize your existing organizational structure, regardless of what it is. Pilot new group structures that may be of interest, and don’t be afraid to shift direction if required.

Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo™

Connect with CMOs and marketing leaders to get the latest insights on marketing technology, trends, innovation and more.

You may also be interested in

“I use Gartner to bolster my confidence in decision making.”

Stay smarter.