Q&A on Personalization Management Offices (PMOs)

Q and A on Personalization Management Offices (PMOs)

The personalization market continues to mature as demand continues to rise. According to a Gartner report from last month, “Personalization is now a strategic imperative. It has evolved from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘need to have.’”

That’s because, for B2B and B2C companies across industries, recognizing their audience members as the individuals they are – and then delivering helpful, relevant experiences – is proven to drive engagement, loyalty and conversions.

As a result, questions about the technology no longer center on “Should we deploy it?” but, rather “How?” and “How can we do so most effectively?” In addition to selecting the right technology, there are people- and process-related questions to consider.

Personalization-Specific Roles

A CMSWire article worth a read discusses the increasing number of employees (especially at large organizations) with “personalization” in their titles – underscoring the importance and central role of the discipline and its intimate link to customer experience.

We see this trend, too, with enterprises often appointing a “director of personalization” or similar position to act as a quarterback on personalization activities. This individual typically facilitates both strategy development (providing input and gathering input from senior executives across departments) and execution (e.g., integrating data, preparing content and implementing personalization campaigns). Organizations look to this role for help conceiving and carrying out campaigns that align with their corporate goals. Still, successful personalization should involve representatives from multiple key areas of the organization.

Introducing the Personalization Management Office

Because personalization impacts many different areas and data stores across the business, another trend we see – again, particularly among larger clients – is the development of a “personalization management office” (PMO) within their organization.

As described in our initial post on the topic, a personalization management office acts as the main personalization strategy, solution and technical resource for the company – serving as the point of coordination across business divisions.

Personalization often involves multiple channels and teams, so the PMO ensures all areas of the business are communicating effectively and working toward the same goals – preventing headaches and hassles; creating cohesive, cross-channel experiences; and ultimately increasing personalization success.

The question arises: Does your organization need a PMO? And then, if so, what should this task force look like? The answers vary, but here, we’ll tackle some foundational questions (the “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why” and “how”) to provide some insights.

PMOs: Asking (and Answering) the 5 W’s + H Questions

Q: Who should be part of the PMO team?

A: At smaller companies, the entirety of the PMO may fit comfortably in a single, small office – with one or two individual contributors, plus an executive sponsor, comprising the team. At larger organizations, there is often a need and opportunity for greater involvement. Typically, the primary champion, along with representatives from operations, analytics, digital marketing and brand marketing, are all involved.

Companies also often have a PMO strategic/executive sponsor, a dedicated personalization program manager, and additional execution and creative team members. Keep in mind, though: too many “cooks” can hamper agility and slow decision-making, so you don’t want to overcrowd the team. Typically, even at large organizations, the core PMO team doesn’t exceed 8-10 people.

Q: What does a PMO do?

A: As with the previous question, this varies by organization too. Core responsibilities often include defining the company’s personalization strategy, and creating a roadmap for how the company develops and manages personalized experiences. When processes are already in place, the PMO assesses and refines them. In other cases, the PMO builds them – asking and answering questions related to personalization goals, management, planning, team assignments, development of campaigns and messaging, approvals, and determining how to measure success. The PMO team should also articulate what each person’s role is (within and outside of the PMO) with regard to personalization (brainstorming, setting up campaigns, testing, publishing, etc.,) to avoid overlap and confusion, and provide reports to executives on a regular basis, summarizing their personalization efforts and results.

Q: Where does a PMO sit, within an organization? (That is, who has purview over it?)

A: This varies, based on company size and industry. Typically, the PMO reports to the department that has the most to gain from personalization initiatives. In financial services organizations, this might be ebusiness marketing, user experience strategy or strategy, and in retail, it might be product marketing. At a technology company, the PMO might be situated within marketing as a whole – or within demand gen or product management, specifically, depending on the primary use cases. Regardless of which group “owns” the PMO, it’s important to have members from multiple parts of the organization.

Q: When (e.g., how frequently) does a PMO meet?

A: When PMOs are just getting started, members typically meet weekly – moving to biweekly meetings once everyone feels comfortable in their roles and assignments. Eventually, they might move to a monthly cadence to check in on key initiatives. (e.g., “How are our major campaigns performing?” “What do we want to iterate on?” “What should we focus on next?”) Of course, PMO members who are most actively involved in personalization will likely need to meet even more frequently, outside the context of the PMO and without the extended team.

Q: Why do I need a PMO?

A: Building and maintaining a successful personalization program starts with getting relevant stakeholders aligned on the value of personalization, the roles and processes involved, the overarching strategy and how to measure success. Having an office that facilitates all that can help ensure the left hand talks to the right hand, so to speak – preventing data and organizational silos, balancing priorities, and keeping customer interests and corporate goals top-of-mind. While a formal PMO isn’t a prerequisite for personalization success, it certainly aids the process.

Q: How can a PMO make the biggest impact?

A: The PMO – and personalization strategy itself – need executive support from the top down. Measuring and reporting on results from the get-go is important to build momentum and, subsequently, to affirm the program’s success. When the PMO can demonstrate the impact of personalization on business metrics, they’ll get more attention, investments and buy-in to extend their work. That’s why, when getting started with personalization, it often pays off to first tackle “low-hanging fruit” that’s proven to have an impact and that can help demonstrate positive results early. In short: you need results to get results.


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