It takes a seamless organization to deliver a seamless user experience. As an increasing number of organizations focus on speed to market, creativity, deep learning, and 1:1 personalization, teams must understand how best to facilitate cross-departmental collaboration, coordinate organization-wide workflows, and organize internal team structures to ensure they can always focus on business unit priorities.

True digital transformation requires an organizational shift for most, moving from a structure involving separate departments, units, and silos to a structure that creates synergy among them all. In this, the second installment of our blog series on digital experience management (see part I here), I review the organizational models businesses are using for successful digital transformations.

The organizational models for successful digital experience management

No organizational model fits every company. Structure follows strategy, after all, and every organization’s strategy is unique. But for organizations with multiple units focused on different missions, it’s well accepted that there are three fundamental organizational models for managing digital experience programs.

Fundamental organizational models

  1. Independent
    Many organizations have organically developed independent teams in various business units in the early stages of digital experience development. This approach is typically not scalable and may only be justified if their businesses or missions are very different and need to be kept independent for a flexible merger and acquisition strategy.
  2. Centralized
    Companies with a homogeneous business (for example, organized only for geographic focus) may leverage a single marketing operations center with a unified digital experience team and a unified marketing platform. This team can efficiently service the various regions as their requirements are very similar.
  3. Hybrid/Matrixed
    Increasingly, companies use a hybrid organizational structure for their digital experience teams. In this approach, a centralized center of excellence includes shared infrastructure support and marketing experts and specialists. While business units focus resources on quickly responding to unique customer needs while still leveraging centralized capabilities and guidelines.

The degree of centralization of digital experience resources depends on several factors:

  • Economies of scale and experience
  • The business context and strategy
  • Alignment with the overall organizational design (e.g., product or regional dimension dominates)
  • Growth strategy (e.g., rapid innovation, geo-expansion, diversified acquisition)

The Marketing Operations Center

An Accenture survey found that 90 percent of US consumers feel that organizations are disjointed and dysfunctional, forcing them, for example, to repeatedly enter information as they are shoved from one silo to the next. It’s impossible to provide a seamless customer experience if your teams see themselves as individual units.

Increasingly, marketing operations centers are established to instill an end-to-end operational discipline. Gary Katz of BrightTALK Marketing Operations Channel points out that a marketing operations center must leverage, “processes, technology, guidance and metrics to run the Marketing function as a profit/value center, growth driver, change agent and fully-accountable business.”

The role of the center is to act simultaneously as a coordinating mechanism between the various teams, as well as a shared services center, sharing martech and other customer-facing investments and expertise. The center may also act as a catalyst to collaborate with brands and business units to optimize their digital experience initiatives and share best practices. At scale, the center may include a Chief Digital Officer (CDO), digital strategists, experience architects, channel experts, as well as digital and data analysts who can assist smaller teams on a resource-sharing basis.

The marketing operations center may be responsible for the overall execution of the digital experience program. While centralizing certain activities, it creates network effects that give increasing benefits to decentralized teams, channeling their creativity through an efficient conduit of how it is created and distributed.

As Scott Brinker pointed out, marketing operations should increasingly focus on financial accountability, customer intimacy, and digital transformation. In the Trusted Phase (see our prior blog, “Aligning Digital Experience Marketing Roles to Your Organization’s Digital Maturity”), marketing operations can focus on:

  • ROI – Contributing to customer acquisition, revenue, gross and operating margins, customer retention and advocacy
  • Customer intimacy – Frequently refreshing consolidated customer data and information, analyzing and deriving digital strategies and tactics
  • Digital transformation – Transitioning from enabling digital marketing to facilitating digital transformation and running marketing like a business

(The full guide includes a detailed table of the marketing roles of the marketing center, which include digital strategist, marketing operations, content management, etc.)

The marketing operations center can also act as an innovation hub — leveraging strategic technologies to gain competitive advantage or disrupt the current business model. To accelerate innovation, these activities should be managed with a high degree of independence, an outside-in focus, and permission to experiment and fail.


Coordinating mechanisms

Organizations sometimes struggle to create an effective hub-and-spoke structure. Doing so requires giving autonomy to spokes while keeping strategy, tactics, data, and technology investments aligned and leveraging economies of scale. This is where coordinating mechanisms come into play.

At the less-mature end of the integration spectrum, you can use ad-hoc meetings, forums, or communities of practice to share information, coordinate actions, and leverage resources. Some standards and incentives can also be implemented across the board even in a decentralized organization.

At the more mature end, you will need to formalize management and business processes across the functions. You will also need to develop matrices with shared responsibilities, identifying who is responsible, accountable, consulted on, or needs to be informed about each of the key program activities.

The integration continuum


Lastly, customer and partner advisory boards may be formed to ensure you receive solid input on your experience initiatives and manage pilots with lead users in a collaborative environment.


Organizational considerations for commerce

Commerce organizational structure follows similar considerations to general organizational considerations. We have observed the following e-commerce organizational structures at our customers:



Independent e-commerce Business Unit (BUs)

  • Independent P&L control, reporting to the CEO
  • More likely to exist where e-commerce is a small — and different — part of the business
  • Control own functional departments, including digital experience
  • Control own demand generation and product partner arrangements
  • May outsource supply chain operations from other BUs

Independent e-commerce department within a Business Unit

  • Control P&L within a single BU, focused on a sub-segment of the customers
  • Manage all commerce functions within BU, including digital experience, separate from offline sales
  • Share IT and HR resources with other channels
  • May share operations and/or outsourcing arrangements with other BUs

Integrated e-commerce Sales channel within a Business Unit

  • A sales function, alongside offline channels sales organization
  • Multichannel business model, increasingly integrating customer journeys across online and offline channels
  • Coordinate merchandising, pricing, and promotions with offline sales organization
  • Leverage shared and integrated digital experience management (marketing operations center)
  • Leverage shared IT and HR
  • Merged supply chain operations with offline channels


The third structure accommodates the customer-centricity imperative. Best suited for true multichannel experience optimization, it’s increasingly used in most organizations. But there are circumstances where the first two are still used — mostly when there are drastically different customer and competitive drivers, and when independence is designed to allow for M&A flexibility.

Organizational data-related responsibilities

When it comes to data, it’s important to make sure the right roles are involved. Good decisions depend on a clear understanding of the business goals and use cases, as well as plans for integration with CRM, commerce, and other systems and data sources.

The extensive implementation of privacy policies related to GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is a shared responsibility. But the involvement of your legal team is essential.

Data related organizational responsibilities vary substantially across marketing and IT


Staff development

Digital experience technologies and operations are evolving rapidly. Your team needs a learning architecture that both ensures they’re well trained on best practices, processes, and digital experience technologies and keeps them abreast of developments.

Key team members — particularly your experience optimization specialist, content marketer, strategist, and analyst — need hands-on training for digital marketing tools. It’s best to conduct training in several waves. Begin with basic functional training. Move to more advanced training as your team gains experience.

In our experience, digital experience programs are sufficiently different from the traditional ways of doing business. In addition to hands-on training opportunities for the core team, your organization should provide high-level training to other roles that will be involved in your digital experience program. This will help ensure they support and contribute to the program.

You can learn more about all of the above in our guide, “Digital experience management: Organization and governance.” Stay tuned for the final post in this series and learn more about the SBOS team here.

An experienced business leader, Elan Bair guides Sitecore customers and partners in planning, designing and optimizing digital marketing, customer experience and business performance programs using big/smart data, advanced online analytics, personalization and engagement automation. You can follow him on LinkedIn.