Highlights from the Gartner 2020 Marketing Operations Survey

Want to check out Gartner’s 2020 Marketing Operations Survey without actually having to read through all 34 pages? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered – here’s our breakdown of the report!!

Gartner’s survey set out to validate organizational and operational challenges that most impact marketing effectiveness. The report concludes that marketing operations leaders are making an impact on marketing performance. However, there’s room for improvement by framing the scope of their role, forming operational KPIs, and fixing impediments to execution in order to increase the impact of their role on marketing performance.

Gartner’s goal was to better understand the role of the marketing operations leader to identify the value they serve to the CMO and marketing organization overall.

Gartner goes on to identify 7 key findings from this research which you will find highlighted throughout this recap. Like this:

KEY FINDING #1: Marketing operations leaders are becoming increasingly common. 49% of marketers surveyed had a marketing operations leader in at least one team.

Based on the findings of this survey, Gartner recommends following a simple framework to construct, protect, optimize, and promote the marketing operations role and function within your organization.

Gartner’s Recommended Framework

Gartner suggest different potential actions based on your marketing organization’s level of maturity or previous investment in marketing operations.

These four simple steps are designed to Frame, Focus, and Fix the unique challenges presented to Fit the needs of your organization.


Frame marketing operations against the marketing organization’s priority weighting of efficiency and effectiveness.

Marketing ops leaders attempt to break through the trade-offs of each. The results indicate that marketing organizations that are focused on effectiveness have a 7-point higher rate of having a marketing ops leader:

KEY FINDING #2: 52% of marketing organizations primarily driven by effectiveness cited the presence of a marketing operations leader, versus 45% of marketing organizations driven by efficiency.

  • (52%) focused on effectiveness have a marketing ops leader
  • (45%) focused on efficiency have a marketing ops leader

The data shows that companies focused on marketing effectiveness over efficiency can see more clearly the value that the marketing ops role brings to their organization.

Gartner goes on to suggest that the presence of a marketing ops leader helps the marketing organization become both more effective and efficient – that the role can alleviate the trade-offs between the two.

KEY FINDING #3: Marketing operations leaders help their organizations balance the trade-off between efficiency and effectiveness. 76% of marketers surveyed felt they could not fully maximize the impact of initiatives when also striving for efficiency.

  • (71%) with a marketing ops leader agreed
  • (81%) without a marketing ops leader agreed

Additionally, the data revealed that this delta was also increased in more mature (self-reported) organizations, suggesting that an indicator of maturity includes the presence of a marketing ops leader.

Gartner concludes that the presence of the role can achieve an increase in both effectiveness and efficiency, making it easier for a CMO to prove the value of marketing to the business.


Focus your various efforts into creating a clear and digestible mandate.

Without the presence of a Marketing Ops Leader, the functions of the position are often distributed amongst various marketing teams or managed outside of marketing all together. Marketing operations leaders seem to inherit a random assortment of responsibilities that don’t fall naturally elsewhere in the organization.

KEY FINDING #4: Marketing leaders cited four to five functions under the marketing operations mandate from a list of twelve. A handful narrowly rose above the fray, such as financials, research, collaboration and campaign performance.

  • (41%) Financial planning and budget management
  • (40%) Customer/market/competitive intelligence research/insights
  • (40%) Eliciting a culture of collaboration

On average, 62% of the suggested responsibilities were not actually managed by a marketing ops leader.

That’s a significant margin for error when key functions, such as financial, research, team collaboration, and lead management are distributed and decentralized.

This means that CMOs have less control and oversight without the presence of a marketing ops leader.

So it comes as no surprise that the report shows that marketers have deprioritized decentralization. Of those surveyed:

  • (66%) have fully or primarily centralized organizational structures
  • (23%) are operating with a hybrid structure
  • (11%) using a fully or primarily decentralized model

Equally, the presence of a marketing ops leader is higher at organizations with a more fully centralized structure as compared to those without – a difference of 12 percentage points between the two.

The Future of Marketing Operations

The potential for marketing operations to drive both efficiency and effectiveness suggests that the function should have more authority to reduce cost and drive operational decisions. Marketers want more control and accountability within a flexible environment.

For example, “data sourcing/consolidation/management” is at the bottom of the list of current marketing operations activities, but at the top of the future mandate.

Also noticeable is a difference between organizations that already have a marketing ops leader and those that do not. Organizations with the presence of a marketing ops leader tend to rank higher in specific activities.

KEY FINDING #5: The existing marketing operations leader job will expand in the next 12 to 24 months to include martech management, research and insights, and vendor management.

  • Martech management (31% with versus 23% without)
  • Customer, market, and competitive intelligence research and insights (28% with versus 18% without)
  • Vendor, agency, and supplier management (24% with versus 14% without)

Gartner concludes that the entry point or specific activities that initially drive the need for the marketing operations function matter less than the ability to shape the role over time. The presence of a marketing ops leader alone will shift the activities that the organization perceives as urgent.

But no matter if the role currently exists or how it was originally created, the marketing ops function serves a critical purpose and delivers a tighter yet more adaptable marketing organization to the CMO.

3. FIX

Fix the biggest operational weaknesses within your marketing organization.

Marketing operations entails a wide range of responsibilities depending on the organization’s needs. So in order to find success in the role, marketing ops leaders should:

  1. Establish KPIs for measuring operational improvements
  2. Address top challenges for the role’s development
  3. Fix underlying weaknesses that impact the ability to execute and deliver against marketing objectives

To establish appropriate KPIs, survey respondents cited their top two KPIs for evaluating the success of marketing ops:

KEY FINDING #6: Work efficiency and impact measurement were cited as top KPIs.

  • (37%) Work efficiency
  • (36%) Impact measurement
  • (34%) Output measurement
  • (33%) Alignment to business goals and strategic plan
  • (29%) Internal stakeholder satisfaction
  • (27%) Utilization of marketing technology

But no matter the role’s duties, marketing operations leaders must focus on fixing marketing’s biggest weaknesses. Those likely to be the justification for the marketing ops leader’s presence. 

According to the research, the top marketing operations obstacles respondents identified are:

  • (35%) Lack of team communication and collaboration
  • (34%) Inability to use martech
  • (33%) Execution not linked to strategy
  • (32%) Poorly designed processes

These weaknesses are even more apparent in decentralized organizations – quite significantly in some cases.

  1. 46% of marketing leaders with decentralized structures said that “ineffective linking between marketing strategy and execution” is their greatest weakness compared to 30% of those with a centralized structure.
  2. 39% of marketing leaders with decentralized structures said that their “existing staff lacks necessary skills and capabilities” is their greatest weakness compared to 26% of those with a centralized structure.

And on the flip side, the research shows that “lack of team agility and flexibilityis actually a greater problem for centralized organizations (31%) compared to those with a decentralized structure (22%).

Gartner concludes that this combined data explains that, while decentralized structures may be more flexible and agile, they can prove to be challenging to manage operationally because other weaknesses substantially emerge.


Fit and optimize your marketing work management platform and operational martech to match the needs of your marketing organization.

KEY FINDING #7: Approximately 43% of marketers surveyed still do not use any kind of modern martech to manage key marketing activities, hindering the marketing team’s ability to meet objectives.

  • (8%) on average, do not manage marketing activities through any type of software tool
  • (35%) on average, use traditional office software such as spreadsheets, email, and document management systems

This lack of technology adoption leaves a gaping hole in the martech stack, causing organizations to fly blindly while trying to execute. Yet, about 57% are still using some type of modern martech to manage work.

Gartner goes on to report that they learned two things from survey respondents: they use both traditional and agile methods, and agile methods deliver on effectiveness.

It’s a valid concern that lack of utilization of all martech features can be costly or prevent a marketing ops leader from meeting objectives, however, 100% utilization should not be the goal. 

Marketers cited using 56% of the capabilities of their marketing work management platforms which is a solid number, but there’s certainly room for improvement.

  • (22%) believe that the current utilization is meeting most of their needs
  • (22%) lack the necessary resources to support the technology
  • (21%) feel their current system can’t support their complex environment
  • (19%) say the system is too complex from a user standpoint, causing low adoption
  • (14%) think the system is not configured properly with the right dashboards, data feeds, or integrations

Therefore, it’s on marketing ops leaders to assess their use case and ensure their work management tool aligns to the needs of the organization.

Final Thoughts

While the marketing operations role has come a long way, there’s still room for growth as professionals to improve individually, to have a greater impact on our organizations, and to blaze the trail for the growth of the profession overall!

Follow the framework outlined by Gartner to identify opportunities to make these improvements. Collaborate with and support one another as members of the MO Pros community.

  • What next steps can you take to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your marketing organization?
  • What is your marketing organization’s greatest weakness?
  • And what will you do to meet the needs of your organization?

Be sure to check out the full report to drill further down on these findings and recommendations provided by Gartner.


About The Author — MO Pros Community
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