To Centralize Or Not to Centralize? That Is The Question

One of the things that baffles me about our industry is the wide variation of how email marketing and cross-channel teams are managed within organizations. More specifically, it seems there’s little consensus on whether or not to centralize teams in large companies with multiple brands or lines of business (LOBs). In this post, I’d like to weigh in on the benefits of each approach.

The Centralized Team

In this model, the email/CRM team is organized as a center of excellence.  The team serves as a sort of internal email agency, serving the needs of all LOBs, brands and customer segments from promotional to operational sends.  The benefits of this model are:

Customer focus. When one team orchestrates all customer communications, it makes it easy to manage what a customer receives and to measure response to different messages.  This is especially beneficial when customers are shared across different business units, since they could be inundated by disparate messages otherwise.



Efficiency. Resources and technology are more efficient, because the enterprise communications are being managed through one team and one technology.

Strong capabilities. Because experts that focus on this area are managing communications, these teams typically push the envelope more, inspired by the healthy tension from their internal “clients.”  This model creates a natural environment of innovation.

The Decentralized Team

In this model, communications are managed by marketers within a brand or LOB, instead of relying on a center of excellence to produce communications. The benefits of this model are:

Brand expectations are clear. In this model, the team is better aligned with the customer’s expectations of that brand.  While the team may lack full visibility of what the customer receives from an enterprise perspective, they know what that customer needs to hear in respect to their LOB, and these details don’t get lost in translation by sending the planning and production over to a center of excellence.

Ability to be nimble. When a brand decides to send a message and is also in charge of sending it, if the team wants to get that email out today, they can — no having to negotiate the reason for such a rushed communication.

Each team can choose the right technology for their needs, versus what works for the larger organization.  While more expensive to the enterprise as a whole, it allows for each LOB to budget and pay for whatever technologies they need to operate effectively.

Companies decide to organize one way or the other for different reasons.  I’ve personally seen the centralized model work much more effectively than decentralized.  The centralized model seems to put the customer needs more at the forefront, and I always advocate for the customer over avoiding internal pain.  It also brings costs under control. That doesn’t mean that a decentralized model is wrong, though.  There are clearly benefits with either option, or even a hybrid approach. Tell me your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

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