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The Marketing Supply Chain Field Guide: Part 3

The Functional Areas of the Marketing Supply Chain – Continued

In our last installment, we began exploring how, even in light of inherent complexities and uniqueness, the power of any marketing supply chain can be better understood and harnessed by breaking it down into four functional areas. The first two functional areas; coordination and acquisition, are crucial to getting a graphic communication project onto a vendor’s production line. Today we will cover the other two functional areas; production and analysis, which are crucial to maximizing the efficiency and impact of your marketing supply chain.

3. Production – Keeping the Project Moving

Production, in the case of the marketing supply chain, can be a confusing term. After all, most organizations don’t physically manufacture their own marketing materials; that’s what their vendors do. For the sake of this discussion, production means keeping the project moving once it has been given to a vendor to manufacture. Given the complex, collaborative and creative nature of graphic communication projects; the opportunity for missed steps, delays and extra costs is great.

As a distinct functional area within the marketing supply chain, production involves ensuring that everyone knows what their responsibilities are and when fulfillment is expected. This includes tasks, decisions and physical deliverables such as files and paperwork. These responsibilities and deliverables may lie within any number of departments in an organization or its vendors.

Another part of production management is managing – and trying to limit – project changes. Whether initiated by the organization or its vendors, changes in production are sometimes inevitable. Other times they are completely avoidable. Understanding the reasoning for any change in production, and having all related information available, is important to keeping marketing supply chain projects on-time and on-budget.

Keeping detailed records of all activity and correspondence is crucial in production phases of any marketing supply chain. Take the case of a change order as mentioned above. Without detailed documentation of all activity and communication leading up that point, it might be impossible to determine whether or not the need for a production change is legitimate. Additionally, detailed records help an organization track performance of both their own processes and their vendors as well as identify areas for improvement and even new opportunities.

4. Analysis – Using Today’s Results to Improve Tomorrow’s Impact

In the data driven world we live in, it’s fair to say that analysis of existing data in attempt improve future impact is a necessity. Unfortunately, analysis is not always an obvious, or even available, function in some marketing supply chains. Understandably, it’s hard to isolate and capture data that isn’t clearly connected to one distinct operational area. Once the marketing supply chain concept has been recognized, its elements have been identified, and the organization has segmented it functionally; pertinent data and statistics should be available for analysis and reporting. Naturally, even if everything has been defined clearly enough that data should be evident and available; its tracking, capture, recording and reporting is never an easy task.

Analysis is a functional area within an organization’s marketing supply chain that will likely need to be established or at least reinforced. It’s also one where having the assistance of adaptable, highly specialized tools is critical. Even in organizations where the marketing supply chain has been identified and functionally classified communication is often still fragmented across multiple channels. Information is naturally still in a variety of formats that are processed in unique ways. Compiling and filtering all of the data flowing through the marketing supply chain can be more demanding on time and resources than actually analyzing it. For that reason any organization that is focused on optimizing its marketing supply chain is best served by specialized project management tools tailored to their unique and specific needs. Organizations that take advantage of automated tracking, compilation, filtering and reporting of all relevant data across every link of the marketing supply chain empower their people to use time more efficiently and effectively.

As you can see, between production and analysis, and coordination and acquisition discussed in the previous installment, classifying and organizing the links in the marketing supply chain helps make sense of everything. At the same time it also brings the broad reaching and often chaotic nature of the marketing supply chain into clearer focus. Along with this understanding comes a better realization of the value in flexible, adaptable, purpose-built project management over one-size-fits-all approaches. Check back for our next installment where we will identify and discuss digital assets and their management and handling within the marketing supply chain.