The heightened priority of organizations in every industry to focus on the customer experience, reflected in the augmentation of marketing roles to include Chief Customer Officers (CCOs) and Chief Experience Officers (CXOs), has placed unprecedented pressure on marketing departments to innovate in every way possible.

While not a bad thing in and of itself, this impetus for innovation can lead to disjointed and even costly outcomes for the organization. Here is a simplified, but all too common, example:

The marketing department in line of business "A" decides there is a potential customer experience advantage to be gained by changing the look of an envelope for a mailing. However, other parts of the organization are routinely using an envelope of a slightly different size. For the marketing leads in line of business "A", the decision to change the envelope seems minor. But when looked at holistically from an organizational perspective, standardizing on a single envelope instead could result in cost-savings and efficiencies that deliver significant benefits across multiple lines of business in the organization. Editor's Note: You can read more on that topic in our January/February issue or by clicking here.

Is this a disconnect worth avoiding? In our view, the answer is yes because often significant cost and efficiencies are involved; however, it requires replacing a strictly downstream approach to project management with one that "begins with the end in mind." What we have seen is that, as the example above illustrates, the typical approach to project management is for the project leader (in our example, the marketing lead) to define the project objective and then its execution is broken down into a series of tasks to be performed downstream along the chain that leads to output. In the case of the envelope, at a minimum, procurement must source the envelope and fulfillment will need to determine how to incorporate it as efficiently as possible into the existing production workflow.

The problem with this approach is that it completely fails to incorporate valuable input from the end points — procurement and fulfillment. Alternatively, if a collaborative approach is employed that involves stakeholders representing the entire spectrum of the project, from conceptualization through output, logical recommendations can flow upstream that have the potential to produce organization-wide benefits. In our example, the perceived marketing benefit of a new envelope might be significantly outweighed by the estimated cost savings of ordering just one standard envelope and the time-to-market gains of having the same envelope used in all production runs.

Involving all stakeholders in a project holds significant potential to identify competitive advantages that typically cannot be perceived with a downstream approach. Those responsible for document production, for example, may have a detailed understanding of how best to incorporate new equipment, such as color printers, to deliver customer communications with enhanced impact. Similarly, IT (occasionally considered a thorn in marketing's side), will likely be able to bring crucial knowledge to the table during planning to ensure that the right customer data can be accessed to produce the desired outcome.

Beginning with the end in mind is more than a bottom-up workflow approach (in other words, it is not the polar opposite of top-down planning). Rather it requires a cross-functional approach that is intended to enhance planning and execution through collaboration, even when the project is managed in a primarily top-down fashion. A cross functional approach to managing all types of customer communications not only helps shape the effectiveness of strategy through careful consideration of all opportunities and constraints in execution, it can also improve motivation and morale by eliciting and valuing the input of all those who will participate in making execution successful. Moreover, it can ensure that everyone involved is on the same page when it comes to the goals, tactics and processes that encompass the project.

My experience has been largely in the output management side of customer communications, and in my estimation, there is typically a large gap in the information sharing that takes place between functional departments within an organization such as marketing, IT and output management. While marketing may ultimately be responsible for what ends up on a statement or invoice, others—including those who provide the data (IT) and those who actually print and mail the documents— have valuable insights to share that could enhance upselling, cross-selling and other opportunities to improve customer communications.

When that reality is taken into consideration, collaboration though all points of the project starts to make a whole lot of sense.

Roger Tapke is senior analyst at Madison Advisors, an independent analyst firm that specializes in offering Fortune 1000 companies context-specific guidance for a range of content delivery strategies, particularly those addressing enterprise output technologies and customer communications. Roger brings expertise to Madison Advisors from a long career in printing/mailing operations as well as operations and manufacturing within several other industries. His expertise includes organizational and process analysis/improvement, team building and succession planning. Visit for more information.