Documentation: The Hero of Marketing Operations

BY: Michelle Miles | Chief Client Strategy Officer at MERGE

PUBLISHED: 2/11/2020

“Documentation”— probably not the most exciting buzzword out there, but the truth is that documenting your processes can make — or break — you. Consider this: documentation is what will save your marketing operations team during seasonal or unexpected shifts in the volume of campaigns. Documentation may be your secret lifesaver when it’s time for your organization to grow and scale. Or what about maintaining compliance with privacy legislation, like GDPR, CCPA, CASL or any new bills that may crop up? And dare I mention staff turnover?

Documentation is the base work that anchors the architecture of what you’re building within Marketo— and yet is often overlooked.

This year, make documentation a priority and the hero of your marketing automation story; you’ll improve your efficiency and likely, your team morale.

The MOPS Team That Documents Together, Stays Together

Staying agile and efficient with your processes is the heartbeat of any marketing operations team. Of course, it’s when the unexpected happens that the strength of your processes is really put to the test. How can you prepare? You guessed it: documentation.

“Documentation serves as a knowledge transfer — it’s like authoritative team communication, outlining what was previously done and why,” explains MERGE's Senior Director, Consulting Services, Maude Belanger. “Despite the circumstance, having detailed documentation could be the life raft that saves your team and keeps things running smoothly.”

Just what are some of the more common scenarios where documentation plays a key role?

Personnel Changes

No one likes to think about staff turnover, but it’s an unfortunate reality for an organization—  particularly for marketing operations, given the job stress and high demand for talent. If an employee moves on from your team for one reason or another, will other team members be able to fill the gap quickly and efficiently? With proper documentation in place, this becomes an easier scenario to navigate while also reducing the potential for errors.

Extended leave

Maternity leave. A family emergency. Sometimes life happens and a valued employee needs to take an extended leave. How does your MOPS team handle this period of transition?

With diligent documentation, another team member will be able to step in to help keep things running smoothly and cohesively. Alternatively, it can also play a major role in getting the employee up to speed quickly following their extended leave. “Continuing to maintain and update documentation as changes occur keeps everyone on the same page,” notes MERGE's Consultant Carl Delatontaine.

Documentation and Compliance

Let’s talk compliance for a moment. (As we all groan...)

The prevailing theme in marketing is a shift from a brand mapping out data collection to the consumer controlling the buyer journey, what data is collected, how it is used, and communication preferences.  Privacy legislation ensures the wishes of the consumer are honored and acted upon. “As legislation is on the rise, you want to make sure that you are respecting when you are emailing and communicating with people who are in your database,” emphasizes Lindsay Khan, MERGE's Solutions Architect and compliance specialist.

However, understanding compliance and implementing it can be two different beasts. With all of the nuances in CASL, GDPR, and CCPA, it can be tough to keep track of each of the individual requirements. This is where detailed documentation comes into play in a big way.

“Privacy legislation and compliance can be very complex and complicated. It also involves multiple stakeholders within your organization— your legal team, your IT team, involves anyone who has access to your data,” Lindsay points out. “So, documentation is essential because we’re dealing with multiple people in different units who have different needs, objectives and use cases. This is when documentation specific for each group is extremely helpful.”

Essentially, when in doubt, document it out.


Data Governance and Documentation


51% of organizations say they are planning to spend more time on information governance; documentation should absolutely be part of your governance conversations and meetings. What exactly should you be documenting?

  • Overview and reason for the program
  • Technical design of the program
  • Changes to the build
  • QA grids

“In each of these, it’s important to get as detailed and granular as you can. What was the logic behind different decisions? Why were certain changes put into place? When (date and time) were these changes made? And, with the QA grids: what were the expected outcomes versus the actual outcomes? These questions will all help guide your documentation process to become more complete and robust,” commented Maude. “Documentation can also help the team understand why and when decisions were made,” added Carl.

As a final point, our consultants all pointed out documentation reduces the risk for an organization. “We all hope this scenario never occurs, but should you be subject to a compliance audit or investigation, documentation can help demonstrate you have attempted to meet the requirements of, and are not trying to skirt, specific legislation,” commented Lindsay.


Win in the Workplace


Quoting Doug Conant, Campbell Soup Company’s former president and CEO, “To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.” For a MOPS team, documentation is how you win. From staying agile as a team, to proactively preparing for unexpected changes, to staying compliant with existing or new legislation, the extra time and effort that it takes to properly document processes sets your organization up for optimal success.