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When Is The Right Time for a Marketing Organizational Assessment?

We'll walk you through each stage of the organizational assessment process and help you decide whether now is the right time to conduct one at your college or university.

Higher education marketing and communication professionals are working under tighter time, budget, and resource constraints than ever before. With the mounting pressures facing colleges and universities today, it’s imperative that higher education marketing teams are set up for success — and have the capacity to keep up with an evolving industry. 

Herein lies an opportunity for institutions to reflect on what they do, how they do it, and why they do it that way. An organizational assessment (in any industry) takes a holistic and objective look at what a company or organization — or a unit within one — is doing well and where it can improve. In this post we’ll discuss the importance of organizational assessments from a higher education marketing and communications perspective and discuss some of the reasons it might be time to take a closer look at your people, processes, and overall marketing organization design. 

What is an Organizational Assessment in Marketing, and Why Does it Matter?

This assessment looks at your college or university’s marketing function from two perspectives: organizational and operational. 

Organizational Operational
This lens focuses on human resources. How is the team, department, or division organized? What is the reporting structure? How are resources (such as time and talent) allocated? This aspect entails processes, workflows/project management (including tools), and budget.

Assessing these aspects together provides a full picture of how your marketing team and efforts align with your institution’s strategic goals and can identify opportunities for operational and financial efficiency. The findings, then, can serve as a roadmap for next steps, whether that means filling skill gaps, redefining roles, or implementing a new project management tool. 

When: Top Reasons for an Organizational Assessment

An organizational assessment can especially benefit a higher education institution during (or in anticipation of) transition. Here are a few common reasons a school might embark on a marketing assessment. 

New Leadership

When a school welcomes a new president, there’s always a getting-to-know-you period. An organizational assessment of a marketing division will help a new leader — whether it’s a president, chancellor, or division vice president — learn the strengths of the team and uncover opportunities. 

Example: A new CMO at a private college inherited multiple publication/communication-focused teams across several schools and divisions. A marketing operations assessment expert worked with deans and directors to centralize marketing and communications, which resulted in adopting an agency-style account management model. 

New Institution-Wide Strategic Plan 

An organizational and operations assessment in this scenario can explore how current marketing communications support aligns with the institution’s newly created goals. For example, with a new college-wide strategic plan comes a host of tactics and tasks. Does an existing department have the right-size team in place? The right skills in house?  

Example: Organizational and operational consultants were hired by a president at a mid-size college to assess and provide recommendations and support for implementation at a mid-size college. During the process the president invited the consultants to share their findings and recommendations through a plenary session with their Board of Trustees.   

Budget & Resource Considerations 

An organizational assessment by a third-party can help you build the case you need to fight for the resources and tools your team needs to be effective or, in some cases, help you justify hard decisions.

Example: With their OPM (online program management) vendor contract coming up for renewal, a university wants to explore the possibility of bringing marketing operations for online programs in-house. An organizational and operational assessment identifies skill gaps and provides staffing recommendations, as well as a financial roadmap to help them determine the infrastructure and advertising budget they’d need to bring these operations in-house. 

Other Reasons for a Marketing Organizational Assessment: 

  • There’s an indication (or perception) that a marketing team (or efforts under the overall marketing communications umbrella) are underperforming.
  • You need to evaluate internal workflows (perhaps to discover bottlenecks, roadblocks, or duplication of efforts) to improve performance — and campus client/partner satisfaction.
  • A marketing and communications director wants to expand their team or resources and could use external support for the internal ask.
  • A large campus initiative is underway — such as a website redesign, a major campaign, a rebrand or brand refresh, or a technology system updated — and you want to proactively prepare for evolving staffing and resource needs.

How an Organizational Assessment Expert Can Help

Working with an outside organizational assessment expert brings a sense of objectivity to the process, a necessary component. 

Making Discoveries

A marketing assessment should begin with a robust discovery process — a comprehensive look at your people and processes. This includes a close review of:

  • Documents such as job descriptions, performance evaluations, marketing-related contracts, and internal workflows
  • A look at your tools and technology
  • Examining your marketing communications team structure
  • Meeting one-on-one with staff members and campus stakeholders.

A thorough evaluation and analysis of these observations and collected materials should follow. Depending on the parameters of the marketing assessment project, this phase may also include evaluating peer and aspirant institutions. 

Uncovering Opportunities

The culmination of the discovery, evaluation, and analysis is a comprehensive recommendations report, a document that will serve as a guide to defining, refining, or redefining your department or division’s mission and purpose. While these reports are unique to each institution, possible outcomes might include a revised organizational chart and updated position descriptions.

Building Support

An important part of an organizational and operational assessment is communicating findings and proposed solutions to key stakeholders, beyond those who initiated the project or are immediately involved. A marketing assessment service often includes an executive summary and presentation for senior leadership. 

Implementing Solutions

An organizational assessment project may extend into helping see the new plan come to life. A few examples include reviewing and recommending project management tools, screening applicants for open positions, assisting with the search for a new division vice president, or providing interim support during a leadership transition.

Taking the Next Steps: The Importance of Organizational Assessment

Higher education is a unique industry, so it’s critical to partner with an organizational assessment consultant that understands its nuances. OHO is here to help. If you want to start a conversation about a marketing assessment, we’d be happy to setup a call to discuss our process.