By Bridget McCrea, Contributing Writer

When Kim Collins thinks about how companies are using Marketing Resource Management (MRM) systems like Microsoft's MarketingPilot to plan, budget, and forecast the utilization of marketing resources and budgets, she divides the task up into five different core competency areas.

Collins, research vice president, CRM, at Gartner, Inc., in Stamford, Conn., identifies the five sectors that companies should be looking at as strategic planning and financial management; creative production management; digital asset, content, and knowledge management; marketing fulfillment; and MRM analytics, the latter of which allows companies to effectively measure the other four competency areas and optimize their media mixes according to that data.

"Before implementing an MRM strategy, companies have to take a step back and assess the biggest areas of opportunity within these five categories," explains Collins. "Look at where your organization will get the highest business benefit and where the low-hanging fruit lies." 

A firm looking to align corporate and local marketing goals, for example, should put a high emphasis on marketing fulfillment, while one looking to boost time-to-market could leverage creative production management to help speed up that process. Finally, a chief marketing officer interested in better budgeting across a growing marketing mix will gain a better understanding of costs through the planning and financial management competency of MRM.

In assessing MarketingPilot's ability to support each of these five MRM competency areas, Gartner, Inc., calls the solution "visionary," for its broad MRM vision and capabilities, particularly for the midmarket. "The acquisition by Microsoft should increase MarketingPilot's overall viability," writes Collins in Magic Quadrant for Marketing Resource Management, "and, with training and execution of the Microsoft partner network, it could become a global leader in MRM during the next few years."

To most effectively leverage one or more of MRM's core competencies, Collins says companies should kick off their initiatives by getting the key stakeholders (namely the chief marketing officer, head of advertising, and/or chief financial officer) involved in the process. Figure out which of the five competencies matches with each of those stakeholders, she adds, and then integrate those competencies into a single, holistic approach to MRM. "The five areas are interrelated," says Collins, "so when you build strength in one of them, you also help increase your firm's competency across the other four."