Two years ago, the executive leadership at Dupaco Community Credit Union ($2.7B, Dubuque, IA) was facing the problems of many a fast-growing organization at the intersection of marketing and business processes.
Requests were outrunning resources, and constraints on everyone’s time were increasing the need for more efficient use of data as well as for people who can identify and meet goals. Dupaco needed better resource planning and someone to coordinate those knowledge-based efforts.
Enter Kristine Rellihan, who became the Dubuque, Iowa cooperative’s first marketing portfolio manager. Here she describes what she does and why it matters.
Why and when did Dupaco create the role of marketing portfolio manager?
Kristine Rellihan: With 16 marketing team members supporting 20 branches and 16 departments, it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage the constant workflow and the growing credit union while staying aligned with corporate goals and objectives.
After conducting a Gartner Marketing Maturity Assessment in January 2020, an opportunity to build out marketing operations emerged. The new role was defined in the spring and summer and approved in fall 2020 with recruitment starting in May 2021. I took the job in July 2021.
Why did Dupaco choose that specific title?
KR: Marketing leadership identified the need for efficiency, alignment with department and corporate goals, effort versus impact in projects, internal service satisfaction, and standardized processes and workflows.
Their research determined that marketing portfolio manager was a better title than one previously considered because we support a wide array of complex projects under multiple intersecting programs, including consumer lending, software development, member experience, and data and analytics.
Did Dupaco create the role specifically for you?
KR: No, but it sure feels like it was created for me. Prior to my 20-plus years of various roles in marketing, I spent three years as a manager in manufacturing. Success in this environment requires intimate knowledge of people, processes, and continuous improvement. The magic is when you can get them all working together.
What challenges and opportunities does your role address? How do you address them?
KR: I’ve addressed a broad range of opportunities.
For marketing project management, I developed a project process framework with tracking that is repeatable. This resolved several pain points for the team, including projects lacking detail, clarity, and goal. Marketing team members were given more work than there was time to complete, which resulted in missed deadlines or missed scope. Projects operated under first-in-first-out with equal weight of importance.
To eliminate waste, I have found opportunities for repeatability by creating standard work, enhancing a process to reduce rework, and reducing meeting times and attendees through improved and consistent tool utilization.
For portfolio analysis, I report on meaningful data for marketing leadership and the business.
Regarding resources, there are always more requests than marketing resources, and it’s important to delineate which projects align with our corporate goals to ensure they are a priority. Using resource planning, we now have visibility and alignment on what is being completed, by who, and when.
For 2023 personnel budgets, we plan to leverage portfolio data collected to make data-driven recommendations.
There are multiple ways to get to a solution for effort versus impact. Even more so these days with the invention of new and quicker tools. It’s important to measure the costs against the benefits to ensure we’re using businesses resources appropriately.
What makes you a great fit for the job?
KR: I joined Dupaco with more than 20 years of experience and development opportunities in marketing, continuous improvement, project management, and managing people. The combination provided me with many best practices that I used to hit the ground running.
What are your areas of responsibility?
KR: I have ownership and oversight of the resource use and workflow through the marketing department at Dupaco. From process creation to reporting, I ensure the team can create solutions efficiently.
Who do you report to and who reports to you?
KR: I report to our vice president of marketing intelligence and strategy. I am a shared resource to the CMO, vice president of marketing communications, and community impact supervisor. I also work closely with the entire marketing team and the project management office.
What’s your daily routine at your credit union?
KR: The need to be agile outweighs the ability to be routine. Every day I intake and prioritize projects, remove barriers for the team to use the project workflow process and tools efficiently, create new solutions where needed, and create visibility to the marketing project portfolio through data analysis.
Every day I intake and prioritize projects, remove barriers for the team to use the project workflow process and tools efficiently, create new solutions where needed, and create visibility to the marketing project portfolio through data analysis.
How do you track success in your job?
KR: I’m successful when: The marketing team has tools, resources, and awareness of current and future projects; marketing leadership has at-a-glance visibility into all projects in the marketing portfolio, including status, team capacity, and data to make key business decisions; marketing can clearly articulate across the business the status of projects and the amount of marketing effort provided to support them; and projects that are a priority to the Dupaco team have marketing resources available to complete them on time, on budget, and within scope.
How do you stay current with topics that fall under your role?
KR: I’m a lifelong learner and am working toward a graduate degree in psychology. I also devote time every month to a book, podcast, or webinar on project management or portfolio management.
This interview has been edited and condensed.