New Acxiom CEO Seeks To Bring Focus to Firm

by Jamie Walden  on Monday, Jul. 21, 2008 12:00 am  

In an exclusive interview with Arkansas Business, John Meyer details his changes at and plans for Acxiom.

Meyer found the duration of the Morgan regime surprising. He said, though, that the lengthy tenure of the former management was beneficial because "an injection" of new management had not become an exhausted effort to put the company back on a profitable track.

New Acxiom Takes Shape

Seeking to make Acxiom more profitable, Meyer overhauled its organization.

The old model divided the company into three silos: a technology silo that included the company's outsourcing work, a marketing services silo and a data products silo. Meyer said each silo operated as a completely separate business unit, providing all its own functions from sales to development to IT services.

(This organization would have made for clear-cut spinoffs had the private equity deal announced in May 2007 gone through.)

The self-sufficiency of the silos limited many Acxiom customers to doing business with only one of the three business units and kept them unaware of the other services the company offered, Meyer said.

Meyer rejected the old model, instead consolidating common functions into company-wide departments, particularly sales, IT and service delivery, such as building databases or writing marketing plans. Then he divided the company into two major categories: a "lines of business" unit and a "market-facing" unit.

Employees in the lines of business unit focus on driving growth of their particular line of business, for example, building databases. An employee in the market-facing unit focuses on building relationships in one of 12 industries and the European and Asia-Pacific markets.

The new organizational structure ensures that two kinds of people look at each deal. A person in the market-facing function - such as the employee who always works with the retail industry - analyzes the deal. And a "thin layer of experts" within the particular business line - such as digital marketing services - works with the market-facing employee on the deal.

"And so we only solve the problem once. And then in other places, because of the lateral thinking, you pull it across the organization. You become a thought-leader," Meyer said.

The Birth of a Salesman

The restructuring largely affected the Acxiom sales function by consolidating the three sales departments of the three separate silos. Meyer, however, also created a "company head of sales" position, which started as global sales leader but is now senior vice president of sales. (See The Death of a Sales Leader.)



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