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For Marketers, IT Should be a Partner, Not an Adversary

Marketing department IT working together
Marketing has evolved from a sedate and predictable annual media buy to a do-or-die battle to stay ahead of the competition and keep up with the consumer. As marketing takes on this challenge, there is a temptation to deploy cloud-based technology, leaving behind IT department involvement.

Purchase a turn-key, self-contained marketing system and everyone lives happily ever after, right?

There’s no denying this “shadow IT” trend in which marketing and other departments are increasingly taking on more technology purchasing power. Gartner estimates that 38 percent of global IT spending is currently managed outside the IT department, a figure expected to surpass 50 percent by 2017.

Bypassing IT Brings Risks

As marketers are discovering, however, bypassing IT entirely comes with its own set of risks and challenges. Provisioning cloud-based software is relatively straightforward. But maintaining the software, integrating it with existing applications in or outside of marketing, and training marketing teams to use it effectively is a different story entirely. No wonder that IDG’s 2014 Cloud Computing Study found that 45 percent of cloud-related projects that began outside of IT’s purview end up coming back into IT ownership. The top reasons:

  • Lack of appropriate skill sets within the department that funded the project.
  • Security concerns.
  • The need to standardize around a single platform.

Problems can escalate quickly when marketing tries to forge its own technology path. McKinsey consultants tell the story of a large high-tech company where marketing upgraded a core marketing application that was incompatible with the existing sales software that IT managed. “As a result, sales leads stopped flowing, and the system became unusable,” the authors wrote. “There was no one in IT or in marketing who was accountable and no one to solve the problem.”

The outcome is all too common for marketing organizations that fall under the spell of the promises that all-in-one cloud technology vendors make. Often, marketers end up duplicating IT investments or deploying technology that does not mesh with existing solutions.

“CMOs should not try to recreate the wheel by building their own systems since these tools and capabilities likely exist already and can be provisioned by IT,” Eddie Short, head of KPMG’s Insights Labs, told CIO.

Strong CMO-CIO Relationship Needed

Better collaboration between marketing and IT can give marketers a technical lifeline to ensure that they’re buying the right software for their needs – and, importantly, the needs of the customers the business serves. Forrester’s Cliff Condon says a strong relationship between the CMO and CIO is critical to the customer-centric transformation that more organizations are under pressure to execute.

“These two executives, by their relationship with each other and with the technologies they roll out to connect with customers, will determine the future of business,” Condon wrote in a recent blog post.

Here are a few ways marketers should be leveraging their IT counterparts as part of their marketing strategy instead of bypassing them.

Vendor selection: Cloud-based software delivery models are forcing IT to evolve from a pure tech shop into more of a service broker role, in which it helps line-of-business teams identify the best solutions and the best vendors for their needs. Marketers should use IT to vet any potential technology purchases, not just from a pure functional standpoint but also around key issues such as compliance and security.

Platform integration: Marketers are on the hook to understand the full “customer journey” across all of an organization’s physical and digital channels. But just 46 percent of marketing leaders told Forrester that they have a single view of their customer across all touchpoints. Integrating multiple data sources – which exist within and outside of marketing – is a critical step toward a successful omnichannel marketing strategy. The IT department plays a vital role in identifying those data sources and deploying the middleware or other tools to connect the dots.

Big data insights: Marketers are increasingly pressed to corral growing volumes of consumer and market data and then mine it for insights that help them improve the customer experience. IT can help marketing deploy the right tools to collect the data, determine its quality, and analyze it in a way that leads to actionable insights. “Marketing is the driver of the big data car, but it doesn't go anywhere without IT,” Todd Merry, CMO of Delaware North, told CIO.

Data will assume an increasingly important role in marketing success–in customer success. The need to aggregate data from all marketing and CRM systems will continue to grow as a primary challenge in successfully winning and retaining a customer.

The importance of system integration, data aggregation and data analysis will increasingly make the marketing-IT partnership more vital to the success of any organization. Only by working together, can marketing and IT provide the best path to success.

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