When marketing and technology collide, too many IT departments react with extreme measures. CIOs and IT professionals can choose to block marketing efforts, get out of the way entirely or embrace strategies that position their technical expertise to have the greatest impact, according to a set of marketing executives who spoke with CIO.com.
Businesses fall into two camps, in which IT professionals become "order takers or stonewallers," and these relationships breed resentment among all involved, according to Keith Sibson, vice president of product and marketing at PostUp, an email marketing firm. IT professionals should try to understand their marketing colleagues' motivations and then work in tandem to develop programs that meet those goals. However, marketers also need to be pragmatic in their requests, he says. "Marketing and IT should be open and honest partners for each other, willing to compromise and approach problems constructively."
What exactly do marketers want from IT?
Digital marketing organizations need IT to provide open channels of communication and infrastructure, according to Bruno Germansderfer, head of product at digital agency Carrot Creative. "Creating relationships with marketing leaders to help understand and anticipate their needs becomes incredibly important," he says. "You can provide the organization with all the tools you can buy, but if it's not communicated correctly, nobody will know they exist or how to use them."
CIOs and IT leaders often drive digital transformation, but internal power struggles and disconnects between IT, marketing and sales still weigh down many businesses, according to Shawn Belling, vice president of product development and support at CloudCraze, a commerce platform for Salesforce. "Complete transparency and responsiveness is critical in today's ever-evolving market, and giving the IT and marketing teams the ability to share data and have exposure into other departments is invaluable."
Such circumstances have accentuated the CIO's role and responsibility in marketing, widespread data collection and IT's transition from legacy systems to the cloud, according to Ted Dhanik, CEO of digital ad firm engage:BDR. "The best marketing decisions are informed by data," he says. "CIOs hold the keys to the kingdom, so to speak, for setting up systems that can collect that data. When an organization's information resources are in sync with marketing, you can design rich feedback loops that can help ensure efficient spend and identify opportunities for incremental success."
CIOs can empower marketing leaders with the proper tools and processes to ensure their digital marketing efforts are tracked, measured and adjusted based on insights gleaned from the data, Dhanik says. "A rich understanding of a company's existing data can be key to unlocking an underused resource."
How IT can avoid marketing bottlenecks
Centralized databases and analytics systems are increasingly common in marketing efforts today today, because they put more tools in the hands of marketing pros and remove barriers that could have otherwise resulted in a flood of requests for IT, says Sibson of PostUp. "If the data output of marketing tools and initiatives isn't readily available to marketers, IT teams will be bogged down by data requests, and the marketing initiative will gradually lose momentum and often quietly fail as marketing moves on to the next thing," he says.
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A genuine understanding of current cloud capabilities can also radically alter marketing strategies, according to Blair Linville, CEO of analytics and marketing automation company Tectonic. "What used to be impossible, complicated or expensive can be accomplished quickly with reasonable investment in the hands of people who understand how to bring the cloud to bear for marketers."
The most effective IT leaders also know when to push back on projects and when to ride out potential setback, says Germansderfer of Carrot Creative. There is a delicate balance — and plenty of gray area — between yes, no and maybe. "Derailing a concept too early due to a feasibility challenge may stop that idea from morphing into something better or more pragmatic," he says. "It's never smart to let a marketing team spin up their resources too much over an impossible idea, but there's a right time and place to kill concepts with technical feedback."
Marketing runs into IT bottlenecks when platforms are too rigid and complex, according to CloudCraze's Belling. "CIOs are in a unique but difficult position today because of the constant growth and innovation in technology," he says "This culture of technological disruption puts enormous pressure on the CIO to make the right IT decisions for their company. In most cases, their decisions will have a significant impact on the marketing department as well."