Alignment: IT versus Marketing

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The close quarters proved successful for Thomson when the company launched the RCA eBook late last year. It began developing both the actual eBook technology and the marketing strategy at the same time in April 2000, with the goal of launching the product in September. Both Pileri and Greer credit the new IT-marketing alignment in large part for the successful launch.

Greer’s and Pileri’s employees, for instance, joined forces to create a CRM application that collected the names of customers who wanted to order eBooks over the Web and automatically e-mailed them dates for the product’s availability, shipping the product to them as soon as it was available. The CRM effort was critical to eBook’s early sales. In the fourth quarter of 2000, the first quarter in which they were available, eBooks accounted for 50 percent of the sales on RCA’s website.

Sharing the CEO’s Ear

Space is one way to bring IT and marketing together. Another way is to set up cross-disciplinary teams that work closely together and evaluate new and existing customer accounts. As a result of Northrop’s close encounter with a contract disaster, IT and marketing are required to stay in constant communication on new customer matters and current projects. But to make sure that happens, a marketing executive actually reports directly to CIO Shelman and indirectly to the vice president of business development.

Furthermore, Northrop’s system mandates that any expenses that will affect the IT department must meet the approval of the IT executive in charge of the business unit in question. This system helps IT leaders understand marketing’s goals and prevents marketing from taking off with deals IT can’t support. And the system appears to be working. External audits have found that Shelman’s IT department operates at 35 percent of the budget at which it would have operated without an IT-marketing accord.

Shelman is responsible for keeping Northrop Grumman’s CEO up to date on how effectively the IT-marketing collaboration is working. In the past, he says, marketing and IT would compete for the CEO’s ear on matters of scheduling and spending. Now, the CEO has bought into the need for alignment, and both IT and marketing heads have discovered that the best way to grab the CEO’s attention is to share it. Shelman includes in his reports input from the marketing executives who report to him. Shelman believes the benefits of collaboration go far beyond the fact that marketing no longer plays fast and loose with IT’s resources. The two departments’ teamwork, he says, has led to more comprehensive and accurate sales pitches.

"Marketers are out winning business, and you want them to go win business," Shelman says. "At least we’re viewed as being part of that team as opposed to a bottleneck."

Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

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