CIOs need to bridge the gap between IT and marketing

CIOs and CMOs need to demolish boundaries and find ways to streamline collaboration in a way that improves their marketing team's access to proprietary corporate data.

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When you think of workgroups with a significant amount of crossover, marketing and IT aren’t the first that come to mind. Both have generally functioned independent of one another, but as more companies make the shift to data-centric technologies, marketers and IT departments are intersecting on a regular basis. CIOs are seeing more and more requests for assistance with initiatives that support this emerging partnership.

The data is staggering. Marketers are adopting new tech at a rapid rate, and in many cases, they are pioneering new applications of those technologies. Take AI for example. A survey from Salesforce found that over 60% of marketers believe that AI will have a significant impact on their media buying.

Another study conducted by Forrester indicated that 79% of marketers believe that AI will free up their time for more high-level strategizing. CIOs are critical in the mission to empower marketers with access to this data, and as such, marketing and IT collaboration is more important than ever before.

As an outside contractor with multiple firms, these are the roadblocks I’ve seen impacting this evolving collaboration between the teams that report to both CMOs and CIOs.

Data access is the major roadblock to company growth.

As marketers move to automate processes to free up time for more strategic activities, they need access to customer data. Unfortunately, in many cases marketers don’t have direct access to their data. The CMO is forced to submit access requests to the CIO on behalf of his team – prompting the CIO to both provide access and then contemplate providing ongoing access to non-IT personnel. This can make sense but opens up precious data stores to damage by untrained marketing personnel. This becomes a major time drain for everyone involved.

This cycle of request and access granting is necessary because the way that customers engage with brands digitally has changed. One of my colleagues puts it best:

Vijay Chittoor, CEO, and co-founder of Blueshift explains, “Today’s customer is perpetually connected, and the customer journey is more fragmented across many channels. This requires marketing to be agile, with the ability to respond to customer needs in the moment, on the right channel. The traditional model of IT deployments is designed for collecting and storing information for later analysis, not agile real-time interaction.” Since IT and marketing take different approaches to data, they run the risk of providing substandard support to one another.

A Survey conducted by Blueshift and Techvalidate found 92% of marketers are struggling with accessing, unifying or analyzing their data. This means nine times out of ten marketers aren’t as effective as they could be with their automation efforts.

Additionally, 54% of marketers are using less than half of their customer data. With the Facebook scandal and privacy concerns growing, access to third-party data is expected to drop, so creating better relationships between marketing and IT teams has never been more vital.

The good news is, with the right mindset, marketers and CIOs can leverage their varied perspectives to support one another. As a report from Harvard Business Review put it, “If the marketing team is developing a strategy to advance client needs, the IT team helps prioritize those needs based on the requirements of the infrastructure.”

CIOs need marketers to learn their language.

When it comes to gaining access to better data, and developing supportive relationships with IT, there are a few things marketers can do. Marketers need to start with a clear understanding of how they plan to leverage data, and what applications they plan to use it with. This will help IT teams provide the right kind of customer data and potentially increase access, or at least provide more consistent reporting for marketing teams.

In return, CIOs can work with their existing vendors to allow safe, reliable access for the marketing team. CIOs already have enough vendor challenges. By tasking vendors with this added requirement, this is one opportunity where vendors can simplify the daily life of the CTO, without adding additional workload to internal teams.

For this to work well, marketing leaders need to establish stronger relationships with IT leaders, starting at the top with the CIO. If these partners are leading their teams under a unified vision of how customer data should be used, their organization will be far more effective in leveraging that data.

Additionally, marketing teams can inform IT on what data is most helpful, which may help inspire the development of new collection or analytics processes that benefit IT as well. As Chittoor put it, “In the new world, marketing and IT need to come together to develop a better understanding of the customer, and to deliver data-informed experiences on every customer touchpoint.”

CIOs should embed some IT personnel with the marketing team.

IT professionals can often get frustrated by the increasing demands placed on them by their organizations. As companies rely more and more on cross-functional technologies, IT departments are feeling strained. To help prevent this fatigue, IT partners should consider how they can remove bottlenecks and open access to customer data. They should also figure out the most useful interfaces for marketing teams, to help prevent the need for consistent coaching on how to access data.

IT should also take the lead on communication and garnering feedback. Research indicates that in 20% of businesses IT teams feel they’ve successfully met the needs of their marketing counterparts when those partners actually feel dissatisfied with the result. To help close this gap, IT teams can ask for more specific feedback to prevent having to revisit work, while building a more open and trusting relationship with marketing teams.

Streamlined collaboration supercharges growth.

By collaborating on the collection and use of customer data, marketers and IT experts can help drive new levels of growth for their organization. The Blueshift report indicated that companies whose marketers leveraged more than 75% of available customer data were 1.4 times more likely to outperform their revenue goals.

When IT partners and marketers work together, marketers can leverage the latest developments in AI to grow the business and increase the number of insights IT teams can analyze. The result will be revenue growth, and significantly richer customer relationships.

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