What IT needs to do for Marketing

It’s well known that Sales and Marketing are the cats and dogs of many companies (or dogs and cats, I’m not trying to start a debate about which is which in this post!), constantly fighting with each other and falling out. But what about Marketing and IT? Technology is crucial to most marketers and we turn to our IT colleagues for solutions to help us manage customer lifecycle, campaign execution and many other aspects of marketing activities. Alongside systems deemed business critical in finance and operations though, Marketing is often de-prioritised and left to fend for itself.

IT’s response to requests from Marketing for additional resource often revolves around their need to focus on “core functions”, but what are these functions? Clearly IT has many demands placed on it from across any business. Systems relating to financial management and service delivery will always occupy a high profile position, against those merely generating and tracking demand for a company’s products and services. The tendency among IT organisations is to want to retain ownership of as much as possible, define everything as a project and then submit every initiative to a review board for approval.

Marketing’s requirements are often much simpler than this, and the rising prevalence of hosted and software-as-a-service solutions mean these needs can be met in a much lighter-touch way. IT’s role then becomes that of creating an environment where these solutions can be rapidly selected and deployed, undertaking integration (often only a configuration task) where necessary. Core IT skills such as requirements definition, vendor assessment and selection and project management are still invaluable, but they are relieved of the heavy lifting of creating the environment for a new system and handling the fine detail of implementation.

Clearly the arguments in favour of outsourcing are well rehearsed, but Sales and Marketing represent a particularly good fit for this approach. IT’s “core function” can then become enablement, and the growing contingent of highly capable, technically literate marketing operations professionals can take it from there. There’s no reason that Marketing and IT can’t play nicely; now how to achieve the same result with Sales…

8 Responses to “What IT needs to do for Marketing”

  1. John Moore says:

    Simon, good post. As a senior engineering exec I would have disagreed with this argument 5 or 6 years ago. However, the world is evolving quickly and IT must enable businesses to be successful while guarding the core. This means that software needs that are fairly risk free should go to SAAS offerings where marketing/sales can manage themselves.

    With this shift IT will need to remain in an advisory role, a role where they also “spotcheck”, but for most companies the need to maintain all software and hardware behind the walls of corporate IT is a thing of the past.


  2. Very insightful, actually. Marketing as a function is increasingly becoming technology dependent and the disconnect between technology/ business systems and marketing will have to be overcome if business have any intention of excelling at the new marketing. Analytics, tools to help visualise customer behaviour, data manipulation, list selection and so on are going to continue to increase in prominence in the marketers tool kit, and the systems and technology that backs these up will not just be marketing’s systems, but ones that drive the business itself. Technology departments should be enabling marketing – it’s now a very real connection to revenue generation, and will only increase in importance.

  3. Douglas Karr says:

    I have seen some IT disasters working in the SaaS industry, where IT has totally disabled Marketing’s ability to accomplish the work. I love your word, ‘enablement’. That should be every IT department’s primary objective. Within that, it’s okay for IT to veto for security reasons, counsel for performance, and request additional funds when their support requirements increase.

    My favorite IT departments have been the ones that FIND the solution to the problem while meeting all the objectives of the Marketer. Too many IT companies utilize their bully pulpit to sabotage progress or are arrogant in thinking they can ‘do it better’.

    I had one IT VP tell me once that they would be able to build a much better search engine for the website than what the Google Search Appliance could accomplish. Imagine that!

  4. admin says:

    Thanks to everyone for their comments, great to know I’m on the right track! Particularly pleased that the enablement/advisory idea resonates. Now, I’m off to write a Linux-busting OS in JavaScript…

  5. Great post! Spot on.
    Another argument in favour of outsourcing is the fact that, in particular, Marketing have different needs than other departments. For instance they often work tightly with agencies, consultants, photographer etc and they all have a need to access and work with the same data. I have often watched as the IT department becomes an obstacle when they (for all the right reasons) try to enforce IT and security policies. Outsourcing and using SaaS solutions make a lot of sense in this case since firewalls and security polices aren’t the same issue anymore.

  6. Jane Mantell says:

    I couldn’t agree more! Thanks Simon for your comments. IT must focus all its disciplines on the collection, structure and safeguarding of data. This is the solid foundation on which all enabling environments must be built.

  7. Gary Katz says:

    Excellent post, Simon. I agree that IT needs to be an enabling resource to Marketing, not a constraint. And Marketing needs to turn to IT as a valued strategic partner as we explore, evaluate and embrace new marketing automation initiatives. Otherwise, there is going to be handcuffs on Marketing in going forward with essential technology initiatives quickly and huge organization disconnects if we don’t consider the enterprise-wide IT picture that only IT has.

  8. Good post Simon and reflects many frustrations of marketers.

    Marketing is increasingly IT dependent, they can get solutions more easily and quickly thanks to SaaS but get stuck with being low priorities for IT and not allowed to sort it out for themselves (because of both real and fear-based, unreal IT governance issues). T

    Smart companies are splitting their IT strategy three ways – part of which is making sure the marketing and sales people (and others) are “tooled up” for digital marketing and they have internal I experts who “get it”. Let’s hope many others follow.

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