No matter the size, every business is experiencing it. The lines between marketing functions and information technology (IT) functions are blurring more and more every day. Who owns the database? Who owns the website? Who owns the social media accounts? Who owns the documents housed in the cloud? The debate ranges on, and in the process, the tension continues to grow.
Some businesses have created new roles and titles. Some have added a “Marketing Technologist,” while others have added a “Chief Digital Officer.” Some have gone so far as to merge the marketing and IT departments into one. But that’s like adding dentists to a football team – it doesn’t really make sense.
Let’s break it down. On the tech side of the aisle, there are five key specialty areas: system administration/network infrastructure, database designers, website coders, information security, and legal compliance and data/business recovery. On the marketing side of the aisle, the list is even longer: advertising, branding/brand advocacy/brand promise, corporate identity (logo/tagline/brand personality/brand voice/templates/logo guidelines), co-branding, re-branding, strategic planning, corporate communications (brochures/newsletters/branded collateral), public relations, internal employee communications, social media, mobile marketing, copywriting/blogging, tradeshows/seminars/webinars/special events, corporate sponsorship/non-profit community support, metrics/ROI/KPIs/NPS/survey analysis, market/customer behavior research, customer experience/VOC marketing, website marketing, graphic design for print/web/ads, and annual marketing plans/budgets.
At the core, the tension between the IT and marketing departments has grown because the two own important data. Often, that data surrounds a business database. Whether that database was designed internally (and this is where the IT folks come in because they probably coded it) or externally (translation, often with SalesForce or a similar CRM product), the IT team wants to provide maintenance and updates. The marketing team wants to use the data to reach out to customers and prospects to provide service, launch marketing campaigns, and upsell.
Instead of crowding out the other, why can’t the two departments align their objectives? I asked 10 tech and marketing experts to address this topic, and their comments follow below with their Twitter handles.
John Ellett (@jellett): Technology has fundamentally changed the way companies engage with their current and potential customers across paid, owned, and earned media channels. The question shouldn’t be whether Marketing or IT will be in charge of planning and implementing the systems needed. It should be, how do the two divisions learn to be collaborative partners and leverage the strengths of each. Unfortunately, egos, budgetary turf wars, and lack of common language are inhibiting the teamwork needed to make progress at the necessary rate.
Shaun Dakin (@PrivacyCamp): With the increased use of technology in marketing programs, both online and offline, it’s clear that marketing talent must understand code and data just as well as they understand marketing strategy and planning. The future of marketing combines a strong sense of who the customers are, where to find them, what to offer them, and the technologies needed to delight them.
Susan Gunelius (@SusanGunelius): With technology as the foundation of most marketing initiatives in 2013, the need for marketing and tech to work together is more important than ever. Also, accountability must be evenly spread between both departments. The tech team needs to provide the tools and infrastructure to ensure that marketing programs work and drive the results that the business needs. This means that the marketing team needs to educate the tech team about why they make specific requests. What is the lost opportunity cost if the tech team cannot deliver? Accountability starts with understanding the risks and rewards. At the same time, the tech team needs to fully communicate what it can and cannot do to support the marketing team, so that the marketing team approaches the tech team with realistic expectations. Communication between marketing and tech is critical, but there is often a wide gap between these two departments. Companies that bridge this gap will thrive in the future, while others scramble to put out fires and run to catch up.
Gina Schreck (@ginaschreck): Technology is no longer a prisoner of the IT department, and social media needs to be freed from Marketing. Technology is now so tightly woven into everything we do, that successful companies will not just try and figure out how to USE social media, but instead they will explore ways to BE more social in every aspect of their business. I think just as every department within a company uses a phone, every department will soon look at ways to engage both face-to-face and virtual community members.
Elliot Ross (@elliotross): In my years in business technology, one of the most destructive organizational silos I have seen is the silo that can exist between an org’s IT function and its marketing staff. I firmly believe that, in this electronic generation, your IT and marketing leadership have to be joined at the hip, in other words, thinking with a shared brain. Just about every activity in your value chain today can involve the creation or consumption of information that is tied to your product or service. [As for Marketing], you know that the touch points you try to connect depend on technology. And with this prevalence of technology in your business, unless marketing and technology communicate at a relevant level of detail, lost opportunities are endless.
Gini Dietrich (@ginidietrich): As a communications professional, I would love the changes in technology to belong to us. But I think it’s less about a discipline and more about who understands how all of it works together under one umbrella and how to use each tool at the right time to reach the right audiences. The professionals who get it will win.
Lilach Bullock (@lilachbullock): Businesses and marketers will have to learn new techniques and act fast if they want to keep up with their consumers’ needs. Only the most creative ideas will help businesses stand out, and they will have to find new tools and ways to capture their audience’s imaginations. But most importantly, I think that they have to embrace the new trends and not stick to what they know from the past.
Viveka von Rosen (@LinkedInExpert): While marketing is relying more and more on the technology of social media platforms, we must remember that marketing should remain focused on communications. Yes, in some cases the medium becomes the message, but we in marketing must remember that there are real people on the other side of the channel, and that’s who we need to be engaging with – no matter the method.
Ray Hiltz (@newraycom): Social technology and the explosion of content marketing have forced companies to look outward and present a unified brand. This cannot happen with the old silo model. The new reality is “business is marketing,” and much of the marketing happens in the digital space.
Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar): The most important disruption for CMOs and CIOs is digital transformation: the combination of social, mobile, cloud, data, and apps in the enterprise. So what will a “social business” look like in 2020? According to Forrester Research Director Christopher Mines, “The CIO will play the role of orchestrator and integrator of external services and service providers instead of internally building and owning such applications directly, while at the same time directing more front-end, customer-facing work.” Effective CIOs will take responsibility for turning innovation into business value. (Doesn’t that sound similar to what today’s marketers do?)
What do you think will happen in the future Please share your thoughts – this conversation isn’t going anywhere. On the contrary, as business becomes more social-centric, this topic will become even more important.
Image Credit: Thanks to Vala Afshar for sharing a presentation featuring quote by Mark P. McDonald (@markpmcdonald).
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.
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