If you can’t beat ’em, go around ’em?

by

In his article The Case for a Chief Marketing Technologist, Scott Brinker argues that marketing should hire a technology professional within the marketing organization who understands the end-to-end technology tools and trends. I completely understand why Scott believes this is a good idea, but I think he is making a fatal assumption – that IT as a centralized service to an organization is too slow, too costly, too difficult to work with and has no understanding of marketing. Unfortunately, in too many companies, that’s exactly the situation.

However, I believe that his argument is myopic. If marketing makes technology decisions in a vacuum, you miss a great opportunity to pull in information from across the organization or even share your information with others. For example, about five years ago, I was working with one of the world’s largest automotive retailers. The customer information systems were completely siloed between sales and warranty service – which caused numerous customer service challenges. By fully integrating these systems, we were able to provide seamless customer interaction across the organization all the way from marketing through sales through service – with much happier customers the result. This project required the cooperation of multiple business units including automotive, parts, warranty and sales.

Secondly, by putting a Chief Marketing Technologist in the organization itself, you create shadow IT that tends to prioritize its own needs independently. While this may accelerate things in the short term, it can really cause headaches in the long term. Often, as departmental solutions grow is size and complexity, IT needs to be brought in causing big transitional hardships such as costs, downtime and loss of functionality.

I believe the better answer is for marketing and IT to forge stronger alliances. When selecting tools, engage with IT to support the process so that they can worry about things like security, integration, performance and cost. When looking to implement a new project, work with IT to see if other sources of customer data can be pulled in for analysis. Of course, this is a two way street. Today, too many IT shops are ineffective and have little understanding of marketing. CIO’s should be pushing IT to become more business focused. If they aren’t, you can always initiate the conversation yourself – I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed a close minded IT shop when business users are trying to treat them as partners.

At Merkle, we are often in the juxtaposition of marketing and IT. We make it our job to understand the business of marketing and provide value. We also make it our job to understand IT to make use of best in class solutions through the efficient use of technology systems. However, we find ourselves more and more engaging directly with senior technologists from IT at our client’s companies who see value in the services we provide and the data they could use across their organization. Finding ways for our clients to blur the lines between sales, marketing, IT and all other groups focused on the customer is what we strive for. It’s what all marketers should be striving for themselves…

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