5 ways marketing and IT can work better together
What's your relationship with your IT team? Adversarial? Collaborative? Non-existent? Here's how to drive better results with good teamwork.
Change is our only constant these days. What makes this era of change so challenging within organizations is it often affects our relationships with others.
The relationship between IT and marketing, especially marketing data, is one example affected by constant change. Here’s how.
A look at IT and marketing data’s relationship
Technology is developing exponentially. Emerging tech will experience a growth of 104% by 2023, according to Statistica. That growth is in a market representing hardware, data centers and semiconductors that reached $1.4T in 2021.
Now couple this technology growth with the ever-changing face of marketing where technology is having a profound impact. More marketing tasks are being automated requiring fewer people. Artificial intelligence dynamically manages customer responses and requests. Experiential marketing efforts are deploying virtual or augmented reality environments at a staggering pace and all these changes affect the data on which marketing is ever more reliant.
In this cacophony of activity, it is often difficult to see where the line between IT and marketing should be drawn when it comes to data. The rapid pace and changing face of organizations simply mean that marketing and IT must come together to solve their challenges.
In this environment, there are ways to ensure that marketing recognizes, develops and maintains a solid working relationship with IT. Here are five ways to get started.
1. Seek first to understand
About 78% of IT people think they work collaboratively with marketing. The sad news is that only 58% of marketers agree that is the case. This 20% gap allows for a fair amount of disagreement and is often caused by a lack of understanding on both sides.
One of the most important first steps in pulling together IT and marketing data is to understand the other side. Look at these practical things that can be done to learn more about the other organization.
Develop a one-day workshop for marketing and IT that talks through just the language of the two groups. For example, IT learns the acronyms in marketing (CMS, CTA, PPC, SEO). And marketing learns IT’s TLA (three-letter acronyms), such as OT, DNS, MWB, PGP. These are only the start. Both marketing and IT are very fond of jargon, including:
- CMS – Content management systems
- CTA – Call to action
- PPC – Pay per click
- SEO – Search engine optimization
- OT – Operational technology
- DNS – Doman name system
- MWB – Malwarebytes
- PGP – Pretty Good Privacy
Also, marketing must explain the processes and tools that they use to the IT team, who in turn can explain how each of the tools works. This may sound like a waste of time for those already involved in IT and marketing operations, but often for the wider audiences, this is new, fascinating information. This also gives both teams the opportunity to display their stars by giving them key spotlights.
Create an intern program internally between marketing data and IT where you exchange resources for a quarter. This may appear difficult, but it can be managed if the exchanges are well-selected from both sides. Sometimes picking a middle manager is the key to this exchange.
Hold quarterly summits hosted by the CIO and the CMO. In these summits, highlight what the teams have achieved and how they are working together. Show off the data and how it has impacted both organizations. Make sure that both executives attend and they show their collaborative techniques through their interactions. Remember, the speed of the team is the speed of its leaders.
2. Don’t duplicate capabilities
In some organizations that have not been functioning well, the tendency is to duplicate capabilities. For example, marketing will create an IT function to manage data or IT will segment their technologists by the area that they serve, making an IT marketing team.
In these cases, marketing sometimes will argue that not all IT capabilities need to be in IT and there are some functions such as personalization development that marketing should have some control over. And the argument can have merit.
However, the teams need to be coordinated, especially related to data management. Organizations need to have uniform control and governance over all their data and marketing and all other departments need to avoid duplicating the capabilities IT already has.
If your company is organized into IT and marketing teams, you will need to begin the work of delineating roles and responsibilities between your marketing data technology team and IT. The most important decisions you will need to make are those associated with who swims in what lane.
Marketers should remember that IT can provide a lot of value in developing databases and creating the infrastructure for managing data. IT’s expertise is developing databases and managing systems as well as helping automate marketing processes and providing triggers for key events.
However, marketing often must engage new ways of going to market, faster than their IT team can respond. Take for example the rise of podcasts in the marketplace and the data generated from these events. Marketing may need that capability tomorrow and IT might have a problem with building it in that timeframe.
This situation often leads to marketing engaging outside agencies for the technology allowing them to move faster and react to trends. But, it may cause problems when trying to integrate data back into the company’s systems.
If agencies must provide new capabilities, make sure that what they develop is supported by IT and that IT can pick up the maintenance of systems or processes if necessary.
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3. Build processes that allow time and space for collaboration
This may sound like a simple action to take but consider that each department is doing its best to keep up with its own daily demands. Building time for collaboration isn’t usually on anyone’s calendar.
Here are some examples of how you can create time and space for collaboration:
Have a Monday morning stand-up session to align marketing and IT. Invite the marketing operations VP and the IT director for a 15-minute meeting to talk about what will happen during the week and the actions they are taking that will affect the other team members.
Create teams of both IT and marketing that are dedicated to a single project. For example, dedicate two IT data specialists to the team with two marketing personalization specialists and give them the task of developing a system for personalizing customer interactions. Give the team visibility, highlight their progress and recognize their contributions both with IT and marketing.
Build collaboration time into your annual planning. This sets the tone and pace for the two organizations and helps create environments that genuinely support both organizations. Also, don’t forget that collaboration really begins when each team member feels respected and engaged. The occasional “after work” gathering helps to generate camaraderie. Other little things make a big difference. For example, my favorite project with IT required two simple things: A special project room with a dilapidated couch and cupcakes every Friday.
Consider where each party plays in your key processes. Your lead management process may be greatly helped by an IT specialist helping to manage the scoring of each lead ensuring that the lead is scored correctly and delivered to the most appropriate resource to follow up. IT may catch issues with systems that marketing specialists won’t.
4. Create special processes and environments for data and analytics and sales
Most often the tasks that fall between IT and marketing are those that deal with data. After all, data is the lifeblood of marketing. IT systems collect, secure and manage this lifeblood making marketing highly dependent on some aspects of IT. Because data is so important this is often the place where the fissure between IT and marketing is most evident.
Marketing needs data about its customers — what they buy, when they buy it and which channel they use for purchases. Most likely, this information is not in the marketing systems that manage emails, events and the leads from these activities, but usually in an ERP or CRM system that is part of IT’s infrastructure consideration.
Managing these corporate systems puts IT under pressure to follow guidelines like the Sarbanes–Oxley Act for finance and the California Privacy Protection Act (CPPA) for data protection.
Although marketing may be aware of these constraints, their major concern is communicating to customers and potential customers product information as clearly and rapidly as possible. This difference in approach to data has caused many marketing organizations to build their own data sources at the expense of millions of dollars.
Because of this difference in operating model, some companies have found it beneficial to set up a chief data office. This office is often run by a professional that understands data and its usage. Although they may report to the chief information office, it probably has autonomy over the data that flows through systems for all functions in the organization.
Increasingly, we are seeing this data function, coupled with analytics, as a major force in driving corporate growth. The best practice is to also include a marketing focus in the data office. This gives marketing the capability to use a host of corporate data and provides a structured IT capability.
One of the areas that will still require marketing and IT collaboration is the acquisition of data to supplement and complement the corporate dataset. IT, responsible for the infrastructure, will have concerns about entering data from other sources into their systems. Marketing needs this capability to expand their understanding of their existing clientele as well as prospects. Having this function managed by a data office is important for both IT and marketing.
Dig deeper: Why we care about data-driven marketing
5. Develop and manage joint goals and KPIs
We all know that we manage what we measure. But measurement for IT and marketing is often quite different and can result in misalignment between the organizations.
Take, for example, the measurements for lead management. IT metrics will consider how rapidly the leads are moved from one stage of the cycle to another. Although marketing will want that information as well, they will also need to know the status of the lead when it makes that move.
IT will be concerned with the systems managing leads and how they operate — their uptime, their throughput and their availability to users. Although marketing will appreciate these metrics, they will want additional information about lead quality, lead acceptance and lead potential value.
Working together, IT and marketing can develop the right metrics to help manage each process. Developing a joint scorecard helps both teams better understand their impact on the other.
IT and marketing work better together
IT and marketing are two quite different disciplines each moving at a different pace within the organization.
Marketing’s job is to use data to constantly test new messages and ideas with customers — using that information in communications both internally and externally.
IT has structured concepts and processes that they must live by to provide the consistent, high-performing infrastructure that a company needs.
Both departments benefit from each other and together can be the powerhouse that generates growth for a company.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.