Digital Marketers and IT folk must become more interdependent

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Gartner says IT budgets should be taken off the IT Department and given to the line-of-business departments. By 2015, they say 35% of IT spend will be outside the IT Department’s control (largely thanks to Cloud) and Marketing Departments will become the new chief holder of IT budgets.

Is this really a good idea? Does the CMO really want to morph into a shadow IT Director? I think not. Smart CMOs see IT as a means to an ends. IT should enable marketing goals – sustainable revenue growth and customer retention and loyalty for example. No self-respecting CMO will take responsibility for big IT projects involving systems integration, IT project management, and user acceptance testing and training and so on unless they are completely mad and want a short career.

IT management should not be a required CMO skill. CMOs may be highly proficient on their iPhones and iPads, but this does not mean they should understand the technical complexities and vagaries of big data management.

The IT Department must continue to be involved with Marketing’s procurement of IT – even if only as a gatekeeper in a ‘check and balance’ role. Although technology is now easier and less of ‘a black box’ in regards to usage, it’s also becoming ever more complex to manage in many other ways. New versions of software become available every few weeks or months, new devices and screen sizes need to be supported, operating systems come and go (NB Nokia’s Symbian and Linux’s decline), and new apps are launched on an almost daily basis. It’s chaos out there, and someone qualified in IT needs to manage the underlying technical aspects of marketing automation.

Marketing needs help from the IT Department so it can reach its customers digitally across multiple devices and channels, and introduce new innovative technologies for the Marketing Department’s own use. Sure, Marketing has experts who can execute email campaigns or review web site analytics, but when things go wrong, as they will, it’s the IT Department they run to. Marketers love funky new apps and cool user graphical interfaces, but don’t expect them to write or debug a piece of code.

In fact, Marketing will be more reliant on IT involvement going forward, rather than less. Marketing Departments are full of a myriad of cheap and open source marketing apps which don’t scale, integrate, or have a common user interface. Many are heavily customised. This has created over-reliance on a few marketing individuals who can work these systems, and after an initial burst of progress, productivity can easily stagnate.

Yes it’s true, some marketing systems have been purchased without the blessing of the IT Department. Ever-optimistic marketers have been lured by a promise that systems didn’t need IT involvement (“IT’s involvement will just slow everything down…” vendors say) but the reality has turned out somewhat different. Cloud solutions are easier to manage and deploy, but they are not always an IT-free panacea.

Digital marketers need multiple databases and multiple feeds to create a single view of the customer, and address customers’ real and implied needs. However, many marketers have struggled with even extracting base legacy CRM systems data and integrating it with marketing data. As Gartner might say, somewhat deliciously, “the trough of disillusionment follows . . .”

To summarise, CMOs should seek to collaborate with the CIO and the IT Department to achieve its goals, rather than circumvent them, encouraged by salespeople in search of a quick deal. The rapid change in the data-driven way that Marketing now does its business, and the rising importance of digital commerce and digital device use for customers makes a combined (CMO + CIO) approach to digital marketing an increasing business necessity.