Marketing and IT: A Lovefest?

I attended the Marketing Operations Cross Company Alliance (MOCCA) Executive Forum last week in San Francisco. For those of you who are not familiar with this group, it is composed of people in marketing operations leadership roles, primarily in b-to-b companies. True to its Silicon Valley roots, members mostly come from technology companies, although MOCCA’s ranks are growing with companies from other industries. There are two chapters, one based on the West Coast and one in Washington, D.C.

We held an interesting Oxford-style debate on the topic of whether the “ownership” of marketing technology should be with IT or the marketing organization. One side took the position that marketing should be the absolute ruler of its technology and IT should butt out, and the opposing position was that IT was far better staffed and equipped to plan, procure and manage technology than marketing.

While the debate style forced the participants into extreme positions, I am a natural contrarian and hold a hybrid perspective. There are important areas that really force marketing and IT to collaborate, but collaboration should start with recognition of the other side’s perspective.

A big technology transition is taking place within b-to-b marketing organizations, and it is completely transforming the discipline. In order to be competitive, marketing is automating processes and developing sophistication around the management of data. As technology adoption evolves, the information management problem will transcend the marketing, sales, product and finance organizations.

I believe that marketing operations is the CIO of marketing. Marketers are the domain experts of marketing, not IT. Marketing is best equipped to determine what marketing needs to achieve with technology. There are many systems that marketers need to use and “live” in every day. It is the role of marketing operations to plan, manage and operate them.

However, marketing cannot live on an island of automation. Here are a couple areas to think about:

As marketers internalize the need to systematize their work, they will push the bounds of their problem solving into areas like analytics that require uniform data from across the company. They will need IT to help provide access to the data they need. The last thing a marketer needs to be doing is chasing down a database in sales or finance and building a connector to it in order to optimize opt-out behavior or determine the right tactic mix in a sales region.

As the use of systems and the sharing of information expands from workgroups to other organizations, partners and customers, information security requirements will expand. This is the domain of IT and not marketing, and in order to implement it effectively, each organization needs to understand how information security and the marketing systems need to interact.

As vendors like Microsoft and Oracle blend marketing automation platforms, sales force automation and marketing resource management, this will force systems integration between sales, marketing and finance. IT is best suited to manage this challenge.

Although the marketing organization was among last to embrace technology and automate, that ship has sailed. Today’s marketing organization is no longer the place for people who hate math. But IT is no longer the domain of the high priests of technology who dictate how “users” will be allowed to use systems. Each organization, with its unique mix of culture, size, skills and flexibility, will reach a different conclusion about how much collaboration should take place between marketing and IT. But one thing is clear: Both marketing and IT need to learn how to work together.

One final note: Take our marketing and sales operations survey. You can find it HERE.

About the Author

Craig Moore is Service Director, Marketing Operations Strategies, at SiriusDecisions. His three decades of experience span such areas as marketing operations, partner marketing, strategic alliances, product marketing and management, software development and entrepreneurship. Follow Craig on Twitter @cramoore.


4 Comments

  • Barbara Bernard, 19th February 2013 at 9:43 am

    Reply

    This is a very timely and interesting topic, one very close to the reality that many of us marketers are facing today. My question is this: 1: do you have a marketing operations team, and 2: do you have IT support? If you are fortunate enough to have marketing operations, they should lead the charge and build the requirements for marketing automation, identify metrics and ensure the process of lead management is operational.

    Modern day IT from what I am seeing is becoming outsourced and out of touch with the business. But they must minimally build the bridges between systems. Marketing must understand the numbers and analysis, but they have far too much to do to become programmers.

  • Richard Fouts, 19th February 2013 at 11:26 am

    Reply

    Excellent advice. I believe the rift between the two organizations is about time. Marketing works on different timetables than IT; and they can get a meeting with a vendor a lot faster than getting IT’s attention, let alone getting them to show up at a meeting. But marketers, as you note, will need IT as they move into a data driven organization. Marketing Sherpa just noted that 39% of marketers want to use data from multiple sources to make predictions. That of course, isn’t something you leap into, especially if you have no experence with data warehousing and business intelligence. The scores from predictive models are only as good as the data they process, and marketers will need IT for the data prepaation phase, something that even IT people dread – but analysts know how important it is. I predict (pun intended) that when marketers get serious about predictive analytics, they will need their IT counterparts badly.

  • Craig Moore, 19th February 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Reply

    Richard, thanks for your comment. I agree that time-frames for marketers and IT are different. Closely related to time-frames is the notion of process – which also helps feed the discontinuity between the two organizations. IT thinks about the process of adding users, resources, and the steps to manage security. Marketers want solutions to address the business problems they are addressing in the immediate term and aren’t thinking about the requirements for provisioning resources and infrastructure. It is Marketing Operations that will help bridge the divide.

  • Agha Mehdi, 19th February 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Reply

    It must’ve been a very interesting debate with leaders from both sides hugging it out. However, as you know, these are not the only two organizations needing the tech arm to support their business. Other functional areas are needing the “automation” offered by technology too. Their customer satisfaction index is dropping like a rock because marketing automation doesn’t have modules for them and IT has its own priority list. These groups have two options; employ their own tech arms or just wait it out. Both these options are bad customer experience. IMO, there should be a single technology ownership of the entire customer engagement pipeline from the first customer touch-point through his every single interaction with the company. That will provide customers with a unified experience instead of having to deal with all these verticals using disconnected systems. These customer facing business units like marketing, sales, distribution, support, billing, IT, legal should sit together and form a single E-business entity. E-business will be responsible for providing integrated automation across business units, which will help streamline business functions, remove redundant processes and technology and provide ease of doing business to customers.


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