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.

 
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