It is no secret that the rapid rise of digital and social content online has forced nearly every company at some point, to think of themselves as a technology company.
As a recent article in the Harvard Business Review highlights, despite having a new arsenal of digital weapons, marketers are still struggling to adapt and leverage technology to accelerate growth, inspire loyalty and most importantly build unique customer experiences.
On average, 60% of a marketers’ time is devoted to digital marketing activities, fuelling demand for digital marketing skills.
(CMO Council, November 2015)
Time to rethink the game
Now more than ever IT departments must abandon their roles as “gate-keepers”and instead focus on advising and collaborating with marketing teams. Both sides need to work together so the entire organization may capitalize on opportunities presented by the penetration of digital tools and platforms. Despite the realization of many within the marketing community, that technology and digital content are worthy investments of time and money, many are struggling to keep up with the pace of innovation and growth. It is clear that in order for companies to succeed their IT and Marketing teams need to significantly improve the way they execute together.
Two-thirds (66 percent) say their efforts in this area are hit or miss, and 14 percent say they are completely missing the mark.
(CMO Council, January 2016)
Often I have seen things lost in translation as the marketing team is considered too eager to deploy a software tool for a campaign, whilst the the IT team is criticized for being too rigid with security protocols and too slow with installing marketing staff computers with urgently needed software updates. Fortunately, there are some best practices that organizations can employ to shorten the divide between marketing and IT executives.
Purposeful incorporation and alignment
As a former software salesperson, I worked with many marketing executives in getting their buy-in to test out our solutions. Unfortunately on more than one occasion despite having their full support when it came to installing and deploying on a mass scale, an IT executive would put their hand up and voice their angry objection to not being included in the decision. Marketing and IT executives must remember they are playing for the same team. It should standard operating procedure for both sides, to seek each other’s participation when it comes to making decisions around digital strategy, execution and tools.
By purposefully incorporating marketing and IT stakeholders into decisions, the company as a whole can ensure a strong alignment with each side’s requirements. Marketing teams will be able to get faster access to the tools they need without exposing unnecessary risks to the enterprise structure and they may even benefit from the strategic advice from their IT counterparts on how to evaluate between vendor solutions. IT teams will be able to avoid nasty surprises during the implementation phase and they will also be able to identify key synergies and exposures with existing systems, that could improve efficiency and help save costs.
Breaking the Chinese wall
We are all aware of the stereotypes and interdepartmental politics that occur within our companies – it is the responsibility of senior leadership on both sides to demolish the separation that exists between their subordinates when it comes to communicating on key projects. Often these meetings take place when things go wrong and usually it is more of a blame game that results in bruised egos and wasted time. By ensuring there is regular and open communication on key projects and long-term planning – both marketing and IT members will be able to learn from each other and prioritize what objectives need to accomplished first to achieve the overall mission of the organization. Organizations should try to embed marketing and IT employees together to encourage better collaboration and capacity building.
Step into each other’s shoes, not on each other’s toes
Empathy is the name of the game here – as much as recognizing how IT and marketing are similar and have the same goals is important – it is also recommended that leaders from both sides understand the key differences in their missions. IT executives should step into the shoes of their customers, the marketing team to better understand their frustration and to help identify the barriers they could remove to improve the customer experience. Marketers need to learn why IT is so stringent in areas such as data security and infrastructure protection in relation to their own work so as not to unnecessarily push the limits.
More than a third of CMOs say that digital marketing will account for 75% or more of their spending within the next five years. – CMO Council, November 2015)
Things will not change overnight, there will always be some form of tension and tug of war between the marketing and IT teams. It is those organizations whose leaders will continuously push their teams on both sides to work together in a manner that fosters communication, inclusion and empathy who will be able truly reap the benefits of the digital disruption that will propel their business to new heights.
Ali Hanif specializes in sales enablement and driving growth for businesses by focussing on the customer experience, through content and communications. Get in touch with Ali by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.