Marketing and IT — A Flourishing Partnership

CIOsynergy in Boston in August was a lively affair.  Along with a stellar keynote by John McAfee on the security dangers of mobile devices (your phone has likely been spying on you) and an introduction to ThingWorx, who provide a development platform for the Internet of Things, we had a diverse panel of CIOs to talk about the direction of enterprise IT, our successes and failures.  I was one of the panelists, joined by colleagues from Deloitte, NutriSavings, Loomis, Sayles and Co., East Boston Savings Bank and Boston Scientific.  Our moderator was Scott Shuster (formerly of ABC News, producer of NPR’s “All Things Considered”, Consulting Editor for McGraw-Hill and Business Week, to name a few of his accomplishments).

Scott asked me to comment on the recent spate of articles on the tension between IT and Marketing departments.  Forbes, for example, in its August 6, 2014, issue had an article on “How to avoid a CMO vs. CIO war”.  My take on this is: foolishness!

There are no wars.  IT can be a huge enabler for Marketing. Technology joins us at the hip.  We can be the “edge” that Marketing needs rather than be a back-ground “service” especially at a time when speed is of the essence.  But the secret sauce is really to look beyond technology.  IT must really understand the business outcomes that Marketing is seeking.  Marketing must understand that IT is more than a requirements-driven delivery engine – that it too, can be an idea-partner and not just an execution back-end.

Both Marketing and IT need to embrace a data-driven, business results oriented partnership.  It can be… joyous!  At Ipswitch, we just completed a huge Closed Loop Marketing project that gives us 360 degrees of visibility to our marketing effectiveness with measurement and predictability.  It would have been tough to tell whether the IT guys or the Marketing folks were more driven or delighted by what they achieved.  But such camaraderie has to be encouraged.  Just a few weeks back, I had sent two IT folks, an applications development manager and a database admin to MarTech 2014, the big Marketing Technology conference in Boston.  It was two days; it was a paid event.  But my IT people accompanying their Marketing colleagues: priceless.  The conversations and excitement around what they had seen and what they saw as possible continued.  And, as I said, we just had our first pay-off.

It is time to shed the useless paradigms of competing departments, whether IT vs. Marketing, or Marketing vs. Sales.  We work for the same company and for IT and Marketing the aim is very much the same: creating competitive advantage.  We can do this together.