IT & Marketing — A New Age for Old Rivals?

It was estimated four years ago that by 2017, CMOs will spend more money on IT than CIOs. In a world of drag ’n’ drop, plug ’n’ play and WYSIWYG, that prediction is rapidly turning true as the marketing department has become more empowered and capable of doing a lot of tasks by themselves — tasks, that used to belong under IT department’s jurisdiction. Phil Pavitt, Silicon.com’s ‘Top 50 CIOs’ for four years in a row, says it like it is: “Speed, cost, ubiquity and the secureness of solutions encourage business teams to buy direct. Codeless integration, highly secure apps and an ‘anything as a service’ set of solutions drive this behaviour.” And we couldn’t agree more, but, the way we see it, the IT department isn’t dead. Instead its role has changed pervasively and permanently.

Gone are the days when IT’s job was to set up office infrastructure and install printer software. The workforce is more tech-savvy than ever, important files and apps can be accessed through cloud, and BYOD is the new normal. So when you really think about it, it makes a lot of sense that marketers are becoming more independent on their “IT-related” purchases and work tasks. Too bad this notation hasn’t translated well into intercompany alignment or affected the stereotypical views both departments (too often) have of each other.

The truth is that marketing is now enjoying the same centric position in companies that IT had 15–20 years ago. Back then, technology and commercialization of the Internet transformed entire company cultures and business models, and basically every major roadmap decision went through the CIO first. Since then IT has faded, more or less, to the background of the business, taking care of the legacy systems that once were the backbone of a company’s success.

Now marketing has stolen the spotlight with customer-centric ideologies, cost transparency, and clear value propositions — all of which IT departments aren’t exactly famous for. And since online is such a major business channel across all industries nowadays, marketers are increasingly involved with CRO, SEO, and essentially in all digital customer journeys and experiences. All of these things used to be considered IT’s job.

What many companies fail to realize however, is that when marketing and IT work together, both can achieve more than they could alone. During our Frosmo Experience 2015 event, one Marketing Director told us how their company has embraced this synergy between the two departments, and got a lot out of it in return:

“That technology and experience [that marketing department now has] is great for us. We can take things off the [IT department’s] roadmap, we can do experiments quicker and get those out of the door quicker than they ever will. We can show if it fails or is super successful, so that they can concentrate on core roadmap development.”

Another great example of this convergence comes in form of schema markup language. That’s basically HTML tagging. Sounds like an IT-ish job, doesn’t it? Wrong. Schema is all about marketing, as pages with schema markup rank four positions higher in search results, according to a study by Searchmetrics. So just another SEO trick for digital marketer’s toolbox.

Search result for a pancake recipe. The power of proper markup really shines on the top result.

Marketing keeps taking more responsibility on every day operative and technological tasks related to online service development. Albeit changed, the IT department still has a role to play. They need to have more focus, and at the same time build trust towards the company’s other departments — marketing included. Extracting tangible value from cloud services and IT third-parties is still completely on IT’s shoulders, and depending on their level of success (in executing these operations, it is still highly likely that IT can have a major impact on business profitability and even work culture.

The redefined role and thinking is well summarized on Mr. Pavitt’s ‘guide to fundamentally reinventing the IT department’:

“Role — the IT team needs to sit down and look realistically at where they are, re-evaluate what the business now wants and redefine their role in partnership with the business, this is painful and honest but critical to resus the IT team.
Business centric — the IT team needs to redesign how it thinks, operates and relates to all aspects of the business. Design must be business-centric, give all your projects away to business leaders, become the signpost for tech and driving true partnership.”

This new age of working, testing, learning and experimenting fast is something we’ve been evangelizing for a while now. Gartner agrees, predicting that by 2018 CIOs who build strong relationships with CMOs will drive a 25% improvement in return on marketing technology investment. We want to embrace the collaboration of marketing and IT departments (both inside and outside of our company), because in the end both are made of people, who are simply empowered by technology. These two are not diametrically opposed; together and in collaboration they present the way of the future which every company should strive for.


Originally published at frosmo.com on January 26, 2016.