How Silos in the Marketing Organization Thwart Alignment with IT

Don Tennant
Slide Show

Eight Signs Your Team Is in Trouble

According to a global survey of marketing professionals by Teradata, 74 percent of the respondents said that marketing and IT are not strategic partners in their companies. That’s bad news for IT in any case, but IT pros might take some consolation in the finding that at least IT isn’t the real culprit.

Teradata, a Dayton, Ohio-based data analytics company, has found that a big reason for the disconnect is that marketing departments tend to be so siloed that there’s no coherent strategy for IT to help execute. I recently discussed this finding with Christy Uher Ferguson, director of applications communication strategy for Teradata Applications, who said that while marketing has made tremendous strides in the past few years in aligning with IT, the siloing is clearly hampering the effort:

Data-driven marketing is making the pace of change faster than ever before, so marketers have to constantly stay on their toes, working to drive this kind of collaboration. Siloing is particularly problematic for marketers internally, as well—not necessarily because marketing increasingly involves data, but because our departments are typically structured by function or tactic, like social media, content marketing, digital marketing, demand gen, etc., each operating as standalone departments under a single marketing umbrella. The diversity of marketing channels is exploding, and they’re all becoming more and more complex. So when each one of the standalone departments is driving its plans based on siloed metrics, achieving success across marketing as a whole will be much more difficult.

Uher explained that it’s easy for silos to crop up if each team within marketing is collecting its own data, and if the metrics by which each functional group is measured aren’t aligned:

For example, if digital marketing measures success by website traffic, but social media is only measured by visits to social media sites, such as SlideShare and Pinterest, there’s a disconnect. Marketers need to use all the information that’s available. They need to integrate it, so they can fully analyze it and get the best insights—silos make that kind of work impossible. Plus, silos can erode employee morale and create inter-office tension, which reduces efficiency, increases costs, and impacts the bottom line.

I asked Uher what steps the IT organization can take to help tear down the marketing silos in a company. She said first and foremost, IT needs to put the customer at the center of all it does:

Everyone—IT, marketing, sales, everyone—needs to be aligned around the customer experience you want your brand to deliver. Start communicating and creating cross-functional teams. Just make sure they are centralized and that each one is accountable for impact to the overall business goals. This will ensure that they are making the proper data-driven decisions to achieve long-term success for the business.

Uher said what will bring marketing and IT together is the data itself:

Today, companies will succeed or fail based on the strength of the customer experience they offer. Winners in the marketplace will deliver the ultimate, optimized customer experience, and the only way to do that is for marketing and IT to build that experience together. But what will bring marketing and IT together? Data. Data-driven marketing provides insights that lead to business opportunities, and those business opportunities—the potential for revenue, profit, customer retention and ROMI (return on marketing investment)—are so powerful that they can move everyone onto the same page. Most companies aren’t there yet, though. Our global survey found that even though 75 percent of marketing executives say they’re planning to implement a big data analytics solution, only one in four believes their departments are true strategic partners with IT. That disconnect is a recipe for disaster.

When I asked whether Teradata markets its data analytics services to the marketing organization or to the IT organization, Uher indicated that it’s not an either/or proposition:

Teradata’s marketing analytics offering places the customer at the center of the business, to enable true data-driven marketing. By creating insights from customer data wherever it may reside in the enterprise—combining customer response and preference data, transaction history and details gained from other interactions—companies are empowered to track all activities that drive revenue for their business. Teradata doesn’t believe customer understanding belongs in any silo, whether it’s marketing or IT. Having a deeper understanding of your customer is a shared responsibility for all companies. Data is an asset that should be shared across the organization to discover patterns of behavior and pinpoint areas of opportunity to be leveraged by sales, marketing and customer service. While data collection has historically occurred most often within the IT organization, the analysis of that data is often the responsibility of customer insights managers or data scientists, who must work cross-functionally with both marketing and IT. Greater collaboration and partnership between the worlds of marketing and IT power deep, actionable understanding of the customer—and companies who drive their businesses with customer data are best positioned to win.

Finally, I asked Uher to elaborate on how data can help enhance the customer experience, and on IT’s role in making that happen. Her response:

If a marketer doesn’t have a holistic view of the customer, doesn’t understand their preferences, doesn’t know their engagement habits, the customer experience suffers. Let’s say a retailer doesn’t have its online and offline systems integrated. If a premium online customer walks into the store, the store personnel have no way of knowing that person is a premier customer—and the customer experience suffers as a result. Too many brands believe that because they are leveraging their customer data and using it, they are delivering a positive customer experience. However, using all the data together is what drives a great customer experience, and according to a McKinsey study, 70 percent of customers buy based on how they are treated. As for how IT can assist, it is truly about collaboration between marketing and IT, or between CMO and CIO, and the broader strategy of the company being driven by the C-suite. You might point readers to a post written earlier this year by our company president about why this need is so critical.

A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.

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