How to Overcome Marketing's Mistrust of IT

Ann All

Many CIOs are still trying to narrow the divide between IT organizations and other business units. Never easy, it's an even tougher task when the gulf is especially wide, as it apparently is between IT and marketing organizations.


In 2009 I wrote about a survey administered by the Chief Marketing Officer Council and the Customer Experience Board that found respondents blamed IT for "inadequate or incompatible IT systems or databases" that made it tough for marketing to deliver on offers and satisfy customers. Sadly it doesn't seem like a lot has changed in the past two years, at least not based on results of parallel surveys of marketing and IT leaders, again administered by the CMO Council.


While both sides agree marketing systems are not fulfilling expectations, they diverge on the reasons for lackluster performance, writes David M. Raab, a principal at the Raab Associates Inc. consultancy and author of "The Marketing Performance Measurement Toolkit," on Information Management. Not surprisingly, they mostly blame each other.


When asked to select the biggest marketing analytics issues or obstacles, CMOs' top responses were: marketing function not a priority for IT, named by 46 percent of respondents; insufficient budget and funding (44 percent); time and technical resources not available to help (41 percent); and lack of expertise and knowledge in IT organization (36 percent).


The only area in which technology executives even came close to agreeing with their marketing counterparts was the lack of budget, also named by 38 percent of CIOs. The other top issues or obstacles CIOs mentioned: solution complexity and integration difficulties (46 percent), marketing bypassing IT and working directly with vendors (39 percent) and marketing resources taking control and isolating IT (31 percent).


There's also major disagreement on the role IT should play in improving marketing effectiveness. CIOs named more strategic functions like delivering more timely and relevant transactional, behavioral and customer profile data (CMOs agreed with this one), furthering the use of social media and online listening and contact systems, and piloting new ways to engage the market using mobile, Internet and point-of-sale technologies. In contrast, CMOs focused on more operational issues like deploying better marketing execution and operational systems and platforms and assuring the integrity and availability of back-end infrastructures and interfaces.


More troubling statistics from the survey:

  • Only 54 percent of CMOs think their CIO understands marketing requirements. Seventy-six percent of CIOs believe their CMO understands marketing requirements. Hmm. If relations were better between the two sides, wouldn't all CIOs agree CMOs know how to do their jobs?
  • Just 25 percent of CMOs said they consulted with enterprise IT or other back-office groups when selecting marketing systems. Fifty-six percent of CIOs said they consulted with marketing. This obviously makes IT sound like more of a team player than marketing, but as Raab points out, 56 percent is hardly a figure to inspire pride.


Of all of the numbers above, the one about consulting with each other seems the most obvious cause contributing to the considerable friction between IT and marketing organizations. It doesn't seem right for three-quarters of CMOs to admit they do not consult with IT when selecting marketing systems and then complain the systems don't deliver good data. It's kind of like buying a hovercraft and then taking it to your auto mechanic and trusting him to fix it and keep it in perfect running order. After all, they both have engines, right?


But shame on the 44 percent of CIOs who apparently do not consult with marketing when selecting marketing systems. Do these CIOs think they know more about marketing needs and objectives than the folks actually working in marketing?


Just like so many relationship issues, I think the best way to tackle it is for both sides to first admit there's a problem. Both IT and marketing must acknowledge they are not doing enough to communicate with each other. A logical starting point might be getting groups together to come up with a short master list of marketing initiatives, prioritizing them from most to least important. Identify where IT guidance and support is needed. Pledge to work together and then do it.


Agree to keep project-related activities transparent. There's "never" a good reason to totally exclude IT from a technology selection process. And there's "never" a good reason for IT to totally take over a business project.


Obviously, it won't be easy. If projects go off the rails, keep referring to the master list and the responsibilities outlined in it. If a shift in responsibility is required, both sides should sign off on it.

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