Sunday, April 13, 2014

What Marketing wants from IT

Today marketing technology products is fully digital. Product Marketing is a big user of big data analytics. The potential benefits of data analytics for marketing is immense. Marketing has been an early adopter of cloud SaaS services www.salesforce.com.

In this business environment, marketing needs more than just a plain vanilla tech services from IT departments.  To succeed, CMOs need more that the traditional application hosting, support, security services. CMOs need IT departments to be an active partner and help leverage technology to develop cutting edge marketing initiatives such as predictive analysis, creating custom offers etc.

This new jobs will be in addition to the current role of keeping the infrastructure running and the systems secure. As a product manager, I am involved in several product marketing initiatives and I interact with several CIOs. These interactions have given the insight into these new requirements.

1. Enable Big Data Analytics

The IT systems are collecting tones of data. But this data is locked up by IT in different silos. Marketing needs to access this data in real time to run data analytics. CMOs need IT to provide access to these multiple data sources in an integrated way - i.e, provide a quick, safe and secure access to the data lake to run their data analytics.

Managing, collecting and making use of internal and external data is one of their top five challenges, according to more than 500 marketing professionals who responded to IBM's 2013 Global Survey of Marketers.

2. Help to measure new KPIs

Social media, viral marketing, multi-channel customer engagements, and big data analytics are creating new key performance indicators, or KPIs. CMOs understand the value of these new KPIs but often struggle to measure it.  Marketing needs help in measuring parameters of time taken at the billing section, time taken for servicing a customer request etc. Getting these new KPIs helps marketing to optimize & improve all customer interactions and deliver a truly outstanding experience that matches the company's brand promise.

IT needs to understand the new KPIs and then help marketing by building IT systems to measure it. Thereby helping marketing to succeed.  This implies that IT must go beyond the back-office functions and become an active technology partner in marketing activities.

3. Help to remove shadow IT & manage technology expenses

Marketing works at a pace which is much faster than what their internal IT can support. So often times, marketing chiefs create a shadow IT - by outsourcing some IT function - such as creating & hosting specific websites, or subscribing to a SaaS or PaaS or IaaS services. While outsourcing & creating a shadow IT helps, it also costs more. So over a period of time, the cost of maintaining shadow IT becomes prohibitively expensive.

CMOs want their IT departments to eliminate this shadow IT by bringing back the external hosted sites/applications in-house and by consolidating all the outsourced IT services.

According to Gartner report, by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than will CIOs.  So CMOs want IT to bring its technology expertise, knowledge of existing infrastructure and newfound understanding of marketing's objectives/KPIs to bear in helping marketing make the best investment decisions.

CMOs want IT to guide/assist/help in selecting technology platforms and provide data on viable IT systems that meets the business needs.

4. Faster Turnaround time please... 

One reason why CMOs use shadow IT is due to the fact that their own internal IT department cannot service them in a timely manner. Today marketing campaigns are planned and executed in days. For examples a road show is planned, and a web site has to be created for the event in 3 days. The CMO approaches IT with this request, but IT needs 4-6 weeks to test and host the web site! Such a long turnaround time is unacceptable for CMO and they end up outsourcing to a third party or signing up for a cloud service.

5. Enable a faster pace of  Business

Smart Phones & Tablets have changed the pace of marketing. Customers now have access to Internet from anywhere anytime. Added to this mix is the mobile social media: Twitter & Facebook. This implies that customers are interacting with the company in new ways - which require faster response from marketing departments.

Marketing now has to handle all customer interactions -- outbound, inbound and those happening on social media in real time - and for that they need new technologies that allows them to interact with customers at any time in any of those media.

But the IT departments are still hesitant to support the new mobile platforms and insist on doing things the old way for security. For example, IT does not allow employees to carry corporate data in mobile fileshare app such as Dropbox.  In many organizations, IT is yet to embrace Virtual Desktops on Tablets.

This slows down the pace of business & CMOs want their IT departments to change from being a brake on business wheels to a booster rocket.

6. Create an Office of Chief Marketing Technology 

The fast changing landscape of technology - with mobile, cloud, Big data and IoT, it has become a necessity for marketing departments to have a specialized technology office - which looks at new and emerging technology and determines how/when/where to use these new technologies. Traditionally, new technology evaluation and validation was done by IT departments - but now CMOs are creating an Office of Chief Marketing Technology.

Chief marketing technologist is responsible for understanding both available and emerging marketing technology platforms and articulating how marketing can capitalize on them. They play a strategic roles and some cases tactical roles in terms of getting involved in procurement, or setting up marketing technology centers of excellence etc.

In many organizations, marketing departments lack the technical skills needed to create the Office of Chief Marketing Technology and they need help of their IT department to set it up.  In some of the large fortune-500 companies, the Office of Chief Marketing Technology also works with IT to run & maintain new technology platforms.

7. Let marketing run its own software systems 

To reach out and communicate with customers in real time, Marketing departments have stated to run their own software. New technologies such as big data analytics, Internet-of-things, Mobile apps etc. has created several new requirements - where Marketing wants to have hands-on control on the software systems, while IT runs all the backend infrastructure.

In this new paradigm of mobile & Cloud Apps, Marketing want to own and control customer experience by running the software - where marketing team can quickly alter design, develop a new user experience or create a new technology-driven marketing initiative, without doing lots of coding or fixing bugs.

CMOs want IT to empower marketing in how they interact and deliver personal experiences to customers. In this way, IT builds the backend infrastructure and creates an engagement layer - which interacts with marketing department to empower technology users.

For example, IT creates & maintains a big data platform - which marketing department runs to get real-time insights.

Closing Thoughts

Big data, social media and mobile technologies are shaking up the old world order. CMOs are eager to bridge the big gap between traditional marketing and IT to take full advantage of new technology driven opportunities for better customer engagement and higher ROI.

Some of the leading organizations have created shadow IT or mini-IT within marketing departments, but then they are now realizing its limitations and challenges.

The right solution is for IT to take a proactive steps and work with marketing departments to bridge the technology capability gaps and lead the transformation of how marketing teams engage customers.

Also see:


  1. Understanding Big Data
  2. Defining the Business Objectives for Big Data Projects
  3. Understanding Data in Big Data
  4. Next Technology Disruptor: Internet of Things

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