EmpoweringABC.com
The Building Blocks of Business and Personal Success

Posted on: 15 Oct 2010
Link: http://empoweringabc.com/2010/10/15/w-is-for-winning-combinations-marketing-it/

EmpoweringABC.com
The Building Blocks of Business and Personal Success

Posted on: 15 Oct 2010

W is for Winning Combinations: Marketing + IT

Marketing and IT have traditionally been two completely separate disciplines.
– Marketing was outward looking, focused on customers and driving sales.
– IT was inward looking, focused on optimizing business operations.

Today, the synergy of these two functions can really give companies a competitive advantage.

But as I wrote a couple months ago, Marketing and IT people tend to have fundamentally different mindsets and getting them to play nice together can be a real challenge. What else can you do to promote communication, understanding, and friendship between the groups?

This entry was inspired by a post on Mitch Joel’s Twist Image Blog, The Time Is Ripe For A Chief Marketing Technologist, which was in turn inspired by Scott Brinker’s blog, Chief Marketing Technologist.

Two Worlds, One Family

Taking a line from Phil Collins’ song from the Disney adaptation of Tarzan, people need to remember that they are in the same family — the company they work for.

All too often in large organizations, business units operate as silos. There is very little interaction between the silos, and worse, silos become protective of their territory and can see other silos as adversaries rather than partners.

My other blog post was about building grassroots connections between Marketing and IT people. But a strong message from the company’s leaders would also be extremely valuable.

The CEO and the whole C-suite needs to send a clear message about
  1) why the organization exists
  2) what they are trying to accomplish, and
  3) how each functional group and individual plays a role in moving towards those goals.

Changing the internal mentality from an “us vs. them” to a “we’re all in this together” is powerful.

3 Lessons from the trenches

While in school I wanted to be a computer programmer. At university I fell in love with business and entered the world of PR and Marketing, and worked in that field for a number of years. After coming to Japan I was faced with a big language barrier, so I fell back on my technical skills to land a job. By chance I was hired to do video, web, and creative work with a heavy slant towards using technology tools.

Later I played both an advisory and production role for Corporate Communications (which covered marketing at these organizations) and I had to work closely with IT to make sure our content fit and could be delivered within the infrastructure without causing problems.

In essence, the work I was doing was bridging the gap between what Communications and Marketing needed, and what IT could deliver — although I never had such a lofty title as Chief Marketing Technologist! (if anyone wants to hire me as CMT, let’s talk!)

1. Play nice

The occasional jokes traded between Marketing and IT are symptoms of a deeper problem. The two groups usually don’t see eye to eye, so it’s really important to have a bigger goal to be working towards.

In project meetings, don’t forget to talk about “Why” you are trying to do something, not just “What” you want to do. Understanding Why a project is important to the whole company will help to get other people on board and move you more smoothly towards real outcomes.

Interpersonal skills are also very helpful in bridging the divide. The last thing you want is for a meeting between silos to look like warring factions talking about moving relief goods across the DMZ.

2. Demonstrated concern brings trust

One side often thinks the other just doesn’t “get it” because their mindsets are so different. But if you can break that mold and demonstrate that you understand and are genuinely concerned about what is important to the other people at the table, you have just gone a long way towards earning their trust. Trust that makes achieving your bigger picture goals a lot easier to achieve.

I’m talking about understanding priorities — not saying that Marketing people need to study IT and vice versa.

IT is primarily concerned with making sure that systems are online as close to 100% as possible.

You might have heard the IT saying, “Anything is possible as long as you have the time and resources to throw at it.”
Well, time and resources are usually limited, and so IT is always working within those constraints. There are usually things they would love to do, but simply cannot because there is no budget and no time. A new request from Marketing is often seen as encroaching even further into what they can achieve with their finite resources.

Marketing is faced with similar constraints. It’s easy to come up with grand ideas, but budget limitations usually means you need to pare things down.

Although IT may see Marketing as spending money on frivolous things, that is not the case. Marketing is ultimately aiming for the company’s business success which can provide more resources for IT to work with — but their methods are built around emotions and moving people, which may seem alien from an IT perspective.

3. Support, support, support

Despite what many people think, most IT departments are not in the software development business.

But IT is charged with making sure that any systems brought into the organization work properly all the time and intermingle with all the other systems that other groups are using. It can be a real mess.

That means that when someone says they want to implement a new system, IT needs to make sure that it won’t wreak havoc with current systems. They also need to make sure that support will be available when necessary.

As someone who grew into using free and open source software such as Linux, Apache and MySQL on web servers, and PHP and Perl CMS and e-commerce solutions, it took me a while to figure out why corporate IT departments were usually so against them… after all, they’re free!

But who will support you when something breaks? Free and open source is usually based on community development and community support. Finding a solution to a problem can sometimes take days or weeks. And that just doesn’t cut it with corporate IT.

When something goes wrong, they need to be able to pick up the phone and call the vendor for an immediate fix.

If you are making an appeal to IT, you need to understand that they are concerned about who is going to support you now and in the future. When they say “no” they may really be trying to look out for you.

Finding a mutually acceptable solution often means
  1) finding a solution with vendor support, and
  2) putting a time horizon on the project so IT knows they don’t need to support it “forever.”

I hope some of these ideas may prove useful to you. If you have any ideas or concerns about bridging Marketing and IT, please let me know!
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This entry was posted on Friday, October 15th, 2010 at 10:28 am and is filed under Business, English. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.