The CMO: now with added IT power! Four pointers for dealing with IT from a marketing leader’s perspective.

The one hot topic in B2B marketing last week was the acquisition of Eloqua by Oracle. One of the most interesting aspects of the acquisition from my personal perspective was the reaction within my company. Instead of me asking the IT department what the implications could be for us, this time the questions came to me. The questions that I received reinforced the shift in the relationship between most corporate IT departments and the lines of business that they serve that has taken place over the past few years.

Marketing has been no exception. Many analysts believe that marketing will be one of the core areas of growth for IT spending over the next few years. So marketeers are becoming increasingly knowledgable about their requirements and IT departments often cannot learn about the specialist solutions that we need quickly enough or with sufficient depth, so they are relying on us to tell them what they need.This places many marketing leaders in an unfamiliar position: they have to really engage IT for the first time in order to do their jobs effectively and this requires us all to take a new approach and to develop a new set of competencies.

I have been focused in this area over the past twelve months, as we developed both our marketing automation strategy and our marketing performance reporting and I have identified four main pointers for working more effectively with IT:

  1. IT is not the enemy! Your IT department is not the enemy, but they may have a different agenda to you, whether it be a lack of resources or a concern about the potential impact of what you want on their wider architecture. Marketeers have a habit of oversimplification (it’s our job, after all), but take the time to understand what drives your colleagues and never assume that what may be genuine concerns are simply IT acting in a dogmatic fashion. You are more likely to succeed in convincing them to help you if they believe that you are taking their motivations seriously.
  2. Take the time to explain your agenda and what your IT priorities will deliver to the business. Very often there will be a lack of understanding of the solutions that you are proposing and so you may find that there is a tendency to reduce the understanding of the solution you are proposing to a lowest common denominator. For example, a marketing automation solution is reduced to an email distribution tool: and with this reduction comes cynicism from IT about whether you really need a specialist solution with all the extra cost and effort that it involves. So take the time to build a robust business case and explain the subtle but important differences that underpin your need for specialist marketing technology.
  3. Don’t assume that IT knows more about the technology than you do. Your IT department has to cover the full spectrum of your business, so it’s unrealistic to expect them to understand marketing solutions in any great level of depth. Your responsiblity is to have a wider and deeper understanding of the technology that you need, including its capabilities, competition and whether it is likely to fit into your wider IT architecture. This is a broader challenge than most marketeers have ever faced, but it is necessary to ensure that you get the results that you crave.
  4. Define success together. Last, but certainly not least, define what success looks like together and ensure that you are generous in your praise of your colleagues. Changes in marketing technology are a challenge for both of you, so make sure that you are prepared to succeed – and fail – together. That way you will lay the foundations for what is likely to become an enduring relationship over the next few years.

This approach seems to have worked quite well for us so far, even if changes sometimes takes longer than I would like, but I would be interested to know what ideas you have for working effectively with your IT team?

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