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Why IT and marketing should go out for coffee (or something stronger)

Sandra Gittlen | Aug. 19, 2013
Sophisticated marketing initiatives that rely heavily on analytics and back-end systems integration are inspiring IT and marketing pros to collaborate more closely.

TruGreen Landcare CIO George Kelly is a realist. He not only knows the business-critical role of marketing at the nationwide commercial landscaping and property care company, but also that if IT doesn't meet that department's needs, they'll look elsewhere.

"It's incumbent upon every CIO to understand that marketing, along with sales, is where our bread is buttered. And if you don't serve that customer, someone else will," he says.

So what does Kelly do to make sure he is lockstep with marketing? Mingle with their team leaders whenever possible. "If we're at a corporate meeting or a business meeting, I'll sit next to marketing as well as grab a drink with them afterward," he says.

Establishing a rapport with marketing is becoming increasingly important for IT, according to Laura McLellan, vice president of marketing strategies at Gartner. While it might seem like a no-brainer that marketing would turn to internal IT to get their digital business done, McLellan finds the opposite is far more common as spending on technology-enabled marketing services from external providers skyrockets. "In most companies, marketing has a separate budget and controls its own technology destiny," she says.

In the past, marketing's rogue technology strategy may not have caused much uproar external providers could be used to get a Web site or email campaign up and running faster than IT could or had desire to. However, McLellan says the new sophisticated era of marketing, which relies heavily on analytics and mobile access to information in back-end systems such as ERP, could force a new bond with internal IT.

Everybody understands that you can't do marketing without technology anymore, but a lot of change has to happen in IT for marketing to come a-callin', she says. 

Robert Juliano, vice president and CIO at Brandywine Realty Trust in Radnor, Pa., agrees with McLellan's assessment regarding drivers for improved collaboration between IT and marketing. In his world real estate marketing has become increasingly analytics driven as well as dependent upon data from social media and the cloud.

The nature of today's data, which is increasingly unstructured, creates more complexity than marketing is used to, causing executives to at some point call in IT for an assist, even if they've initially worked with external providers. Juliano says it's better for IT to be in the loop ahead of time than to play catch-up once application frameworks are in place.

Juliano doesn't blame marketing, though, for this outcome. "Marketing and IT have different personalities," he says. For example, marketing is creative and fast moving, and IT is structured and held to a budget.

His company felt the burden of the chasm between the two departments firsthand. In the past, IT would take weeks to render server farm models for projects marketing was counting on for immediate revenue. "Our marketing department was being choked by technology," he says.


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