7 things marketing wants to say to IT

As marketing becomes fully digital, CMOs need more than just plain-vanilla tech services from their IT departments -- much more.

Chief marketing officer David Perry knows exactly what he needs from his organization's IT department.

To maximize the success of his marketing strategies, he needs a CIO and a technology team that go beyond conventional support, Perry says -- he's looking for a partner that can help transform marketing. "The CIO has to have a broad view and help us figure out what works," says Perry, CMO at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass.

Of course, IT must continue to keep the infrastructure running and the systems secure. But these days especially, marketing needs more than that -- sometimes much more.

Computerworld caught up with several CMOs and marketing executives to find out what they'd ask of IT if they could speak frankly. Read on to discover their seven key requirements.

1. Understand our new KPIs

Many IT leaders aren't tuned in to what marketing does or how it measures success, says Gartner analyst Laura McLellan.

Social media, viral marketing, omnichannel customer engagement, big data -- those forces are each generating new key performance indicators, or KPIs, which are used to measure the marketing department's effectiveness.

"It's no longer about just acquiring a customer," explains Kevin Cochrane, the CMO at software company OpenText. CMOs must maximize a customer's total lifetime value, he explains, and that means marketing must optimize all customer interactions. "If you can deliver a truly outstanding experience that [matches] your brand's promise, you'll have a happy, engaged customer."

To reach that goal, CMOs need as much insight as possible into all customer interactions, from sales and servicing to billing and other experiences once considered back-office functions -- which is where IT can play a role.

"The technology team needs to understand what generates marketing success," says Glen Hartman, global managing director of digital consulting at Accenture Interactive. "There is so much pressure on CMOs to redefine KPIs -- they need to take the outcomes and new metrics and, from that, create heightened engagement."

2. Deliver on analytics

Everyone is talking about big data and analytics, but at many companies, data remains locked in multiple silos, says Shuba Srinivasan, marketing professor and academic co-lead of the Digital Technology Sector at Boston University's School of Management.

"Marketers really need integrated databases," Srinivasan says. "The CMO's job would be a lot easier if CIOs could provide an integrated solution that tracks from lead generation through sale and post-sale information such as returns and how customers interact with the company on social networks."

It's a critical area for marketing executives. In fact, "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.

3. Guide my technology spend...

According to Gartner, by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than will CIOs. Even so, marketing doesn't want to make its tech investments in a vacuum. CMOs want IT to bring its technology expertise, knowledge of existing infrastructure and (newfound) understanding of marketing's objectives to bear in helping marketing make the best investment decisions.

There are a lot of technology platforms out there, and it's very easy as a marketing organization to fall in love with bells and whistles. Bronwyn Monroe, NineSigma Inc.

"There are a lot of technology platforms out there, and it's very easy as a marketing organization to fall in love with the bells and whistles, but it comes down to business needs," says Bronwyn Monroe, marketing director for NineSigma Inc., a B2B services provider in Cleveland. "IT can be a first filter in terms of collecting the information on viable systems that fit our needs."

That guidance can extend through the evaluation phase, Monroe says. "When we get to the demo, I like to have everyone in the room to see it at the same time. The IT people pick up on red flags, whereas marketing is just thinking, 'Oh this is great.'"

Monroe says marketing at NineSigma always had an IT staffer help with technology evaluations, but now her department is trying to get IT more involved, soliciting more feedback about how potential technology investments can meet marketing's strategic goals.

4. ... but let me run my own systems

Yes, marketing wants helps making purchasing decisions, but it also wants more control of its own systems once they're up and running.

"Marketing needs to own the entirety of the customer experience," says OpenText CMO Cochrane. "I need new business capabilities, and I need to have complete control over system innovation. Let me have more control over the front-end experience. Let me run fast and expose new capabilities."

I need new business capabilities, and I need to have complete control over system innovation. Kevin Cochrane, OpenText

Cochrane envisions an environment where IT runs back-end systems, oversees the infrastructure and puts in new applications that marketing personnel can manipulate without IT involvement.

Cochrane doesn't want his team doing lots of coding or fixing bugs, but he does wish for user-friendly applications that allow his workers to quickly alter design, develop a new user experience or create a new technology-driven marketing initiative. "I want to be empowered and empower others in how they interact and deliver personal experiences to customers," he explains.

"It's not just about building another application," Cochrane continues. "IT needs to build another layer. We need an 'engagement layer,' and then IT needs to hand over the keys to the kingdom to the people who are listening to customers every day," he says.

5. Loosen the handcuffs, please

Veteran CMO Rossanna Wang was recently trying to share files with a large pharmaceutical company that's partnering with her current employer, the nonprofit Malaria No More, but the company's IT department considered it a security breach.

"That kind of stuff really limits marketing capability, especially in the social media world," says Wang, who has worked as a marketing executive for several global companies.

Quite often, IT is the one who says, 'You can't do this.' It really limits what marketing can do in terms of being cutting edge. Rossanna Wang, Malaria No More

Wang says CMOs need IT to loosen the handcuffs a little bit. "Quite often, in my experience, IT is the one who says, 'You can't do this.' There was always a reason, and security was the most knee-jerk reason," she says.

While Wang says she understands the need for restrictions and precaution, she says marketing needs barriers to come down so it can be more effective. She adds: "It really limits what marketing can do in terms of being cutting edge."

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The rise of the chief marketing technologist

As big data, social media and mobile shake up the old world order, companies are creating new positions to bridge marketing and IT and take full advantage of new tech-driven opportunities for customer engagement.

One new title, found primarily at large and very large companies, is the chief marketing technologist. According to Gartner's 2013 U.S. Digital Marketing Spending report, which polled more than 200 marketers from U.S.-based companies with more than $500 million in annual revenue, 72% of respondents indicated that their company had a chief marketing technologist-type role.

Gartner analyst Laura McLellan says that, in 80% of the companies that have the position, this person reports to the CMO.

The chief marketing technologist is responsible for understanding both available and emerging marketing technology platforms and articulating how marketing can capitalize on them. Depending on the company, the position is also sometimes involved in procurement or in setting up a center of excellence between marketing and IT. McLellan says most chief marketing technologists are strategic, although some are more tactical in their duties.

Similarly, McLellan says some organizations are creating a marketing CIO position that reports to the company's CIO with a dotted line to the CMO.

Surveys also find that large companies have both chief marketing technologists and marketing CIOs, not just one or the other, McLellan says.

On the other hand, only about 10% of large and very large companies have a chief digital officer, another new position that some organizations have created to try to maximize the ROI on its marketing technology.

There are, not surprisingly, companies where IT and marketing don't play well together, she says, but most organizations are moving along a continuum of having the two functions work collaboratively with increasingly blurred leadership, whatever the titles might be.

That momentum will continue, McLellan predicts, as customers increasingly use technology to interact with business. "It's a big shift, and it's going to be a bigger one as we move from digital marketing to digital business," she predicts.

6. Teach us how to dive deep

Monroe, the NineSigma marketing director, knows her marketing staff can get more of out the company's existing marketing systems, but they need help coaxing it out. She wants IT to give her team some advanced training, such as working with them on writing code for the company's customer relationship management (CRM) system.

"We need to build up our skills and be a DYI operation," she says.

Monroe is motivated in part by tight deadlines. She needs her marketing folks to be able to get what they need quickly; waiting for an IT staffer to show up to help takes too much time. Plus, she says, the more technically proficient her own staff becomes, the more likely they'll be to explore the outer limits of their existing systems.

"We want to know where this system can help us generate more data. For example, how can it help us measure our performance?" she explains. And rather than waiting for IT, "you really have to build up your own skills."

7. Help us meet our customers wherever they are

For a long time, marketing focused almost exclusively on outbound messaging -- reaching out to current and potential customers -- but social media has made marketing's work increasingly interactive. Not only does marketing need to pay attention to inbound and outbound messages, it needs to do so in real time.

I really want IT to understand how we need to use technology [to reach] external audiences. David Perry, Bentley University

CMOs say they need IT to have a keener understanding of these requirements so they can design systems with the agility that marketing now requires. "I really want them to understand how we need to use technology [to reach] external audiences," says Bentley University's Perry.

In many organizations today, marketing handles all customer interactions -- outbound, inbound and those happening on social media -- and they need technology that allows them to interact with customers at any time in any of those media.

"All these things are coming together in ways that make marketers say, 'We have to make more sense of this,'" McLellan says. "It all has to be managed, and that has to happen in as close to real time as possible. Agility and speed are two major drivers, neither of which have traditionally been the purview of IT."

Mary K. Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer in Waltham, Mass. You can contact her at marykpratt@verizon.net.

This article, 7 things marketing wants to say to IT, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

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