Making Agile Innovation Work For Both Marketing And IT

Author

Kimberly A. Whitler

December 28, 2016

The technology, tools, and systems that enable the analysis of marketing data are often the responsibility of the CIO. But many IT teams haven’t dealt with marketing data before. The fact that it’s uniquely messy, diffuse and complex makes it hard for them to develop timely, cost-effective solutions. What’s more, IT usually isn’t conversant in marketing (nor marketing in technology), so the marketing team has to devote resources to help IT understand how the data relates to the business.

Similarly, it’s rare that someone becomes a marketer solely because they love data. Usually, they’re passionate about telling impactful stories and developing strategies for helping improve consumers’ lives. They look to data to improve the customer experience and drive growth.

This article—the third in a six-part series on agile marketing with a panel of experts—covers how IT and marketing can collaborate better, leveraging each other’s skill sets to use data to market at the speed of the customer. For more insight, see Part 1 (here) and Part 2 (here).

The team of experts:
Jennifer Zeszut CEO, Beckon
Jim Ewel President of Peel the Layers and publisher of the Agile Marketing.Net blog
Mark Verone VP, Global IFE Operations & Automation, Gogo
Roland Smart VP of Social & Community Marketing, Oracle & Author of The Agile Marketer: Turning Customer Experience Into Your Competitive Advantage
Scott Brinker Co-founder & CTO of ion interactive; Editor of chiefmartec.com; Program Chair of MarTech, Author of Hacking Marketing: Agile Practices to Make Marketing Smarter, Faster, and More Innovative 


Whitler: Do you think marketers are ready to tackle the data side of agile marketing? 

Smart: In general, I don’t think marketers have sufficient experience with data and the language that surrounds it. But this extends further, to our experience managing technology and software in general. That said, as a profession, marketing is becoming increasingly technical, and there’s been an influx of technical professionals from product management, development and data science teams into the marketing organization. Our ability to learn from them and to leverage their experience will be critical to our success and the modernization of our profession.

Verone: I think the role of marketing is evolving, especially in digitally focused companies. Marketers are now driving the bus when it comes to data and analytics. More marketing department are bringing in the data gurus or have hired people that can speak that language and act as the interpreter between the BI teams and marketing team. In other cases, the tools are becoming so robust that many of the data tasks are becoming more app- and tool-based, allowing the marketer to run queries without having to know SQL.

Whitler: Do you think most IT departments are well positioned to support agile marketing? If not, why not? If so, can you give a few examples?

Smart: There’s a lot of change and transformation taking place, which is putting a lot pressure on IT departments. There is a shift of IT to the line of business overall, but there’s also a need for the line of business to better understand how IT departments work (especially if they are agile). Every company that I’ve engaged with is different so it’s hard to make generalizations here, but my sense is that the IT departments that are most set up for success are those that take a dev-ops approach, have embraced agile and are focused on being an enabler for the business.

Verone: No, I don’t believe they’re set up to support marketing. If they were, all these cloud-based, marketing-focused technology solutions wouldn’t exist. IT has always been too slow and too difficult to navigate at most companies. So marketing got tired of waiting around for a solution.

Whitler: Do you think most IT departments are well positioned to support agile marketing? If not, why not? If so, can you give a few examples (continued)?

At the same time, a whole new crop of vendors came out with cloud-based solutions that offered easy to use configurations, custom platforms, web based management, real-time reporting, etc. I think Salesforce was one of the first that took the CRM out of the IT department and placed into the hands of the marketer. Email management platforms, ad serving technology, web analytics, tag management and data management platforms suddenly allowed the marketing department to be less dependent on IT and free from the bureaucracy to be more responsive and faster. Customer experience software and tools are also allowing marketing to get closer to the consumer.

Whitler: Are marketing and IT bound to view marketing’s data management and analysis needs differently, or is there common ground?

Zeszut: In the past, IT teams turned to generic tools and systems—generic BI tools, generic ETL toolkits, generic dashboarding software—that were designed for maximum flexibility. That way IT could use as few tools as possible to serve as many business functions as possible. But using generic tools to add value for marketing is extremely hard. That’s why marketing functions ignored those tools in the past, and are choosing marketing-specific data management and analytics solutions today.

But I see IT embracing function-specific tools more and more today. Like the Salesforce example that Mark referenced, the extremely fast time to value and the marketer-pleasing insights and interfaces that are native to marketing-specific tools are benefits that IT wants, too. Marketing-specific tools, of course, have to be supremely secure, provide robust data governance and offer full data-portability to get the IT seal of approval, but those that deliver are beloved by both marketing and IT.

Whitler: What’s the best approach for collaboration between marketing and IT?

Brinker: Marketing and IT collaboration has improved significantly over the past five years, but there’s still considerable variance from one company to another.

The best cases are usually when IT has established a clear, open system of governance with marketing, enabling marketing teams to have their own marketing technologists, operating under agreed-upon guidelines. This lets marketing handle many of its own basic technical needs internally, without jamming up the queue of the IT department every time a small configuration change is required to marketing software systems. Marketing technologists are a great addition to cross-functional, agile marketing teams for this reason.

Join the Discussion: @KimWhitler

 

This article was written by Kimberly A. Whitler from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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