Interview: Building links between marketing and IT for the greater good

Firms that forge relations between marketing and IT departments yield benefits in growing the range of their digital products

Marketing and IT are two areas of business that often fail to see eye to eye. But some companies are forging relationships between the two to expand their customer-facing digital products and services. And those who do are reaping the benefits.

“Historically you’ve had that problem that you’re just not on the same page,” says Gareth Pezzack, global head of marketing at British multinational law firm Eversheds.

Different priorities, expertise and agendas don’t always help in encouraging the two departments to work together.

“But if you do marry them together it’s far more powerful than anything you could do separately,” he says.

And as marketing roles are becoming more about digital marketing roles, the once-siloed departments are having to work closer together – whether they like it or not.

Pezzack, whose remit includes digital marketing, has learnt over the last three years that combining the expertise of marketing and IT can create market-leading digital products.

“Some say IT is a blocker to innovation but at Eversheds we have a reputation for innovation and, historically, that’s come through innovation from IT.”

IT and innovation

Speaking to Computer Weekly at the Global Business Events CMO event this week, he says IT has always been behind creating systems that improve the experience for clients and make things better, quicker and cheaper.

“But I think we’ve had a challenge where the IT guys think they’re the guardians of innovation and almost solely responsible for developing innovative ideas,” he says. “They had to go through a process of understanding that lots of other people have got good ideas as well – and it might be that some of those ideas are better enabled through IT, and some might not need any IT,” says Pezzack.

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It all began with the launch of the law firm’s global website two years ago. Pezzack and the company had to convince about 20 different countries to give up their individual websites and go to a single global site. “Each had their own IT people, marketing people, suppliers and a huge amounts of politics was involved,” he says.

And the first few months were also rocky for marketing and IT. “There was an adversarial relationship with IT where we could see what needed to be achieved and IT weren’t necessarily willing to release the expertise and resources we needed,” says Pezzack.

“But we got to a point where we thought we could make something really amazing if we worked together.”

How marketing and IT collaborate

Pezzack says the difficulty of the project and the radical change the firm undertook was a good way to bring the two teams together. “Since then, they have had a really collaborative relationship.”

He says the IT team in Eversheds is regularly coming up with great ideas but, without insight from the marketing department who deal with clients on a day-to-day basis, their ideas are created in a vacuum. He says marketing’s job isn’t to come crashing in and say it’s completely wrong, but to try and apply the idea with wider client insight.

“This is the innovative culture we’re trying to create,” he says. “It’s too easy to have a 'Yes, but...' business culture. We ban that and say, 'Someone’s got an idea, let’s explore it,' and see where we can take it.”

Opening lines of communication

Pezzack says that, in a mere two years, the company has got to the point where the IT department continuously rings him up with ideas.  

“And we’ll do the same,” he adds. “We may have an idea or talking to our lawyers about a vision of what they could do, so we go to IT and ask: ‘Before we start spending a serious amount of time and money on this, what do you think – is this feasible, is this actually technically possible?'”

Pezzack says marketing is quite realistic about how technology might be delivered. The company also created a mobile application for human resources (HR) clients to check nuances in employment and pension law around the world.

“We didn’t have mobile app experts in house, but IT could see the opportunity because no other law firm is doing mobile apps,” he says. 

The Eversheds IT department held their hands up and said they couldn’t help so the project was outsourced, but Pezzack says IT was always there in the background. “You need to involve them as they need to enable things," he says.

Hand on heart I can say probably they’re my favourite colleagues to work with. But if you’d asked me that four years ago, I would have said, ‘No they’re the worst.’”

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