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Why your marketing team needs help from IT more than ever

Some IT and marketing departments have a troubled history of working together, but better collaboration is essential to make a success of digital transformation

As an IT leader, you’ve probably heard every excuse or accusation from marketing teams during your career: “We didn’t realise we should have talked to you about it”; “It’s just a new social media platform we are testing”; to “Sorry, but we needed it quickly”.  

Marketing teams pointing a finger at IT for not being collaborative and empathetic to their pressures is thankfully becoming less common, and hopefully marketing teams better understand the pressures the IT team are under. But how do companies break old barriers that exist between these critical departments? The answer is collaboration.

As a marketing professional, I am in awe of technology colleagues who make the magic happen and help companies get the coolest technology out to customers. Of course, in 2018, things are more complicated than ever.

Forrester’s prediction that “digital disruption is the new normal for B2B marketing” has come true. David Cearley, vice-president and Gartner fellow, observed that we will see “new digital models to align more closely the physical and digital worlds for employees, partners and customers”.

This chimes with the experience of many IT teams – dealing with colleagues (often from the marketing/sales department) who are used to using the cloud and connected apps daily in their personal lives that “just work” and therefore are fighting to win and service customers with the same expectations – they need IT’s help more than ever.

Pace of change versus risk

Many of those who work in IT will acknowledge that it is not always completely harmonious working with people from sales and marketing (it is fun though, right? Right?).

Marketing teams talk about the desire for pace, and that statement can come with an implied insinuation that the IT team seem want the opposite to that.

Marketing teams want to meet a cool new startup on a Tuesday, agree a test of an idea on Wednesday and then get it live ASAP (usually on a Friday evening when support will be its most limited).

In contrast, the IT team will often suggest an audit of the idea using a structured methodology, and place it in a pipeline of potential work to be evaluated for a variety of legitimate concerns, such as security, data protection, resource constraints and integration headaches.

Shadow IT budgets are on the rise and marketing teams are commissioning more projects directly. However, it’s the inter-department IT and marketing teams who are collaborating every day and busting these stereotypes.

Mind your language

The highest-performing teams have already grasped that increasingly the pace of change in technology means it is critical for both marketing and IT teams to focus on ways to get an edge over the competition, and offer something fun and innovative to customers to survive – together, as partners.

The beginning of a project is often the most fraught time to do that. Structured project management methodologies are good, but often use of the word “requirements” can be divisive during these early days.

The best IT/product teams don’t start from trying to catalogue functional and non-functional requirements when initiating a project with a marketing team. Instead they get into a mindset of understanding the strategy, objectives and what a minimum viable product looks like, finding a common language through real-life visual examples and rapid prototyping to help articulate what they want.

This helps teams feel you are all developing a product together, which is critical to success. It is fine to set ground rules on deadlines for sign off, and for budget, but always make sure you have enough flexibility to stay agile and encourage creativity so that every conversation does not become about change requests.

Collaborative working

This collaborative and agile methodology works to ensure knowledge transfer on strategy from both a commercial perspective and in terms of target architecture of the information systems stack. This way both are evolving and understanding each other’s concerns and how to collaborate to solve them, rather being in a binary customer/supplier relationship.

When IT and marketing/sales teams approach meetings with the attitude of “let’s build something fantastic together”, the results are much improved. Some of the most innovative ideas are founded on failures and disagreements, so it’s important to embrace the process and learn from it.

Some IT teams still have a habit of referring to “the business” as if it is something separate – but both IT and marketing are equal partners in any business. In this time of digital transformation and unprecedented disruption, we all navigating it together, so let’s all be on the same team.

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