While many teams within your organization contribute to your success, one that cannot be overlooked or understated is the relationship with your IT group. As Marketing continues to shift and improve, we’ve come to rely on IT to provide expertise on current technology and, perhaps more importantly, to provide a road map that shows where technology will lead, where integration is critical, and how to make the best use of increasingly sophisticated tools.
In the past, marketing teams might have developed their own tools and databases or bought hardware and software without considering whether they had the know-how to maintain the systems — perhaps because IT was seen as a roadblock or didn’t move as fast as marketing thought they should.
At SAS, we’ve learned to embrace the IT team as our partner. Redefining our relationship in terms of accountability to each other was crucial. IT needs to rely on the business to define a direction and establish clear objectives. Marketing needs to rely on IT for technology, integration, and implementation expertise. The care and feeding of the data, the reliability of systems, and an eye toward futures.
Like any relationship worth having, you both have to invest time and effort and communicate to make it work. IT has to understand your marketing needs to know what questions to ask when capturing the most important data. This relationship can’t be neglected, because as customers change and your marketing changes, engagement channels and data explode. Ultimately, the partnership will be a gateway to new opportunities. This means your communication must be regular, frank and transparent. It may mean repairing broken relationships or forging new ones. Here are some best practices we’ve developed that work:
Focus on a common goal. What do Marketing and IT have in common? Technology, integration, process, modernization, data … but most importantly, marketing and IT want to demonstrate value to the organization. And, ultimately improve the customer experience. Unless you have that conversation, you may not know that many similarities actually exist.
Because we now rely heavily on data and analytical tools to do our work, we need a greater level of help from experts in how we could both create and collect enterprise-level customer data while ensuring data integrity. Without good, clean data we can’t market very well no matter how sophisticated our tools are. We simply didn’t have expertise on our team to maintain these systems. What we decided to do is what every organization should be consider. It’s the most logical option. Make IT your business partner. Let’s call the shift “the emerging IT.”
Collaborate on a digital road map. As I see it, the emerging IT is more focused on external customers. This means being more strategic. And being more strategic means being more engaged in discussions and planning with marketing. At SAS, we created more engagement by having IT representatives attend our marketing meetings.
Senior Vice President of IT at SAS, Berni Mobley, was enthusiastic about the opportunity to become a stronger business partner. She also saw our partnering as a chance to engage her team more in business objectives beyond the usual IT focus areas – back-office IT projects; and to jointly define what value looks like from both a business and a technology view. By participating in our meetings, IT could become more proactive in allocating resources and suggesting new technologies to help us reach our goals sooner.
This began a collaboration that helped us build a digital road map enabling us to prioritize investments and implementations. Our road map takes into consideration:
- Ways to empower all marketers (not just analysts).
- Establishes data as a top priority.
For example, when we formed a council focused on the digital business, we worked with Mobley as a way to ensure that the strategy would be more comprehensive. Whether we were looking to overhaul a website, understand the digital footprint of our customers, or build a marketing data mart. A key project that had a huge impact on marketing functions and the business overall is the ability to have e-commerce functionality and customized online experience for visitors.
Create bridges. As proof of how fully engaged IT became in our new partnership, Mobley even created a new integration analyst position to make sure that at the outset of any marketing project that our needs are met using the latest technologies and that would work seamless with the company’s ever-evolving infrastructure. Marketing representatives were involved in the selection of a candidate to fill this role to help ensure that the new analyst would be able to bridge both worlds.
The integration analyst position benefits both IT and Marketing. IT gains a much deeper understanding of the business and acts as a communication bridge between the two departments, ultimately helping IT deliver a better product for marketing,” Mobley said.
Now, it’s a very complementary relationship. Like marketing, IT is often seen as a cost center rather than revenue generator. But through our partnership, we’ve been able to share of story of how we both contribute value to the bottom line. Even though we now hire marketers with very technical skillsets, it’s not a competition with IT because the people we are hiring are using their skills to dig deeply into the data the IT folks maintain.
Drive towards a single view of the data. At SAS, we’ve evolved our system of record to be a true marketing analytics portal. Analytics, the reporting, the graphics, and understanding the trends have enabled campaign teams working with the sales organization to fully demonstrate value. Our marketing analytics portal is connected to all the systems and to a single view of the data. Building that portal and empowering people with data and analysis is a critical component to delivering results, and ultimately to your credibility. But we couldn’t have done it without IT support –data management, hosting, training, troubleshooting and all the other ways they have supported us.
Will this approach work for you?
If you’re saying “Well, SAS is a technology-forward company. This won’t fly in my company or my industry,” let me tell you about a conversation I had with James Weber, the Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President at Comerica Bank.
Weber said he had fallen into that old sometimes-friend-sometimes-foe relationship with IT. When some organizational changes and good advice from a consultant came his way, Weber realized his marketing team had to be better partners with the IT team. The reason? A big problem for his marketers was an outdated data architecture. “We needed the ability to go in and mine the data, take insight to another level, and find the opportunities. In the banking industry, looking at things like householding and superhouseholding – these things change how the customer interacts with the bank. It impacts the customer experience,” Weber said.
A newly forged relationship with IT and a new data architecture (based on its existing platform) enabled Comerica’s marketing team to implement marketing efforts such as next-best offer and personalization. It has also added social media capabilities and predictive analytics to its marketing capabilities.
Making the shift to establish a deeper partnership between IT and marketing can take time. So enter this transition point with patience in mind. Today, I’m proud to say our marketing organization has a great partnership with the IT department.