Marketing and IT: Conflict or Collaboration?

Posted | Category: BRM Capability | Contributed

Bearing in mind that technology is a capability shared between both Marketing and IT and that no one department or sub-function “owns” or “controls” technology, how is this accomplished?

In order for IT to become value-adding for Marketing, strengths-based leadership needs to promote collaboration. Once the spirit of collaboration is in place, leadership should then establish a “connector” role. This role can help sample the opportunities and threats, put together jigsaw pieces, show the story’s relevance to the current situation, and come up with a joint plan of action to show each function’s contribution.

Disruption everywhere

The CMO says…

“Social media has only taken off in the past five years, and has since then become yet another channel for customer engagement. Now that we’re positioned to influence through referrals and what other people say about us online, the formerly linear sales and mass-market promotion process has been disrupted, requiring ‘forum managers’ that coordinate closely with customer services to ensure Tweets and Facebook messages are responded to similarly to emails and telephone calls. As a result, customer engagement occurs in front of a public audience, heightening the risks and requiring public relations expertise.

I’ve only just gotten over the headache of implementing Customer Relationship Management, personal 1:1 engagement processes, and net promoter scores—and now I’m faced with yet another challenge. What’s next? Sharing economy? Even more heavily discounted products and services online? New business models?”

The CIO says…

“When faced with the myriad of requests coming into the IT organisation, it’s difficult to find the time for thinking about what’s up and coming—never mind the current list of snags and operational issues that continuously bite. All requests, whether large or small, are presented with the most urgent priority. Who will drive the planning and keep an eye on industry and technology trends to make sure the company is well-positioned to take advantage of these changes? How do we crystallise the requirements clearly and evaluate them against the business strategy? Are there better ways to integrate one system to another—for example, to extract customer data for email promotion?”

Draw your weapons…

Who is responsible for defining strategy? Who is responsible for delivery? Who is responsible for e-commerce? Responsibility is a loaded question—and in our experience, it becomes the backdrop of the chess game that is organisation politics if it isn’t aired openly and honestly.

The facade of control can quickly disappear when a pet project incurs unforeseen costs and new services or products get promoted by internal competitors. Soon, what was once seen as the bandwagon to jump onto is now stuck in a rut. Business functions begin to shy away from responsibility, and instead they begin pointing the finger of blame, resulting in an “us” vs. “them” attitude.

What is needed here?

The answer: a new way of working together, and a new way of looking at disruption.

“Could” instead of “should.”

Strength-based leadership requires an appreciation of colleagues’ skills and the value they bring. The point is simple: this is not your assessment of their skills—everybody has at least an idea of their own skill inventory. If you were to ask them, they would probably even tell you about them. After all, these skills are generally what bring us to our present occupations, which should be celebrated rather than shamed.

The approach is three-fold:

“Strength-based leadership requires an appreciation of colleagues’ skills and the value they bring.”

Celebrate the differences and accept where people are.

Listen to what your colleagues need from you (without repeating the soundtrack of what you think they should need/do/have in your head).

Identify common areas of interest and how you/your team can contribute to those areas.

Regardless of where people “should” be, the power of collaboration between people with different skill sets is far greater than people working independently. It’s definitely more powerful than people criticising others and obstructing further individual aims.

In a nutshell, collaboration leads to cross-departmental teamwork, shared responsibility and control, and a positive focus on the future by asking, “What could happen?” We’ve found that collaboration is a joint responsibility. What could you do differently to help make collaboration a reality?

Meet your connector.

There are no whizzy technical solutions or “magic quadrants” just yet—I’ve found it’s the “people” stuff first. Is there anyone in your organisation who shines out as able to weed out choices from ambiguity, take stock of the company direction, and assess what is needed to achieve said direction? Someone who doesn’t come in and just “tell?” Can they sample opportunities and threats, put together the jigsaw pieces, and show the story’s relevance to the current situation?

This “connector” role and its results are significant. It’s about opening minds to the possibilities and letting the options sell themselves to come up with a joint plan of action. It takes time, listening, discussion, analysis, negotiation, and finally agreement. The CMO or CIO can do it, but with other demands on their time, is this something that could be partially delegated?

Without collaboration between functions, the connector role will not be possible. However, collaboration needs a reason to exist. Creating a joint plan of action that demonstrates the contributions of both IT and Marketing is the perfect reason.

“Without collaboration between functions, the connector role will not be possible.”

How Baxter Thompson Associates Can Help

We can help by listening to the needs of business partner organisations, such as marketing. There may be operational issues that need sorting out first, but we keep a firm focus on the future and help envision where the business partner could be in at least the next two years. We help articulate what that means in terms of opportunities and threats, plans, and projects, so that there is a clear roadmap for both IT and the business partner to understand and work towards together.

We help IT understand the opportunity with business partners through our Reconnaissance for IT framework and can help implement a business relationship management capability to ensure that the value in IT is delivered.

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