Why Marketing and IT Don’t Get Along

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It doesn’t rank with good versus evil or even dogs versus cats, but the relationship between marketing and IT has its own history of conflict. The dynamic is simple: Marketers feel neglected by corporate IT, so they hire outside vendors to run their systems. This makes it even more difficult for corporate IT to help marketers, who then rely on IT even less.

Such mutual isolation is untenable. As all parts of the customer experience are increasingly driven by technology, marketing systems must integrate more closely with the rest of the corporate infrastructure to be effective.

The CMO Council explored this issue in parallel surveys of marketing and IT leaders, published as “The CMO-CIO Alignment Imperative: Driving Revenue Through Customer Relevance.” The broad findings are no surprise – CMOs and CIOs know they need to work together but don’t do it very well. But it’s worth digging into the details to understand the dynamics of this dysfunctional relationship in the hope of helping them to improve it. Survey results are reproduced here with permission, although the interpretations are my own.

First things first: Yes, both groups agree they must cooperate. They even cite the same reasons: the need for customer insight, the central role of technology in the customer experience and digitally driven marketing.

CIOs and CMOs also agree that current capabilities are inadequate. In the critical realm of analytics, nearly three-quarters of each group felt that neither their online or offline functions were well integrated, while just six to eight percent felt integration across all functions was complete.

The agreement extends one step further, to a recognition that marketing projects often run into problems. But we already see some divergence: 64 percent of CMOs reported problems, compared with just 48 percent of CIOs, suggesting the CIOs aren’t fully aware of CMO unhappiness with IT services. An alternative explanation is that CMOs have more problems on projects where IT isn’t involved. But another question that directly asked how well marketing and IT worked together also found that IT felt the two groups had cooperated better than marketing did. And when asked about the causes of problems, each group placed the blame squarely on the other. Marketing cited lack of IT priority, resources and expertise, while CIOs complained that marketing had bypassed and isolated IT.

In this case, at least, it seems IT has a point. Just 25 percent of CMOs said they consulted with enterprise IT or other back-office groups when selecting marketing systems. The good news is that 56 percent of CIOs said they consulted with marketing – although this still means the other 44 percent did not.

Why would marketing and IT not consult each other about marketing systems? Apparently one reason is that some don’t believe their counterpart understands what’s needed. Only 76 percent of CIOs believe their CMO understands marketing requirements, while just 54 percent of CMOs think their CIO does. That’s a pretty deep level of mutual mistrust.

This brings us closer to the crux of the matter: Who’s in charge here? By now you won’t be surprised to find that just half of CIOs (51 percent) think their CMO is spearheading their digital marketing strategies, while a mere 19 percent of CMOs think their CIO is playing a major role. There’s a similar misalignment in what CMOs and CIOs think the CIO should be doing. CMOs see CIOs as plumbers whose job is to install systems and keep the data flowing. CIOs set themselves a loftier agenda that includes furthering the use of social media, mobile and other new technologies.

If there’s any good news here, it’s that both CMOs and CIOs are eager to help their companies improve their marketing technologies – indeed, they agree success is vital. But a deep chasm of distrust and misunderstanding prevents them from working together effectively. Both groups must recognize the depth of this problem and work to overcome it. They can’t succeed on their own.

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