Marketing and IT: Developing A Relationship Powerhouse

As the owner of many marketing technology implementations, projects that are the most successful have strong IT partners. In fact, I usually go as far as building a relationship with my IT counterpart, who I like to label as my ‘work spouse’. If you think about it, both work and personal spousal relationships are really partnerships. Each person is assigned an area of responsibility, where the end goal is to grow the family/team/business. This leads to the creation of a legacy, all while enjoying the journey.

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Marketing and IT often have different objectives. Typically the Marketing group cares about getting more leads, more customers and growing revenue. The IT group is measured on whether they’ve implemented the right technologies, kept costs down and served the business. To be successful, there must be a high level commitment to the vision of what project will accomplish. This includes transcending the metrics the teams are measured on. In order to do this properly, roles and areas of responsibility for all members of the project team must be clearly defined.

Defining Relationship Roles and Responsibilities

The RACI model helps organizations define roles & responsibilities during a change process. The ‘A” stands for who is ultimately accountable for the success of the task, at a high level. The Marketing department should be responsible for defining the problem. They should also determine the vision for the business process. The IT department should be responsible for providing guidance on technologies. Implementation and ongoing support is IT’s responsibility. It is not enough to just define high level ownership, as the devil is always in the details – accountability for each step must be clearly defined.

What are the steps to implementing a new technology and who does what?

  1. Defining the problem – This is typically the first step. Marketing needs to clearly define and communicate what the current challenge or opportunity is that they are trying to solve.
  2. Defining desired outcomes – Next, Marketing must create a proposal to explain the problem or opportunity and get internal teams to buy in to try and solve it. For large enough projects it is important to have sponsors, preferably the CMO and the CIO to ensure alignment from the top down.
  3. Defining the requirements – This stage of the project is an interesting one as either Marketing or IT could be accountable for this step. Keep in mind, whoever is writing the detailed requirements should have an understanding of the Marketing goals and a good idea of what can be achieved with technology.
  4. Offering up technologies – The first decision that needs to be made is whether to build or buy. If the decision is to buy, or at least start by looking at what technologies are out there, this is usually a joint effort between the Marketing and IT teams. Though IT is ultimately accountable, it is critical to get buy in from the Marketing business folks as they will the the users of this technology.
  5. Choosing a vendor – The next step is to choose a vendor and this is one where truly IT and Marketing have equal footing. Sometimes the owner of the budget has a little more say in the end decision, but at the end of the day the chosen solution must solve the business need and also meet IT standards.
  6. Building and integrating the solution – This is where the handoff to IT begins. Depending on the decision that has been made, they build the solution or buy one and integrate it into the existing technology stack.
  7. Project management – For any large project to be successful, you need a strong project manager. Since IT leads the implementation process, it makes sense for the IT team to be ultimately responsible for ensuring timeliness and quality.
  8. Testing – Initial testing is usually owned by the IT team. Once they have determined the system is stable, they will hand over testing to the Marketing team. The Marketing team then validates that the requested functionality meets their need as defined in the requirements.
  9. Launch – Once the new technology is ready, it should be treated like a product launch. The Marketing team needs to position the benefits of this new technology, train users and ensure adoption. Celebrating successes together is also important once the project has launched.
  10. Ongoing maintenance – At the end of the day, the IT team is the team that supports all technical issues for the Marketing team. It is important for IT to have a good handle on what has been built, have resources to support it and also a relationship with the vendor to escalate issues if necessary.

Eliminating Breakups

Relationships are never easy, they take an immense amount of effort to maintain. To that end, if the relationship with your ‘work spouse’ is on rocky terrain, here is some wise counsel to encourage you to get back on the right track.

  • The first, of course, is to follow a similar process to the one above. Lack of clarity around roles, areas of ownership and goals can cause a rift between Marketing and IT.
  • Don’t go it alone. When the Marketing and IT leadership is not aligned, it sometimes results in either group managing to secure the budget and purchasing a rogue tool that may or may not meet Marketing’s needs or IT’s requirements. This serves no one well, ultimately making it a business management nightmare.
  • Make critical decisions with the end in mind. When technology decisions are made for the sake of implementing shiny new technologies v.s. to enable a business need. If the technology does not solve a business problem, chances are adoption will be low and cause turmoil between the two teams.

Like a marriage, the relationship between IT and Marketing must be one of accountability, compromise and teamwork. Aligning these teams will ensure successful implementation of the technologies that solve business problems. And as you all work toward the success of your company, don’t forget to enjoy the ride!

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