Three ways IT can become indispensable to marketing

The relationship between CIOs and CMOs continues to be a talking point, with a seeming disconnect between the two roles that is hindering digital strategies within business.

But while these C-level decision makers vie for recognition and ownership in the boardroom, is this seeming discontent a feature for those IT managers and marketing professionals who are executing on these strategies?

EPiServer research, conducted with 110 IT managers and 100 marketers highlights that the 79 per cent of IT professionals believe they work collaboratively with marketing but only 58 per cent of marketing professionals agree. While this emerging relationship is not without its challenges, there is a clear role for IT managers in defining and driving digital strategies as the trend for multichannel communication and engagement grows.

Marketing professionals are experiencing a changing relationship with information technology; analyst house Gartner predicts that by 2017 CMOs will be spending more money on IT than the CIO. The rise of big data and more advanced analytics are placing a new emphasis for marketers on owning and using a wealth of information to drive data-led marketing initiatives.

Meanwhile, as the typical owners of data, and those with the skills to manage this information, IT professionals have a lot to offer their marketing counterparts. Rather than being relegated to a back office operation, IT teams are starting to see their role become much more visible to other departments.

The EPiServer research shows there are three clear areas where IT can deliver extra value to marketing efforts and the organisation's overall digital ambitions.

1. Promote a tech-savvy mindset

Our research reveals that marketing teams are increasingly taking ownership of technology selection. It is often the case however that marketing teams will know what they want to achieve, but will not have the expertise to know how.

Instead of seeing this as a threat, IT managers should understand that they are ideally placed to add value. In time, we could see the evolution of the 'marketing technologist', where marketing and technical skills are blended to a new level, but until that happens collaboration between IT and marketing looks to be essential.

Marketing teams typically need technologies that give as much information about the context of the customer's experience as possible, and that means interoperability. However, ensuring that new, and existing, technology platforms work together is a technical challenge; one the IT manager can rise to.

Choosing pre-integrated and open standards technologies that are compatible with an organisation's digital roadmap can significantly reduce the cost and complexity in implementation. By working with their marketing counterparts, IT can improve the common understanding of the over-riding business goals and ensure an agile and productive approach to development.

2. Own the data strategy challenges

Every organisation needs a data champion and, as the typical owners of data, IT is ideally placed to fulfil this role. Perhaps the most important element is a willingness to drive this in the business and our research shows the vast majority of IT professionals are taking data strategy seriously.

When asked how high data strategy sits in their list of priorities, 23 per cent of IT professionals said it was number one, with a further 52 per cent stating it was important. Only 5 per cent said it wasn't a priority at all at the moment. However it is not without its challenges.

IT professionals, those working in ecommerce in particular, are not always able to integrate data into the business operations in an actionable way. Perhaps not surprising given the onslaught of information that is now available.

There are three core obstacles that are getting in the way of data strategy. Firstly security, in terms of protecting the company's data but ensuring compliance with user-focused security measures such as the data protection act. Budget restrictions and integration of diverse data sets are also big concerns.

IT teams have a clear opportunity to step up and take ownership of this data strategy challenge, helping to navigate the organisation through the complexity of data management to ensure the use of efficient, interoperable technologies that deliver value to the digital strategy.

3. Appoint a champion to lead the relationship with marketing

The majority of marketing and IT professionals are already working collaboratively on digital projects, according to the EPiServer research, but that doesn't mean the two parties are aligned in their respective goals.

By electing a digital strategy 'champion', the IT department can move closer to the marketing team, by showing an insight and understanding into their challenges, with a proactive approach to helping – not hindering – their plans.

This champion should work with marketing to understand what the customer's journey looks like today and what should it look like in the future, so IT can proactively identify improvement areas with respect to technology tweaks and enhancements.

There are key areas, such as content management, ecommerce and mobile strategies, where marketing will typically keep IT managers at arm's length, but it's important they realise the effectiveness of delivery tools and platforms can fail because of a technology and infrastructural misfit.

With the right understanding of the digital roadmap, IT can work with marketing to translate the longer-term vision into system requirements, and therefore deliver the right support in buying new technologies that will help marketers reach their goals.

Maria Wasing is VP of marketing at EPiServer