IT, Marketing Have Tense Relationship: Deal With It
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Contrast her situation with a similar one I experienced at FedEx. It was a complicated project with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue at stake, an impossible timeline, an external partner, and a contracted deadline. The difference with this project, compared with the American Airlines fiasco, was that IT was engaged early on, the project was assigned to a senior VP (me), and I had a crack IT team to develop the technical specs with our business colleagues and the external partner.
It was impossible to deliver the required functionality by the contracted start date, but the marketing and operations teams at both companies listened to and worked with both IT organizations to develop a skeleton set of Day 1 requirements that could be stood up in time. As it turned out, that Day 1 system uncovered numerous operational problems at both companies that had to be fixed. It would take a large team 15 months after the initial system went live to deliver all of the requirements, but the project was a success from the start.
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IT is often its own enemy. Analysts who know in minute detail how a system works often think they know more about what the customer wants than the marketing product manager does. Instead of teaming with marketing, they play games or create an antagonistic environment. I have had to remind far too many IT analysts and managers that no matter how many product managers come and go, in the end we own this system and it had better work right. It isn't the marketing people who are responding at 3 a.m. or working all weekend when the system doesn't work right and there are customer issues.
Focused on reaching customers. This third type of marketing organization is focused on advertising, customer events, customer research, market research, branding, and so on. Love these people. Almost all of their work is outsourced to specialists, and they throw great parties (and having never been late with one of their projects, I get invited).
There's a lot written about the CMO/CIO struggle over control of the digital marketing strategy. Usually, the conflict between IT and marketing comes down to the need for precision, completeness, and operational efficiency on the part of IT and speed on the part of marketing.
I have seen all the problems with marketing organizations. There are the stratospheric-level business requirements and the intolerance for detail; the inconsistent and constantly changing business requirements; and the frequent changes in product managers so that no one from marketing ever seems to be responsible for bad product decisions.
And the lack of mutual respect.
This isn't another everyone-needs-to-play-nice conclusion. The truth of the matter is that there's a natural tension between IT and marketing that successful leaders in both organizations need to use and control to deliver innovative products and services. In very few companies, in any industry, can IT alone develop and deliver products. There are, however, a lot of marketing organizations that can successfully hire IT work--and they will get better at it. And as digital marketing and new generations of mobile products become more critical, the internal IT organization might become less important to marketing.
As frustrating as it can be for IT organizations to work with marketing organizations, IT leadership needs to just get over it.
Dr. Larry Tieman has been a senior VP at FedEx, a CIO, or a CTO for the last 20 years. He has worked with some of the great CIOs, including Max Hopper, Charlie Feld, and Rob Carter. He can be reached at Larry@LarryTieman.com.
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