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9/12/2011
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IT And Marketing: 3 Steps To Work Better Together

Companies need to become 'customer obsessed,' and that takes IT's data chops melded with marketing's focus on markets and speed.

Doug Henschen's InformationWeek article "IT And Marketing: How Digital Media's Changing The Relationship" illustrates the enormous potential for IT to help deliver more effective marketing. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. To compete, entire companies must become customer obsessed, and that will take a new partnership between IT and marketing that most companies aren't close to having.

The fact is that we've already leveraged technology just about as much as we can to drive process efficiency. Over the past 30 years we have automated almost every aspect of the enterprise. To get to the next level of competition--whether dealing with consumers or business customers--we need to realize how the power in the hands of today's customer has changed our world. For example, today’s iPad has the equivalent processing power of a Cray Supercomputer of the '80s. And with that power we are becoming much more informed buyers, depending more on trusted sources of advice and less on corporate messaging.

To succeed, tomorrow's organizations must learn how to attract and retain customers by creating value for the customer based upon their in-depth understanding of each customer's needs. And not just the needs of those customers today, but also what each of those customers is likely to want in the future.

But customer obsession isn't just the responsibility of the chief marketing officer and the marketing department. It's true that marketing now has the capability to acquire technology that tracks and analyzes almost everything about a customer, often without the help of IT, but that doesn't get us to customer obsession. True customer obsession involves changing the culture of the company and, in doing so, becoming able to create truly unique customer experiences that increase customer value.

Forrester's research highlights the changes many CIOs and CMOs are making within their own organizations on the journey toward customer obsession. Think about the changes in three familiar categories--people, process, and technology--as a framework to explain the hard changes CIOs and CMOs together must drive in each area.

People: Acquire new skills. People are perhaps the most important and the most difficult challenge for CIOs and CMOs. To begin to align their teams they must first overcome years of tension between IT and marketing:

"IT is too slow"

"Marketers don't care about integration"

"IT just knows how to say 'no' using acronyms"

"Marketing is all spin"

The list of complaints goes on. To head it off, CIOs must restructure IT to support customer obsession. The first step is creating a marketing technology team within IT, staffed by people who understand the marketing world. While the initial focus of this team is to collaborate with marketing colleagues to increase the impact of marketing campaigns, the ultimate goal is to master the customer data flow. CMOs must also change their organizations by developing creative teams willing and eager to work alongside IT's marketing experts. CMOs must begin to hire marketers who also understand the importance of collaborating with IT to deliver an enterprise-wide customer-value-creation capability.

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Process: Learn to move at the speed of the market. When it comes to process, the most important thing for CIOs to do is to identify the roadblocks to speed and remove them. Technology experts must be able to collaborate with marketing to deliver--whether it's a mobile app, data analysis, unique customer experiences, or even new technology-enabled products--under highly compressed time-to-market goals.

For example, Wayne Shurts, the CIO at Supervalu, aims to deliver tangible business value every 90 days from marketing projects. Many CIOs will introduce Agile methodologies and principles as a way to speed IT delivery. CIOs should expect marketing to welcome Agile as a way to deliver faster changes in customer experience and marketing effectiveness. Indeed, some CMOs are looking to learn from Agile methods introduced by IT and change marketing's processes along the same lines.

Technology: Master the customer data flow. Once CIOs and CMOs have figured out the people and process changes needed, there are emerging marketing technologies that can help companies looking to become customer obsessed. The technology begins with listening platforms--software that helps gather data from across every customer touchoint. Effective data analytics is essential to harness the potential this treasure trove of customer data. But the analytics needed by the customer-obsessed-organization requires IT to take business intelligence and data analytics to a new level; marketing must be able to use realtime data analytics to create dynamic changes in the customer experience. This means changing the way the organization interacts with the customer through all touchpoints.

For example, a consumer shopping on a retail website sees products displayed in the colors known to be most appealing to that individual. A customer service center routes a call based on the source number (from a known customer) and the last known issue (no voice response navigation). A health instrument supplier calls a customer to warn that its product needs servicing based on data collected through realtime device monitoring and also offers automatic scheduling through a mobile application. We see examples of these changes emerging daily--the customer-obsessed company taps the power of these changes to create added customer value.

In this new era, the real power lies in the ownership of customer insight. As this becomes apparent we will see companies vying for control over valuable customer data. An example is the decision by the Financial Times to develop an iPad-capable application that does not need to go through Apple’s app store. This allows the FT to retain full control over its customer data while also preventing Apple from being able to leverage knowledge of its subscribers for its own benefit. If we see this is a signal that the FT is customer obsessed it is also interesting to note that the FT also has one of the most profitable online news portals, with more than 200,000 paying subscribers.

As companies figure out the dynamics of the emerging customer-dominant marketplace, IT and marketing must overcome misperceptions to establish winning partnerships. Only by building cohesive teams, developing rapid-response processes, and mastering the customer data flow can IT and marketing help their companies become customer obsessed.

Nigel Fenwick, a former CIO himself, is vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, where he works with CIOs. He will deliver a keynote speech at Forrester’s CIO-CMO Forum, Sept. 22 in Boston.

Attend Enterprise 2.0 Santa Clara, Nov. 14-17, 2011, and learn how to drive business value with collaboration, with an emphasis on how real customers are using social software to enable more productive workforces and to be more responsive and engaged with customers and business partners. Register today and save 30% off conference passes, or get a free expo pass with priority code CPHCES02. Find out more and register.

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