IT and Finance/Marketing/Engineering: Let's Just Get Along

What are the issues with these three departments that have the potential to complicate IT-user relationships, and how should IT leaders deal with them?

Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data

October 25, 2022

5 Min Read
Many little fishes forming a big fish to be strong together - symbol for teamwork, solidarity, cooperation and cohesion.
Peter Hermes Furian via Alamy Stock

What are the issues with these three departments that have the potential to complicate IT-user relationships, and how should IT deal with them?

User relations and internal customer service have been continual focal points for IT. It's no wonder, because for many IT professionals, it’s easier to debug an elusive code problem than to negotiate through a difficult user meeting.

Three of the most challenging user areas in an enterprise to coordinate with are finance, marketing, and engineering. What are the issues with these three departments that have the potential to complicate IT-user relationships, and how should IT deal with them?

The Finance Group

Professionals in finance tend to be analytically and statistically oriented. They enjoy the independence of creating their own IT reports and macros that enable them to freely manipulate data for the different types of financial scenarios that they want to research.

It’s also worth recalling that at one time in the IT “early years,” IT was actually a function known as “data processing” that was buried in the finance department and reported to the CFO.

The synergies of analytics, statistical orientation, etc., often bring IT and finance together -- and it sometime can end up as a battle for control of IT projects and data.

Consider who, for instance, controls the repertoire of reports that are developed (some by IT and some by finance). Who has the authority to change these reports? And, if reports or applications are changed, who assures that they continue to work with other pieces of software and systems with which they interact? What about data consistency -- like when the revenue numbers finance keeps differ from those captured by the sales team?

Since finance and IT must work closely together, it’s in everyone's best interest to address these questions and lay the groundwork for a productive relationship.

Best Practices in an IT/Finance Relationship

Meet often. The more finance and IT know about and coordinate the different projects they’re working on, the less the likelihood of overreach by one department or the other, or the risk that there is duplication of work.

From IT’s standpoint, security, governance, coding standards, and integration with other applications are paramount. The more IT knows in advance about new applications finance is planning, the better it can stay on top of these issues.

Develop uniform standards and methods for software development. The growth of low-code and no-code tools in user departments is most evident in finance. There is pressure for organizations to standardize the software development tools that are used, and it is almost always IT that gets the job of assuring that standard tools and methods are used throughout the company.

Finance, on the other hand, can often contract with a vendor or obtain a tool on its own so it can get work done quickly.

By identifying a standard set of tools and developing application methodologies that are easy to use, IT can create a productive environment for everyone.

Regularly review reports. There probably is no department with more spreadsheets, self-generated reports and analytics than finance. These items should be reviewed annually to determine which are being actively used and which can be eliminated.

The IT/Marketing Relationship

I once had the opportunity to be a VP of both marketing and IT. Sometimes I held joint meetings so that everyone could get to know each other. It was often a struggle to get “right brained” marketers to agree with “left brained” IT folks.

Marketers tend to be creative and positive. They can perceive IT as a constant “naysayer,” because they don’t want to hear about integration problems or time to deploy. Marketing also tends to manage IT vendors poorly, but it doesn’t matter to them if they can quickly get the information they need for the next product campaign.

Best Practices for IT and Marketing

Hire a marketing research person. Marketing departments use IT to research the viability of products and to better understand the demographics and preferences of customers.

A solid approach is to hire a dedicated marketing researcher who knows enough about IT to be able to develop research quickly, and who knows enough about marketing to understand what the marketing team wants. From a reporting standpoint, this individual should report to marketing.

Drive big data strategy with marketing. Marketing is a major driver of big data queries, algorithms, and data accumulation. The marketing manager should be an active participant in big data strategy development.

Find data visualization tools that are easy to use. Marketers like to present strategies in stories and pictures, so being able to chart data into specific marketing scenarios can go a long way. Any big data toolset that is used by marketing should include data visualization tools that are easy and intuitive for marketers to use.

IT and Engineering

Many engineers are highly sophisticated software developers in their own right and often feel that they are more qualified in IT than is IT! In some cases, such as CAD development, they’re right.

Where engineering falls short is in workflow integration with other downstream systems and departments (e.g. manufacturing engineering, production, purchasing and service) that also need CAD-based information and metadata for their work. Additionally, there are issues about how to properly store and secure engineering data. It is in these areas where IT excels.

Best Practices for the IT/Engineering Relationship

Set a line of demarcation for development work. Engineering and IT can respect each other’s development domains by defining which applications and systems each department is responsible for. Normally, this comes down to engineers developing all of the apps that are resident on CAD and other engineering systems.

Focus on security and intellectual property protection. IT should take the lead in identifying the security guidelines and methods that are used to protect the intellectual property that resides in engineering documentation. There should be little conflict here, as both engineering and IT recognize the importance of security and of protecting IP. Engineering will be more than happy to let IT take the lead.

So, IT professionals should think through the strengths, weaknesses, interests and experiences of these three other key players in an enterprise. Then, the different teams can better delineate everyone's responsibilities.

What to Read Next:

IT Meets Finance: How CFOs Drive Digital Success

IT Report Card: Customer-Facing Applications

IBM Invests in Emerging Digital Product Engineering Market

About the Author(s)

Mary E. Shacklett

President of Transworld Data

Mary E. Shacklett is an internationally recognized technology commentator and President of Transworld Data, a marketing and technology services firm. Prior to founding her own company, she was Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturer in the semiconductor industry.

Mary has business experience in Europe, Japan, and the Pacific Rim. She has a BS degree from the University of Wisconsin and an MA from the University of Southern California, where she taught for several years. She is listed in Who's Who Worldwide and in Who's Who in the Computer Industry.

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