Brands battle for way forward in IT/marketing relationship

Marketers from JC Penney, FICO and Penton Media are an example of the vastly different relationships that exist between IT and marketing teams thanks to the rise of marketing technology

If you have seen Accenture Interactive's latest report, you’ll know that while several CMOs and CIOs find their relationship to be mutually beneficial, plenty more still haven’t worked out how to bridge the gap between the two sides.

Nowhere was this more apparent than during a customer panel at Oracle’s Marketing Cloud Interact conference, where marketers from FICO, Penton and JC Penney shone a stark light on the varied and not always conducive nature of their relationships with IT.

Penton Media vice-president of demand generation solutions, Rhonda Wunderlin, said that when she first joined the company more than six years ago the plan was get marketing automation in place so that marketers could do their jobs without having to lean so heavily on IT support.

“By rolling out marketing automation, the idea was you didn’t need IT to build the forms or create the database anymore,” she said.

“If I fast forward to where we are today, I feel like I need IT still, yet they want me to do my own thing – they’re not there for me and I really need them to help with the data, how it’s siloed. I’d really like more support from IT.”

Rather than any corporate or executive directive to encourage IT and marketing to collaborate more effectively, it’s left to the two sides to figure it out, Wunderlin added.

I feel like I need IT still, yet they want me to do my own thing – they’re not there for me

Rhonda Wunderlin, Penton Media

On a completely different end of the marketing/IT relationship spectrum is JC Penney. Its vice-president of customer strategy, Elmer Smith, said he and his team have worked very collaboratively with IT over the past 18 months, as the retailer looks to transform the way it goes to market.

He admitted the two teams “really had no choice” but to partner on the company’s decision to revamp a suite of technology solutions including its customer database warehousing, email provider, and investment in the Responsys campaign management platform.

What was more encouraging was that the two sides simply found a way to interact and got on with the work.

“We have been attached to the hip with IT, get great support from our CTO, and I have a person on his team that is our marketing representative,” Smith said.

As part of its change management approach, the two teams leveraged internal resources and set up a number of ‘swim lanes’ around areas such as campaign management and data feeds.

“We put certain people in charge of each internally, and we had cross-functional teams from IT and my team working and getting together,” Smith said.

“We meet once a week, are involved in all the project meetings, go together to our capital approval team and get things approved together. I have a small group working now with IT on change management within each of the platforms. I’m also blessed to have my own campaign team.

“We didn’t really have to put rules of engagement in place – it just came together very nicely. We have had our healthy disagreements, but it has worked out well because we all had the same end game in mind.”

Smith noted all sides recognised the changes were necessary if they were going to turnaround the brand.

“We were broken from an infrastructure point of view. I previously couldn’t have two campaigns being developed at 3am, let alone trying to do any analytics without the whole thing coming to a halt,” he said.

“Our CTO and our SVP of marketing made a conscious decision to collaborate and they’re pushing that down to the rest of the team. And it has been good.”

At analytics software group, FICO, its marketing automation technology rollout was accompanied by a dedicated technology resource for the marketing team, its digital marketing director, Kelly Rausch, said.

“He started in IT, moved into marketing, and his role is 20 per cent IT, and 80 per cent marketing today,” she explained.

Rausch noted that FICO’s unusually heavy infrastructure and stringent industry regulatory compliance requirements made it imperative that digital marketing assets sat separately to the rest of the organisation.

“To try and put the digital marketing assets into that environment just makes it heavier. IT isn’t as worried about keeping marketing automation secure,” she said.

“Marketing owns all the marketing cloud and digital assets. And there is a big firewall between our marketing data and the rest of the business.”

So does the rise of marketing technologists, automation and more sophisticated marketing solution stacks mean CIOs and the IT team aren’t going to be needed in the future? Wunderlin didn’t think so.

“I don’t think the CIO can be taken out of the technology ownership entirely, but as more marketing technologies become more prevalent and more required by organisations to compete, marketers have more say in what is selected and what path you go down,” she said. “IT has then to figure out how that pans out.”

Krebs saw marketers increasingly bringing in technology skills to their teams, as well as skilling up.

“The more software that is able to be configured by ‘super users’, and the more you invest in software like that, the less you’re going to need or rely on IT,” he claimed.

“But with a lot of what we own, I still need to partner with IT.”

More from Oracle Marketing Cloud Interact 2014

- Nadia Cameron travelled to Oracle Marketing Cloud Interact 2014 as a guest of Oracle.

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