4 way to play nicer with IT

Marketing and IT executives are finding themselves increasingly stepping on each other's toes. We look at how you can get along better with the IT function of your company

Gone are the days when each department could retreat to its corner and work separately. "This is a much different environment than what it was when Web design first started," observes Hatcher. "In those days, website content was more static. Now, it's highly interactive, so it requires constant collaboration between marketing and IT since data and content must be merged."

The onus is on marketing to be able to explain to IT why "We can't do it like that" or "We can't do it that fast" aren't acceptable answers. And for its part, IT must articulate why it needs to be able to thoroughly test data integration and back-end functionality before it can green-light a project.

"We work with marketing to build awareness of why we do what we do," says Suarez. That communication is especially crucial because "this 'engine-level' software and data integration is done by IT behind the scenes," she explains. "It's largely transparent to others."

Part of IT's responsibility in the collaborative process includes articulating issues around IT infrastructure. "This includes thinking about the greater picture and about the kinds of technical and people capabilities we need to provide," says Suarez.

"Where websites are concerned, IT has to not only think about what marketing wants to achieve with content, but also about its effect on transaction processing, the capture of business analytics, the security of the website and compliance elements like PCI," she says.

Lack of active collaboration between marketing and IT is a common problem, says Howard Luks, an orthopedic surgeon who advises doctors looking to expand their digital presence. "Often, IT doesn't play a critical role in digital media except for maintaining the firewall. They're told by marketing what to do, but they should be working together as a team, as the fine line between digital media, mobile communications and IT infrastructure becomes blurred," says Luks.

Ultimately, says the USGA's Carroll, the goal is "clarity between IT and marketing on roles and functions without misunderstandings about who should be doing what with digital media."

3. Hang on to vendor management

Nowhere is the battle for who controls what initially more prominent than in the area of vendor relations. Marketing and IT managers agree that well-defined internal processes for outside vendor selection and management can eliminate confusion -- with IT, to no one's surprise, most often insisting it has more experience in contracting with technology vendors.

In Dade County, placing vendor management under IT works best because of IT's long record of experience with technology-related vendors, including those that provide digital media products and services, says Suarez. "IT supports the software, executes all of the new releases and upgrades, and provides all of the vendor management -- even if it is for tech vendors that marketing originally contracted with," she says.

The same holds true at Primerica. "We've got a process in place that technology must be purchased and coordinated through IT first," says Wade. The strategy works because IT also usually shoulders the responsibility for managing vendors, contracts and service level agreements.

4. Be prepared to compromise

As a former executive charged with running both marketing and IT, I decided to host a "break the ice" breakfast when the decision first came down to unify the departments so everyone could get acquainted. IT went for the black coffee and donuts. Marketing chose the croissants and lattes. It didn't seem like collaboration would be a slam dunk -- and it wasn't.

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