Marketing: It’s time to make friends with IT. Here’s How.

Marketing and IT Become Friends.jpg

On August 6, 1991, marketing was changed forever by the birth of ‘Internet technology’. It was day one of the World Wide Web. The web would one day grow up to be the mechanism that not only gave the power of brand influence to the people, but inextricably connect marketing to IT.

The marketers we work with are well aware that their efforts can no longer be done without the support of technology. It’s odd, then, that marketing and IT are not more in-step with one another already. It’s time to move forward arm-in-arm.

Big Data is (Finally) Bringing IT and Marketing Together
Until the last few years, marketing could largely survive with limited interaction with IT. So long as IT kept the lights on, computers running and generated key business intelligence reports, marketing could work with their agencies and software providers largely independently.

Big data is changing all that. Today so much data is available within so many systems that batch reporting and third party SaaS is no longer sufficient. A rich, integrated view of the customer, using data inside and outside of an organization’s consumers is needed to compete.

The marketing team of a Fortune 100 telecommunications, media and entertainment (TME) company leveraged internal, open source and 3rd party data collaborating closely with their IT team to drastically improve price promotions with laser precision at the neighborhood block level. IT enabled marketing to allocate its existing media budget dollars more efficiently by and across regions as well as increase overall customer acquisition and shore up retention. It was a huge win. And it is exemplary marketing and IT collaboration.

Too many organizations still experience a chasm between marketing and IT collaboration. For your company’s survival, this has to change.

Find the common ground
There is often a fundamental disconnect between how marketing and IT approach projects. Let’s look at a customer experience project as an example that seeks to link an enterprise outcome of improving customer experience to measurable behaviors. This kind of outcome could require a complex solution that marketing thinks could be identified with a few key data points. But in actuality, IT may need to create feature-release parity across mobile platforms while improving quality through a technical framework that reduces labor hours or through “next-best actions” in a customer care setting using active decisioning.

Yes, that’s a lot to consider. And this level of detail to execute an IT-enabled marketing project is often the point of disconnection between marketing and IT. So, how do you reach across the void to collaborate more effectively with your IT team?

  1. Know what you’re asking for
    This seems obvious, but the traditional process of specifying requirements that IT executes on is too slow and not relevant in a big data/analytics environment where machine learning discovers correlations not surfaced by gathering requirements. Focus on outcomes such as how do I reduce churn or improve the targeting of my retention spend?

  2. Agree on measurable outcomes
    Understanding how you are going to keep score e.g., measure outcomes, enables the Marketing/IT collaboration to effectively evaluate candidate big data/analytic efforts. The team can quickly abandon insights that may seem valuable, but won't move the needle when measurable outcomes set the standard.
  3. Complementary strengths
    IT forces marketing to think systematically in order to achieve the outcome. Marketing forces IT to think about external benefits to the company. Work to each others strengths to  fully leverage these complementary skillsets to your mutual success and advantage.

Understanding how IT prioritizes their project portfolio
IT has to balance the maintenance of systems that keep the organization running with innovative projects that move the company into better competitive position. Ultimately, IT should have a portfolio managment concept, maintaining a “book of work” that looks across the organization to ensure projects are being completed in order of importance and urgency to the overall business’ success. That might mean the HR system overhaul that reduces new hire time from 8 weeks to 4 weeks because the company is shorthanded takes precedent over your customer experience proof of concept. Or a new billing system may more effectively capture existing revenue streams than the new stream you are trying to create and take priority.

One way to keep your projects a priority is by being a good IT partner, which means collaborating on outcomes and business cases. IT’s ability and interest in working with you increases when you help shape your projects for accelerated time-to-value and then partner effectively throughout execution by staying focused on the outcomes. In turn, your ability to leverage IT for marketing projects improves. In other words, that’s collaboration paying off. 


Unrelentingly On-Message: What CEOs Can Learn from Meg Whitman


Hewlett Packard Enterprises’ CEO, Meg Whitman, keynoted at Infosys’ Confluence 2017 last week and her message was on point…five years on point.

Meg Whitman figured a few things out fast when she became the 4th CEO of Hewlett-Packard within a 13-month span. If she was going to lead the company in a turnaround where qualified predecessors before her had failed, it would take five years; playing to their strengths versus shoring up weaknesses, and a culture shift more difficult than any technological change. And getting those messages out early and often may have just saved her job and the company.

Her key messages to the board, the investors, and the employees came from the first two – time and strengths. And sticking to those key messages gave the company the what, why and how Hewlett-Packard would transform from an outdated behemoth back to the industry-leading innovator she believes will eventually change the way we compute (see HP Labs puts optical connections inside the server).

In her bid for California Governor, Meg learned the power of a story and telling the story again, and again, and, yes, again. The five-year transformation strategy became her corporate stump speech. A speech delivered consistently and without corporate speak, with examples of successes and failures, with a vision for a new future and a plan to reach that desired future.  

She knew even when it felt stale to her, it was what the company and its stakeholders needed to hear. Her message drumbeat was so steady and on-message that even the press cajoled her for consistency.

Messages must be backed by action and progress toward outcomes. However, when she placed the 5-year transformation stake in the ground, her messages became her lifeline. When investors wanted to know why the company hadn’t turned around in 12 months, she could point to her consistent message it would take five years, not one to meet their objectives, but she had a plan and they were on track. The company had to get smaller to go faster and one large Hewlett-Packard became four, more nimble entities. She reduced the company’s internal applications from 9500 to 350. She’s also betting, and betting big, on a return to their innovation roots by showcasing their next-generation computing prototype, The Machine, their testbed for memory-centric computing.

But if you’ve been following Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, you already knew their strategic path, because Meg has been saying it for years.