IT and marketing: The Fierce FAQ

Critical questions about marketing technology and IT, with case studies of CIO/CMO collaboration that delivers results
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IT and marketing at war with each other? CMOs throwing CIOs under the bus, and vice versa?
 
Surely not. Robust collaboration between marketing and IT is the only way forward.
 
But tension between the two isn't just media hype. The marketing landscape is undergoing rapid, seismic change--think of the evolution of ecommerce, social media, big data, marketing automation and mobile computing. The famous "customer journey" has fractured. Legacy systems aren't getting the job done anymore.
 
CMOs face an overwhelming set of new requirements, and an overwhelming set of unproven options for meeting those requirements. IT can help.
 
So here are critical questions about marketing and IT, with answers drawn from recent Fierce coverage. This FAQ will help CIOs and IT pros focus on delivering what their marketing colleagues really need. 
 
Because a successful IT/marketing partnership makes for a successful business.
[latest update: 9/16/14]
 
[click on any question to skip ahead to that question and answer]
 
Marketers are in a period of tremendous change. And so are IT pros. Both face growing business demands as well as a raft of new possibilities and opportunities. 
 
Marketers have to move quickly. And they aren't always satisfied with what they're getting from the CIO and the IT department, or how long it takes to deliver. Some people also claim there's a fundamental cultural difference between marketing and IT departments, which makes effective communication tougher.
 
The discussion kicked into high gear when Gartner research director Laura McLellan predicted that by 2017, CMOs will outspend CIOs on information technology--essentially taking matters into their own hands.
 
(See more of the back-and-forth in CMO versus CIO: It's not really a smackdown.)
 
Media outlets smelled blood and piled on. Headlines trumpted "Are CIOs destined to work for CMOs?", "CMO vs CIO," "the IT/marketing disconnect," and so on.
 
The Fierce Take: Forget the war metaphors and the budget-control battles. The companies that learn to cooperate will prosper. Cooperation starts with mutual understanding.
 
 
Here's what marketers are grappling with, all at the same time:
- Changes in customer behavior and how they research and buy stuff.
- Tons more marketing, advertising, sales and distribution channels.
- As a result, tons more data.
- Tons more tools and services--so many that sorting out the possibilities is a chore in and of itself. 
- And just for fun, here's one more pressure point: CEOs want better proof of the return on marketing spend.
 
Let's hear some CMOs' point of view on it, shall we?
 
Mark Gambill is Chief Marketing Officer of Vocus, which provides cloud-based marketing software. He's a marketer, and his customers are also marketers. He elaborates on some of these challenges.
 
- Customers' purchasing paths are more complex and less predictable.
 
"If you go back a few years, there was a pretty linear purchase path. So if you [as a marketer] did A, B and C, you'd eventually get D as your outcome," says Gambill. "'We've got a catchy ad, we'll throw in a discount and boom, a purchase'--those days are gone." Consider the 'showrooming' phenomenon--the term didn't exist until recently, but now it's a routine customer behavior.
 
- It's getting easier to understand the effect of marketing activities that happen early in the purchasing process.
 
Many companies still rely on "last-touch attribution"--if they buy from the website, then the credit for the sale is solely attributed to the website. They don't know whether this week's TV ad campaign had any effect on the decision.
 
Instead, CMOs are after "level three analytics," says Gambill. Last-touch attribution is level one; level two is about media mix modeling, or understanding precisely how to allocate marketing campaign money. Level three is "behavior, sentiment--that's when you start getting into the cool stuff," he says. 
 
(Read more of Gambill's thoughts in Here's what your CMO is up against.)
 
Liz Miller, VP of the CMO Council, told FierceCMO that from a cultural point of view, CMOs need for data is not just a technical challenge. "I think for B2B marketers you tend to find a culture where sales is the owner of the customer, and because sales owns the customer, traditionally sales then hoards the data," she said.
 
"In a B2B space where that account-based selling strategy is so critical, it's even more important for marketing and IT to be able to partner together; to engage in that silo-busting activity where they can go in and demonstrate to that individual sales rep, demonstrate to sales the value of tackling this Big Data picture." 
 
And it's also worth noting that some companies are hiring Chief Marketing Technology Officers to navigate these rapid changes. Again, it's up to you to make that relationship a boon rather than a bane.
 
 
Social sentiment tools can help identify at a glance whether customers are responding positively or negatively to a company or an event. That intelligence translates to money--both in positive terms (fine-tuning ad campaigns, for example, which is a constant marketing requirement) and negative terms (early detection and resolution of problems and business disruptions.)
 
Last year the CIO of Toyota's North American operation reported that the company translates social media data into more car sales, measuring accuracy of sales forecasts, effectiveness of new Toyota incentives and ads, and also the effectiveness of what competitors are doing. (Read more about Toyota' social media program.)
 
Examples of high end social media tools include Sentiment and Salesforce.com's Radian6--here is a look at 50 different social media monitoring options from Social Media Today in mid-2013 (which means some of the companies have already been acquired or dissolved). 
 
Other products such as IBM's Tealeaf software can help analyze customer behavior on a website--above and beyond the paths and funnels available in web analytics software such as Google Analytics and Adobe Omniture.
 
In other cases, end-user companies are applying a variety of heavy horsepower tools such as SAP's in-memory HANA analytics system or Tableau Software's visualization toolset to existing data sources--check out Computerworld's excellent roundup of free tools for data visualization if the budget is tight. 
 
 
Exactly! Exactly! Starting to see the problem from the CMO's perspective?
 
And we're really just scratching the surface of what's available. The possibilities threaten to overwhelm.
 
How about video analytics software (sometimes built into surveillance systems) which can generate data around customer behavior patterns in a retail store or at the cash register?
 
And how about content management systems--these have been around for ages, but take on a new significance with the rise of content marketing.
 
It really is an endless list.
 
Scott Brinker, author of the Chief Marketing Technologist blog, periodically updates a visual map of marketing software categories and examples.
 
Brinker started doing this map in 2011; Gartner followed suit a bit later.
 
Brinker's map includes leading vendors in each category; Gartner's is slick and clear, but doesn't provide the same level of detail.
 
Boiling these possibilities down is tough. Enterasys CMO Vala Afshar posted a list of his company's 10 "must-have" sales and marketing tools.
 
The list includes some familiar names--you know Salesforce, Marketo, LinkedIn, Box. But do you know timetrade, Okta, and insidesales.com?
 
The Fierce Take: This is why companies need a well-oiled process for discovering, evaluating, implementing and testing marketing tools at a high rate.
 
 
Is it possible that many of these categories will get neatly rolled up into Customer Experience Management suites?
 
That's a good idea that faces some practical challenges.
 
As CMO Afshar mentions in his post, you can use single sign-on technologies in practical ways across a spectrum of tools (Okta being his example).
 
But FierceContentManagement editor Ron Miller notes that a single suite of coordinated marketing activity is a complicated ambition. The complexity of the tool space is one issue. Organizational silos are another. Legacy systems are yet another.
 
As the notion of "the API economy" continues to take hold, more and more software tools should provide data streams that can plug into dashboards or integrate with other tools. That's something to keep an eye on, and to push vendors for. 
 
If you can help get there, your CMO will love you.
 
 
Here's what marketers don't want, but say they often get when IT's put in charge of big data:
 
- A bottoms-up approach. Characterized as "Gather up a big pile of whatever data we can most easily get our hands on, wait for someone to ask a question and then query the database." This doesn't guarantee that the real, game-changing strategic questions are being addressed. 
- A focus on what's available, instead of what matters.
- An insistence on really big, really slow infrastructure projects.
 
That's according to Jennifer Zezut, who runs an analytics SaaS company (but her observations have a ring of truth, vested interest notwithstanding).
 
What marketers need instead--as described by CIO and self-professed data junkie Isaac Sacolick on his blog StarCIO:
 
- To know what data is available, and where.
- To have access to tools and data "without significant delay". (There's that speed factor again.)
- Self-service Business Intelligence. Ultimately they need to be able to find answers without relying on IT for reports and interventions.
 
So they're not looking for IT to provide all the analytics expertise. They're asking for good data and good analysis tools.
 
 
In a larger company, it may be time to hire a "Director of IT, marketing" if you haven't already--Gambill says "this capability has usually been around, maybe called something else." IT recruiter Martha Heller sees growing demand for titles and expertise like that. Such a person can form a bridge between the departments and make sure marketing's priorities are being addressed in the most efficient manner possible.
 
On the data side, you may need to up the IT department's game regarding data management. Database Architects (not adminstrators) are scarce but may be necessary, depending on how radical your big data demands may be.
 
Some companies are going the opposite route; some surveys indicate that even DBAs are headed for the endangered list as NoSQL databases and other tools infiltrate the enterprise. But if you're ramping up big data work at the same time, this is probably the worst time in history to start phasing out your data stewardship capabilities.
 
Aside from building expertise specific to analytics work and marketing technology, the other way IT can support marketing is to go faster! Heller points out that CMOs might be the only executives with shorter lifespans than CIOs. Their window for delivering and documenting ROI is very small. That's why a pokey IT department isn't going to win friends in marketing.
 
 
Here are examples of CIO/CMO, IT/marketing partnerships:
 
Goals include helping customers document their own experiences, and get on the slopes faster with less paperwork.
 
Directly manages customer analytics, and serves as a liaison between CIO and CMO.
 
Having a CIO with a firm footing in marketing helps in creating effective metrics and methodologies. It also can lead to cohesive goals and a unified culture.
 
Shop.CA's power partnership [on Forbes.com]:
Points of emphasis are shared brainstorming planning, colocation and accountability.