How IT and Marketing Can Avoid Becoming History’s Next Big Rivals

They need to collaborate instead of go head-to-head

IT and marketing departments have a lot more in common than either may initially realize. Getty Images
Headshot of Jeff Cheal

Crunchy peanut butter versus smooth. Vanilla ice cream versus chocolate. In the grand scheme of things, some of history’s biggest competitors have more in common than not.

The same goes for marketing and IT, even though these departments struggle to see eye-to-eye at many businesses today.

In particular, the migration of web content (e.g., outreach campaigns, blog programs and more) away from IT infrastructure and toward marketing assets breeds tension between these two important company branches. New solutions designed for our data-rich world make it easier for marketers with relatively little IT expertise to step in and manage what were traditionally very technical responsibilities.

Whether in the kitchen or in the office, however, rivals should try to collaborate for the common good. When marketing and IT come together, they’ll find their blended expertise and perspectives create an ecosystem that offers easier data exchanges, greater governance, boosted security and many other benefits.

Technology helps IT and marketing pursue efforts in tandem, so long as they recognize and respect each other’s perspectives.

Walk a mile in another department’s shoes

Nearly all companies (95 percent) report collaboration tools as a “high” or “medium” investment priority this year, according to recent industry research. But until members across your departments are willing to actively listen to viewpoints that differ from their own, your collaboration and efficiency will suffer.

For many marketers, the democratization of cheaper digital marketing solutions enables them to bypass bureaucratic red tape and invest in technology-independent from IT. Meanwhile, today’s cloud-based environment eliminates a lot of IT’s more routine tasks. Marketers’ excitement to implement changes quickly leaves IT feeling like their hard-earned expertise is at risk.

Still, neither of these perspectives offers a complete picture. Yes, new technologies give your marketers greater IT power, but it’s dangerous to completely replace your IT staff. Doing so leads to bloated, disjointed mar tech stacks that offer limited value. Likewise, rather than getting defensive or combative, IT departments should treat digital marketing objectives as invitations to build new infrastructures that empower their coworkers.

Marketing wants to inspire action among end users, and IT hopes to reduce costs and streamline operations. These goals seem quite different, but technology helps IT and marketing pursue efforts in tandem, so long as they recognize and respect each other’s perspectives.

Institute collaboration as a healthy business practice

The window for marketing and IT to prioritize collaboration is quickly closing. Fortunately, once on the same page, organizations can see overnight improvement if they make immediate changes.

Appoint a person who bridges both teams. A physical liaison ensures all parties are heard and happy. This person is a daily, in-office reminder of your organization’s commitment to seamless cooperation. Small measures like open office hours and joint meetings between departments go a long way in mending relationships.

Institute processes that satisfy all goals. Even when new mar tech combines responsibilities, it doesn’t necessarily mean IT and marketing share ideas of what success looks like. Develop goals and measurement strategies each department can use to be accountable and improve over time. To start, include both groups early on in conversations about establishing KPIs as well as how and when to report on them.

Adopt flexible technologies. Don’t prioritize the technology needs of one department over another; favoritism only deters a collaborative culture. Seek out solutions that blend easy-to-use and sophisticated features to meet the needs of both departments.

Keep lines of communication open. By the time a solution is agreed upon and implemented, new technology innovations will have surfaced. Open communication channels allow collaborative processes to grow responsibly and pivot as necessary, ultimately increasing office-wide efficiency. Seek out multiple communications avenues, both qualitative and quantitative, to ensure you hear all voices at all levels.

Organizations that cannot break down departmental walls with strategies like these will only find it more difficult to keep up with competitors achieving collaboration now.

Marketing and IT are two of today’s fastest growing and most promising areas of business. While you can afford to keep your peanut butters separate, there’s simply too much on the line for these departments to be at odds and remain siloed. For businesses, seamless, loyalty-building digital experiences are at stake.

@badiehard Jeff Cheal is the director of product strategy, personalization suite at Episerver.