What marketing wants to say to IT

Attention, IT: As marketing goes all-digital, your CMO needs more from you than back-office support. Are you ready to be a marketing partner?

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Chief marketing officer David Perry knows exactly what he needs from his organisation's IT department.

To maximise the success of his marketing strategies, he needs a CIO and a technology team that go beyond conventional support, Perry says -- he's looking for a partner that can help transform marketing. "The CIO has to have a broad view and help us figure out what works," says Perry, CMO at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass.

Of course, IT must continue to keep the infrastructure running and the systems secure. But these days especially, marketing needs more than that -- sometimes much more.

Computerworld caught up with several CMOs and marketing executives to find out what they'd ask of IT if they could speak frankly. Read on to discover their seven key requirements.

1. Understand our new KPIs

Many IT leaders aren't tuned in to what marketing does or how it measures success, says Gartner analyst Laura McLellan.

Social media, viral marketing, omnichannel customer engagement, big data -- those forces are each generating new key performance indicators, or KPIs, which are used to measure the marketing department's effectiveness.

"It's no longer about just acquiring a customer," explains Kevin Cochrane, the CMO at software company OpenText. CMOs must maximise a customer's total lifetime value, he explains, and that means marketing must optimise all customer interactions. "If you can deliver a truly outstanding experience that [matches] your brand's promise, you'll have a happy, engaged customer."

To reach that goal, CMOs need as much insight as possible into all customer interactions, from sales and servicing to billing and other experiences once considered back-office functions -- which is where IT can play a role.

"The technology team needs to understand what generates marketing success," says Glen Hartman, global managing director of digital consulting at Accenture Interactive. "There is so much pressure on CMOs to redefine KPIs -- they need to take the outcomes and new metrics and, from that, create heightened engagement."

2. Deliver on analytics

Everyone is talking about big data and analytics, but at many companies, data remains locked in multiple silos, says Shuba Srinivasan, marketing professor and academic co-lead of the Digital Technology Sector at Boston University's School of Management.

"Marketers really need integrated databases," Srinivasan says. "The CMO's job would be a lot easier if CIOs could provide an integrated solution that tracks from lead generation through sale and post-sale information such as returns and how customers interact with the company on social networks."

It's a critical area for marketing executives. In fact, "managing, collecting and making use of internal and external data" is one of their top five challenges, according to more than 500 marketing professionals who responded to IBM's 2013 Global Survey of Marketers.

3. Guide my technology spend...

According to Gartner, by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than will CIOs. Even so, marketing doesn't want to make its tech investments in a vacuum. CMOs want IT to bring its technology expertise, knowledge of existing infrastructure and (newfound) understanding of marketing's objectives to bear in helping marketing make the best investment decisions.

There are a lot of technology platforms out there, and it's very easy as a marketing organisation to fall in love with bells and whistles. Bronwyn Monroe, NineSigma Inc.

"There are a lot of technology platforms out there, and it's very easy as a marketing organisation to fall in love with the bells and whistles, but it comes down to business needs," says Bronwyn Monroe, marketing director for NineSigma Inc., a B2B services provider in Cleveland. "IT can be a first filter in terms of collecting the information on viable systems that fit our needs."

That guidance can extend through the evaluation phase, Monroe says. "When we get to the demo, I like to have everyone in the room to see it at the same time. The IT people pick up on red flags, whereas marketing is just thinking, 'Oh this is great.'"

Monroe says marketing at NineSigma always had an IT staffer help with technology evaluations, but now her department is trying to get IT more involved, soliciting more feedback about how potential technology investments can meet marketing's strategic goals.

4. ... but let me run my own systems

Yes, marketing wants helps making purchasing decisions, but it also wants more control of its own systems once they're up and running.

"Marketing needs to own the entirety of the customer experience," says OpenText CMO Cochrane. "I need new business capabilities, and I need to have complete control over system innovation. Let me have more control over the front-end experience. Let me run fast and expose new capabilities."

I need new business capabilities, and I need to have complete control over system innovation. Kevin Cochrane, OpenText

Cochrane envisions an environment where IT runs back-end systems, oversees the infrastructure and puts in new applications that marketing personnel can manipulate without IT involvement.

Cochrane doesn't want his team doing lots of coding or fixing bugs, but he does wish for user-friendly applications that allow his workers to quickly alter design, develop a new user experience or create a new technology-driven marketing initiative. "I want to be empowered and empower others in how they interact and deliver personal experiences to customers," he explains.

"It's not just about building another application," Cochrane continues. "IT needs to build another layer. We need an 'engagement layer,' and then IT needs to hand over the keys to the kingdom to the people who are listening to customers every day," he says.

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