Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: The Value of Your IT Crowd

Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: The Value of Your IT Crowd

Article excerpt

In this data-led era, companies' digital specialists have never been more important to marketers.

If you've ever seen a group of one-year-olds play, you will have noticed that, while they will focus on their toys and play with their mum, they don't really play with each other, but next to each other. This is until some interaction is forced by circumstances; a ball slips from the grasp of one and rolls over to another who refuses to return it. Then it's tears and protests from both, until they can be distracted.

It's only later in life that they develop the ability to co-operate, and learn that in doing so their levels of productivity and satisfaction leap. Some never learn these skills, and it's tempting to say that they tend to end up in IT; the reality is that they work in marketing, too.

There has always been a dilemma about how to organise companies. Should we structure around our customer, or our skills? Most companies have divided into disciplines - finance, operations, marketing, IT and so on - arguing that professional development, skill-based management and operational efficiency generate greater benefits than possible in a business structured around customers, even though it makes it harder to get the customer's voice to reach through the company.

It's a compromise embarked upon knowingly, and was well-suited to a stable business environment where interaction between departments could be structured and process-managed.

The digital revolution has changed all that. For marketers, traditional pain points were their interfaces with finance and operations management. Successful chief marketers learned the language of finance and formed collaborative working arrangements with operations - product and service innovation could derive from operational innovation, while operations can use marketing's customer understanding.

For years, the IT department looked after the back room, making sure the phones worked, payroll functioned and someone was available on the phone to tell you to turn it off and on again. The emphasis was more on the T than the I.

Now, all sorts of information is controlled by IT, from social media to site analytics. Without this stuff, marketing is flying blind; but in many companies, the interface between marketing and IT fails, resulting in inadequate data. The evidence is clear in the number of third-party suppliers brought in to meet marketing's need for intelligence.

Moreover, just as operations can be the source of propositions that marketing can exploit (better packaging, lower prices, faster service), the web has given IT a customer-facing role. …

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