Why Everybody Needs to be Best Friends with IT
|By Matt Mullen|
A few weeks ago while attending a digital marketing conference, I was struck by a slightly strange presentation taking place on the stage, just a few feet in front of me. Discussing an apparently fruitful project was the CIO and the CMO of the same company, the crux of their jointly delivered pitch being that in order for them to be individually and collectively successful in their endeavors, they had to build a strong working relationship.
The subtext of this was that we, the audience, should find this somewhat incredulous: "Why isn’t the CIO trying to strangle the CMO with an Ethernet cable? Why isn’t the CMO trying to block the CIO’s airways with branded pens?" How did we get to the point where there is an assumption that line-of-business leaders are in constant opposition with IT as a natural course of action, akin to that fought between cartoon cats and dogs?
As someone who started—what I loosely refer to as my "career"—in sales and marketing, before accidentally ending up as an IT person before accidentally becoming a sales and marketing person again, I have divided loyalties. When I was in those sales and marketing phases of my employment, IT could often be seen as something of a brake on my unbounding creativity. When in IT mode, I saw myself as trying to save those in sales and marketing from the results of their own creative efforts. Annoying as it was that it could take several weeks (and reams of emails) for campaign microsites to be available, I also recall the time I drove past a number of billboards one Saturday morning, advertising a URL that I knew for a fact flagged an error 404, because there had never been a request to set it up in the first place.
It would be easy, therefore, to see IT performing the parental role in social business, preventing Marketing from pushing Tic-Tacs up their noses or rubbing ice cream into the electrical outlets; if you’re an IT person, you laughed then, didn’t you? Admit it. If you are a Marketing person, you see IT as what is referred in the UK as a "jobsworth" (from "I can’t do that, it is more than my job’s worth"), always finding reasons why, what seems on the fact of it quite reasonable demands, it's too difficult, expensive or time-consuming to consider (the Marketers reading this all just nodded in sage agreement).
"Technology needs to be underpinned with the skills and oversight required to ensure it is long-lasting, governed, reliable, verifiable and stable. Skills only the IT department possess."
In essence, two functions that, at one time, would never have crossed paths are now inexorably entwined in an abusive, co-dependent relationship. In that light, perhaps, it is strange of me to question a celebration of partnership, such as I saw on that stage, as being a somewhat unusual? In my defense, I thought it was 2014.
Those incidents of clashing priorities that I witnessed first-hand were a decade ago. Yet, a paragraph back, the IT person in you still laughed and the Marketer in you still nodded. This isn’t a great sign, is it? It’s an especially bad sign when what line-of-business projects are demanding of contemporary IT is becoming ever more complicated, bigger, faster, cheaper, immediately available and never off-line. Misapprehensions around cloud technology–it’s not magic; it’s just that the servers moved somewhere else–haven’t helped, other than allowing "shadow IT" (the child of that aforementioned fractured relationship) to further flourish.
So often when I’m briefed by software vendors and I ask about their buyers, I hear about line-of-business roles but rarely any involvement from IT. In some circumstances this is understandable, but where–for example–this concerns systems that aggregate customer data and collect sets of information from legacy application systems in the process, I get a bit concerned. Is it the case that a CIO might not know where data from on-premise systems might be ending up? Is that really a good idea?
We have been pretty bullish at 451 Research in never buying into pundits' view that the role of the CIO will diminish in the face of an all-powerful CMO. As much as we believe that for social business to be successful, it needs to be focused towards work enabled by technology, that technology needs to be underpinned with the skills and oversight required to ensure it is long-lasting, governed, reliable, verifiable and stable. Skills only the IT department possess.