The Challenges and Benefits of Aligning Marketing and IT for Analytics

by   |   October 31, 2012 6:04 pm   |   0 Comments

Hear that sound? It’s the stampede of marketers running into the information technology space. They need data analytics tools to do their jobs better, and with all the pressure they’re getting from the C-suite to show results, they’re in a hurry. One study, the August 2012 CMO Survey, predicts the percent of marketing budget spent on marketing analytics will jump nearly 70 percent from a current average of 8.0 percent to 13.5 percent in three years.

This invasion is leading some overburdened IT departments to watch as their marketing colleagues bypass them to purchase software as a service (SaaS) and other resources. But there’s another, more complicated option: CIOs could better align with CMOs and collaborate on ways to use data to move the business forward.

“The CIO has an opportunity here to become a far more strategic business driver and stop just being the [person] who keeps the lights on,” says Liz Miller, vice president of the CMO Council. “There’s an opportunity here to partner with the CMO to identify, ‘Where can we apply analytics and data? Where can we apply this insight we’ve gathered to make this experience better?’”

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With so much big data coming in – representing so much potential to learn how to speak to customers in more relevant ways – many marketers could use the help. The 2011 IBM Global CMO Study found 71 percent of CMOs don’t feel prepared to manage today’s data explosion, and more than two-thirds think they will need to invest in new tools and technologies and develop new strategies for managing big data.

“I see very few examples of companies making really imaginative uses of data analytics today despite the fact the tools are much more powerful and the underlying technology is easier to use and more accessible,” says Paul Gillin, co-author of “Social Marketing to the Business Customer” (Wiley, 2011) and a digital marketing strategist. “The problem is we are in this transition period where we’re flooded with data. All of a sudden we’ve got this capability to capture all this data but we’re still very early stage in understanding how to use it.”

To be sure, it’s not just CMOs who have their eyes on extracting value from data. The 2011 IBM Global CIO Study found that 79 percent of CIOs say their top priority over the next five years is to “strategically use data to derive insight and intelligence for the organization.”

Yet despite the mutual interest, many marketers aren’t asking their overly busy counterparts down the hall to help them solve their data problems. “What marketers tend to turn to IT to identify is, ‘What is our legacy infrastructure?’” Miller says. “What they’re not doing is turning to IT and certainly not to the CIO and saying, ‘Here’s what we want to accomplish, what would you recommend?’ They’re not looking to the CIO as a strategic partner – they’re looking to IT as a functional partner.”

But while marketers can gain insight when they purchase SaaS analytics products, it will likely be limited insight. “The problem is they only have data from a narrow view of the organization,” Miller says. “They’re not integrating finance data into that or customer service data because they’ve gone down this very narrow path of what marketing owns and can control.”

Both Marketing and IT Need to Move Forward
So what needs to change to create a more functional relationship between the two groups?

For starters, Miller says CMOs and CIOs need to stop arguing about which department owns customer data – the one historically responsible for housing it, storing it, and securing it or the one that presumably owns the customer. “The reality is the company owns all of it,” she says.

All Together Now

Marketing owns the customer relationship. IT often owns custody of enterprise data. That doesn’t mean there needs to be a conflict between the two.

What Marketing can gain from IT:


  • Understanding of enterprise IT systems and capabilities
  • Wider view of organization data sources

How IT can make an impact:


  • Join marketing discussions about gaining value from analytics
  • Demonstrate the ability to support the development of new applications or the deployment of new analytics tools

CIOs could also start embedding a senior executive into marketing, says Martha Heller, author of “The CIO Paradox: Battling the Contradictions of IT Leadership” (Bibliomotion, 2012). This person could report to the CIO yet work with the CMO on marketing goals and advise on technology, she says. Heller’s Westborough, Mass.-based firm,Heller Search Associates, is already finding candidates for these kinds of hybrid posts.

Meanwhile, IT needs to deal with its perception problem, Gillin says. “IT organizations suffer from the image of being the naysayers who restrict access and impose security requirements and [have] the long lead times,” he says.

IT will indeed need to move at a different pace. Bernard Spang, director of data server marketing for IBM’s information management software group, cautions IT teams that the pressure from marketing means they have to deliver value faster. There is an emphasis on the speed of deployment of new applications, he says, and also on ensuring it is simple to manage these processes throughout their deployment.

Despite the challenges, there are signs CMOs and CIOs are strengthening their alliances. Spang says it’s easier to set up meetings with both entities today than it was five years ago. Internal political battles are fewer, he says, and IT has changed its thinking about working with business executives.

Also seeing cooperation is Don Howren, vice president, marketing at Cirro. His startup, which is based in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., sells analytics technology that allows non-technical analysts to explore data from multiple sources without involving IT. The company pitches its products to business users like marketers, but IT teams often join the discussions at some point. On a recent prospect call, for instance, IT wanted to understand the technical, platform, and security ramifications of Cirro’s products. “That kind of collaboration seemed to be effective,” Howren says.

Miller, meanwhile, expects to continue hearing about stronger CMO and CIO partnerships. “At the end of the day,” she says, “the customer’s demand for increased digital and demand that a brand engages with them in a highly personal, highly relevant manner is going to dictate and mandate change.”

Mindy Charski ( is a Dallas-based freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter @mindycharski.

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