A Business at War: Marketing Vs IT

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chessBy Helen Morgan and Sarah Gill

As CEO it is your job to unify the often-conflicting demands of your business functions, set the business strategy, and listen critically to your employees and customers in order to shape your business offering.  While many CEOs are getting on top of the second and third demands, the ability to control warring business factions remains elusive.

In today’s rapidly moving, internet-dominated business environment, there is one obstacle to unification that few recognise, and even fewer can remove.

A reverse-magnetism dynamic exists between two of the most essential and forward-thinking departments in your business, and each holds one half of your market domination capability in their bottom drawer! Referring of course to your IT and marketing departments, and their oil versus water impasse.

To succeed in today’s data-driven, customer-first world, IT and marketing need to hang tighter than skinny jeans after an all-you-can-eat buffet. Displaying fearless dialogue and cohesion. “Throwing ideas out there” without fear of rejection or rivalry. Demonstrating patience, persistence, and above all TRUST.

However, the cultural difference bordering on aversion between these two groups, and the attendant failure to respond quickly to customer needs, is costing business huge amounts of money in collective opportunity loss.

So, as a CEO, how do you solve this problem?

As the old saying goes, how do you get the kids to play nice?

An excellent starting point is rethinking how these groups communicate.

Does marketing share their strategy with IT?  Has the IT department shared their Schedule of Works with marketing?  Do they have shared goals and commitments? If they’re not lunching together on Fridays, or any other day, except when forced into each other’s company, you may have a problem.

The second step is to reassess how these groups are trained and rewarded.

For example, do position descriptions insist upon productive working relationships between the groups? And do you have strategies/intelligence in place to ensure that the synergies are actually occurring, without subversion or cleverly orchestrated back-room insurrection? Do you have plans in place to promote transparency and trust between the groups, and the understanding persistence to see it through?

The success of the business is up to you

The lack of similarity and familiarity will initially create a resistance towards trust and disclosure between the groups. They may think that your demand for them to get along is unrealistic. But persevere. It’s totally up to you as CEO to see the big picture and make them work well together.

Try embedding KPIs around work projects that will rapidly accelerate career development if they play ball. Both Marketing and IT folk are highly concerned about their professional achievements. This is probably the only thing they have in common. So take that small window of opportunity, and prize it open.

Establish a Strategic Digital Development team and give them serious goals. Ensure that your Marketing Director and IT Director are co-chairing. Build some “lite” enterprise architecture and project management 101 modules into training for your marketing team, and insist that your IT managers take similar communications and marketing training.

Lavishly reward collaborative efforts that lead to positive business results, and make those rewards tie into their perception of career success. For your average programmer or Enterprise Architect, an award for being the best team player of the month just might not cut it, nor is flattery and charm. It’s just not tangible.

If all of this fails, or perhaps before you even start, you can insist on a shared section of the intranet with a cross-departmental wiki, so that all of their projects and activities become broader in focus.

Get this right and the marketing team might start to understand why you cannot rewrite a Program of Works on a dime, and the IT team might begin to appreciate that what we do for our customers really does demand a more nimble approach to system design.


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