9 Keys to Better Marketing and IT Relationships — A “Culture of Effectiveness”

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Let’s be honest. Maintaining healthy marketing & IT relationships is challenging.

As CMO Magazine writes:

Marketers battle regularly with the other departments in their organizations. Marketing vs. Technology is a cage match between ignorant marketing people who expect technological miracles immediately and the propeller-heads who talk only about the benefits of some coding philosophy that no one this side of the Klingon empire really understands.

I think there are several causes for the strain between marketing and IT…

  • IT has ideas on functionality and technologies, which may or may not meet customer or business objectives.

  • Marketing typically doesn’t understand what is possible, nor seeks to understand technology.

  • IT budgets are constrained, restricting marketing who have more ideas than they have resources.

  • Each group sits in another part of the building, and rarely talk.

  • Neither marketing nor IT understand each others’ jobs or language.

But at the core of the challenge between any two groups is communication and relationships.

The result? An “over the fence” interaction culture. Marketing sends requirements over the fence (or via email), and IT sends deliverables over the fence…resulting in miscommunication, missed deliverables, and blame shifting by both parties.

In my experience, effective relationships between Marketing and IT requires each side to be:

·         Informed

·         Interested

·         Accountable

YBH? (Yes, but how)

Here are 9 insights I’ve had that help develop a “culture of effectiveness” between marketing and IT

1. Establish executive relationships between finance, marketing and IT 

Do the VP of Marketing, CTO and CFO interact? Do they meet regularly with the CEO/President regularly to discuss priorities and challenges? If this doesn’t happen, there is nowhere for the teams to go for accountability. Marketing is responsible for driving revenue and marketing efficiency. IT is responsible for delivering capabilities on time, on budget. Both must be held accountable to the CEO and CFO for delivering. But without trust-based relationships at the top, a culture of blame occurs in the ranks below.

2. Share business goals, customer insights, and how the business works IT

Does IT know how the business works? Do they know how marketing drives revenue, margin and saves cost? Do they understand how customers make purchase decisions? IT will love to hear about what customers want, how the business works, and where it is going. Present functional topic brown bags or quarterly business reviews with the entire IT team. I guarantee IT has ideas that marketing can use, and this is the beginning of collaboration and understanding.

3. Agree on a prioritization methodology and process 

I was once told by a developer that anything is possible…with enough time and resources! IT’s vocabulary is scope, time and resources. The business will always ask for more, delivered faster than before, to get done with less (or finance asks this). Therefore, tradeoffs are a big part of the interactions between marketing and IT. Prioritization is inherently controversial. Therefore, when everyone is on the same page to how prioritization will occur – both the framework, process and timeline – the easier it is to agree upon a roadmap.

4. Hold weekly operations and project roadmap reviews 

Each week the project leaders, development leaders, and senior management should get together to discuss progress on deliverables. This is a time where the business can give updates on results from previous projects and where the business is going. But more importantly it is a formal, recurring cadence of accountability between the two groups. The key ingredient is senior management involvement in the status and challenges of the projects. If anything is ‘yellow’ or ‘red’, everyone should walk out of the room knowing what action to take.

5. Frequently communicate deliverables owners, dates and status 

A launch date for a project is only accomplished by reaching many interim project dates. Is everyone on the same page for deliverables? And do they know who is owner for each deliverable? If something goes wrong, how quickly does the team find out? If these status of deliverables, along with dates and owners, are frequently communicated, no one can cry foul.

6. Use and know a shared project process 

Does both marketing and IT have a deep understanding of how projects are accomplished? How does a project begin, how does it launch, and what happens in between? Whether you use the Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF) or some other project process methodology, make sure both sides understand how it works and how the project is progressing along that process.

7. Give requirements face-to-face 

I once worked for a company where the CEO paid for any 1×1 lunch between a marketer and developer. There are two reasons to work face-to-face: 1) Have you ever misunderstood or misread an email? Imagine IT really comprehending your requirements in writing. 2) Build relationships. As a manager of product managers I once put a requirement in performance plans to spend at least 50% of their time in the IT building, working side by side (or head over shoulder) with development.

8. Encourage relationship-building activities

Along with face-to-face work (sharing requirements or working on a project), you should also try to integrate the teams during end-of-quarter celebrations, project launches, and informal get togethers. One of the best product managers I knew joined developers ‘after hours’ for drinks. She always seemed to get more scope delivered in her projects.

9. Share project impact results & conduct project post-mortems 

IT loves to see the business impact of their work. So in operations reviews, in project launch parties, in senior management reviews, be sure to share the customer and financial impact of the projects. This allows marketing to show appreciation, but for both sides, it ties a bow of self-fulfillment around a lot of hard work.

I’ve been a part of very productive IT/marketing relationships, as well as dysfunctional interactions. I’d estimate there is a 2-3x increase in scope for the same time and resources — and better quality deliverables — when both sides are interested, informed and accountable…when both sides are contributing to a culture of effectiveness.

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