Will the pandemic finally bring marketing and IT teams together?

Discussion
Photo: Getty Images/alvarez
Dec 08, 2020
Tom Ryan

COVID-19 has intensified the need for marketing and IT to work together while also creating new stress points for both departments that potentially sidetrack collaboration, according to a report from Infosys.

With the pandemic’s arrival, marketing recognized “the need to connect with people, and to do so quickly and authentically,” according to the study based on a survey of senior-level marketing and IT executives.

For marketing respondents, evolving CX (customer experience) into HX (human experience) is seen as a greater challenge than for  IT respondents (58 percent vs. 35 percent respectively), as well as agility (69 percent vs. 46 percent) and collaboration (77 percent vs. 62 percent).

Exploring opportunities for collaboration, marketing respondents viewed environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) as a significantly more important goal than IT teams as marketing’s “external view enables them to understand how a diverse set of stakeholders will affect their companies,” said Infosys.

On the other side, CIOs have guided the “hybrid work-office/home-office model,” enabling seamless and secure remote access to employees. Infosys wrote, “COVID-19 changed the CIO paradigm more than any c-suite position due to technology being central to the response.”

Addressing potential barriers, marketing was found to be more concerned with impediments to collaboration caused by cross-functional work and legacy systems while IT was more concerned with corporate vision and budget. The difference was chalked up to IT being traditionally viewed as a cost center and marketing as a revenue generator.

Among the recommendations in the study was that the CMO work with the CIO on delivering on an ESG and stakeholder capitalism strategy and to agree on key metrics and objectives. Also recommended was seeking out leaders with soft skills to break the typically siloed CMO/CIO organizational structure and “set a higher standard for c-suite collaboration.”

Finally, CIOs should be seen as the drivers of business resilience, while CMOs should drive brand resilience. Infosys said, “CIOs must take a more strategic, COO-like role for all deployment of HX-focused technology. In an era of stakeholder capitalism and the triple bottom line, marketers are perfectly poised to communicate the company’s social purpose to stakeholders.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see the COVID-19 pandemic helping to drive IT and marketing collaboration and transforming each department’s role? Has the pandemic added any new frictions that may hinder collaboration?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Closer collaboration between IT and marketing is good news for retailers: it indicates more opportunities for personalized communications and faster growth. "
"Having business outcomes as the north star will be key to building collaboration and avoiding unnecessary friction."
"It is critical that marketing and IT work together in a much more collaborative way or they will be roadkill for fierce competitors like Amazon, Walmart, Target and Kroger."

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16 Comments on "Will the pandemic finally bring marketing and IT teams together?"


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Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

It is critical that marketing and IT work together in a much more collaborative way or they will be roadkill for fierce competitors like Amazon, Walmart, Target and Kroger. They have been talking the talk for years. It is now time to walk the walk!

Oliver Guy
BrainTrust
I remember reading a few years ago a prediction that by 2020 the head of marketing would have have a larger technology budget than the head of IT. There was always the need for these teams to work together – indeed as is the case for every part of the business. COVID-19 has shone a light on where disconnects between technology and the business exist. You often read that successful companies of the future are the ones who become technology companies – yet IT is too often seen as a separate (service providing) entity. There are some retailers who have outsourced their technology team. Does this make sense? Maybe. But if technology is going to be key to your differentiation (and there are few customer facing initiatives that cannot be delivered without technology) you have to question whether outsourcing is the right thing. The most successful approach I have seen was a retailer in France who embedded IT people with the business project team – and measured the whole team on the same objectives. One… Read more »
Suresh Chaganti
BrainTrust

Although it’s not desirable, business leaders can afford to view IT as a cost center in manufacturing- and distribution-type environments. They can get away with it because the customers are other businesses. In those environments IT reports to the CFO.

In retail and B2C environments, the role of IT is very integral. All the innovation and customer experience needs all departments to collaborate, not just among marketing and IT. For instance, BOPIS capability is a result of collaboration between in-store associates and IT with order fulfillment, inventory and logistics being secondary users. Any business that does not see the overall context is bound to fail.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

Good golly, it’s about time we smash IT and marketing silos, as these functions are now inseparable.

Functional mindsets slow productivity yet consumers demand speed from companies and their supply chains. Cross-functional collaboration boosts agility, efficiency and cost savings. What CEO would say no to that?

The pandemic has piled more pressure on CIOs because tech drives everything we do. Ensuring tech teams have the talent and bandwidth to serve their companies needs to be a strategic priority.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

I assume the last paragraph really means to say that CIOs should be seen as the drivers of business resilience, not reliance. All of the sudden, there are so many more users to support. Marketing is just one of many departments that have gone remote.

There are huge implications to the kinds of technologies CIOs buy: minimal training, zero footprint, and lightweight upgrades. Sounds like a job for cloud computing.

Marketing just has to avoid being tone deaf. IT has its work cut out for it.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

We have been talking about this relationship for years and if it hasn’t happened yet, companies are in trouble. Many of the large companies have solidified this relationship and it has grown especially during the pandemic. IT makes it happen once the auxiliary teams have clearly defined their vision and objectives.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

Honestly, marketing and IT have been moving closer for years. The tools that retail marketers are using today, in many cases, are powered by Big Data capabilities. The enormous amount of work that we see around customer relevance and CRM insights is all powered by IT. In the not-so-distant past there was a lot of talk in the retail press about how the CMO was becoming the CIO.
I do believe the pandemic has accentuated the need for IT and marketing to work together even more closely. The massive acceleration by consumers to adopt digital commerce and unified commerce capabilities has made it essential for retailers to have a cohesive digital strategy. That strategy requires a solid technology strategy to support it, and that requires a strong partnership between IT and marketing.

Di Di Chan
BrainTrust

Before the pandemic, most retail technology focused on supporting backend business operations and behind-the-scenes functions. Customer-facing technology solutions such as e-commerce, loyalty apps, mobile payment, and scan and go mobile checkouts exist but were not the main focus of many retailers’ core marketing strategy. It made sense why IT wasn’t that integrated with marketing teams: leading customer-facing platforms such as e-commerce and mobile checkout applications, however useful, had been adopted by fewer than 10 percent of shoppers. When the pandemic came, digital communication became a key platform for marketing teams to connect with shoppers. For example, in the grocery space, e-commerce increased to around a 20 percent adoption rate. Successful scan and go mobile checkout programs grew to over 30 percent shopper adoption. Closer collaboration between IT and marketing is good news for retailers: it indicates more opportunities for personalized communications and faster growth. This trend was always anticipated; the pandemic just sped it up.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

This is already happening. There’s collaboration across the enterprise because companies will fail without it. We’re only at the early stages, but imagine the results when this is the norm — as it is at Amazon.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

This is a great example of the desperate need for left brain departments to work intimately with right brain departments. The fact that I even have to use the word “departments” is part of the problem. It’s just like design, planning, and buying needing to work in a highly collaborative process. There is not a simple, clean hand-off from one function to another. There is a push/pull pressure-testing process where everybody benefits from the ideas and challenges of everybody else. Yes it can be messy, and actually it usually is. So managing the collaborative process is key. That takes the right human being, not the so-called dominant department.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

The emerging competitive forces and the rapidly changing consumer behaviors before the pandemic made it necessary for both the marketing and IT organizations to work together. If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has served as a great acceleration of this trend.

There are both winners and laggards that will be coming out of this pandemic. With e-commerce business rising rapidly, consumers are engaging with retailers and brands on their own terms and via digital and physical channels. Without a unified consumer obsessed operation, retailers who run their businesses in a siloed manner will quickly find themselves out of favor and in distress.

Purpose-driven business transformations requires a solid partnership across the entire company. IT should no longer be viewed as a support and capital expense function. Rather, they are an integral part of the go forward strategies.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

Depends. Some IT divisions are more advanced and willing to work with creative than others but, at the end of the day, the ultimate answer is, I hope so! Retail is digital first now, so working side by side with a group that lives and breathes zeroes and ones (and always has) is essential to the success of any retailer going forward.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

The fact that IT was traditionally viewed as a cost center and marketing as a revenue generator was the inherent flaw in the execution of growth strategies. When knowledge of these business functions is shared across silos, a collaborative culture can be created. And this effort needs to be driven from the very top.

Kim DeCarlis
BrainTrust
The pandemic has driven the urgency of digital transformation in businesses of all sizes and sectors. In retail, where shoppers used to visit a physical store, they now visit the digital headquarters of their favorite brand, also known as their website or web app. This change has called into sharp focus the need for CMOs and CIOs to collaborate even more closely — as the stewards of the brand and customer experience, and the stewards of the technology. Well-functioning teams have worked this way for a while, so the platform of respect and alignment has served them well during the pandemic as they’ve been able to respond quickly to the ever-changing environment. Friction between teams that have not worked together well in the past has been aggravated, making it harder to find common ground. And the WFH reality for most people in these roles makes it difficult to build relationships, since interactions are mostly virtual, rather than face to face. In order to help their company, it is more important than ever for CMOs and… Read more »
Brian Cluster
BrainTrust

Yes, companies that are more agile in how they work together cross-functionally have been able to move quickly to adapt to these changing business conditions during Covid. The distance between colleagues in IT and marketing and the fact that some are in different locations or working from home is becoming less of a friction point as cloud software solutions and collaboration software becomes adopted.

Moving forward, it is important that the CMO, CIO and CDO, and their shared organizations are on the same page in terms of how technology, data, and processes will be built and used now and in the future. This is about being a data-driven company and each c-level leader has a role to play in breaking down data silos and minimizing friction through better data governance and collaborative workflows.

Casey Craig
BrainTrust

The pandemic has accelerated online functions for a lot of companies and organizations around the world. CIOs and CMOs should be aware of major projects so they can collaborate, creating the best product for their customers and/or clients. In order for teams to collaborate effectively, there must be a shared “Product Mindset.”

IT and marketing shouldn’t be siloed parts of the organization, and the rapid shift to overall reliance on effective digital products has accelerated collaboration in a way that sets organizations up for future success, post-pandemic.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Closer collaboration between IT and marketing is good news for retailers: it indicates more opportunities for personalized communications and faster growth. "
"Having business outcomes as the north star will be key to building collaboration and avoiding unnecessary friction."
"It is critical that marketing and IT work together in a much more collaborative way or they will be roadkill for fierce competitors like Amazon, Walmart, Target and Kroger."

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