You Can’t Spell Marketing Without “IT”

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surfing-with-dory_small.jpgADOTAS EXCLUSIVE – Unlike their predecessors, marketers today are faced with a growing array of options when it comes to putting together an effective marketing campaign. What should be the balance of offline and online activities? For online, what specific options should marketers be looking at? Perhaps it’s a new interactive Web site, a company blog or a branded social networking site that creates a bridge between employees, partners and customers.

Once the game plan is set you must select the team that can make it all happen. You have creative folks, the people that create the look and feel of your site, in one end of the conference room and the technology team, the group that brings the creative vision to life, on the other. That’s the team you need to succeed right? Before you answer that question give it some thought.

What about the IT department? Yes, you heard me right, the IT department. The team that sits in the back room and makes sure the Web site is live, gets your Blackberry up and running and removes viruses that have taken your computer prisoner. The IT department represents the blood and guts of an organization and with online campaigns becoming more and more dependent upon technology and placing greater potential strain on the organization’s infrastructure, bringing the IT department into these discussions is essential.

Now that you are scrambling to send out Outlook invites to the IT team, keep in mind that this needs to be a two-way discussion for this relationship to work. Both sides have needs that must be met for the organization to find success. For now, let’s begin with your IT team. Before you introduce the plans for the next marketing program to them, here are a few considerations to think about.

First, don’t develop and staff your own applications without at least discussing it with IT. If the team does so, IT does not have the expertise or the staff to support these applications because they usually are not well-documented. Look around your marketing department right now. If you’ve got database programmers helping to stir the pot, the IT folks are going to tell you flat out that you are crossing the line. The IT department needs to be in on the ground floor of all application development because they, ultimately, are responsible for the maintenance and execution of them.

The second thing IT will tell you is to stop messing around with the network. After all, one wrong step can turn the network on its head and have huge ramifications for the company. There are concerns about a wide range of things including security, bandwidth and most importantly reliability. What is the point of having really cool applications if it crashes your network? Most marketers are unaware of how problematic it can be for a network manager, the person whose job depends upon network performance and uptime, to suddenly be presented with a series of major delays or outages caused by a rogue Web server that they didn’t even know existed. A move such as this can literally bring an entire company to a standstill.

The third issue that is important to your IT team is sticking with packaged solutions whenever possible. Ideally, they will recommend a solution from a vendor who has already built all the interfaces with the software the company runs on its enterprise and has tested them with dozens of other clients. Going this route takes a tremendous amount of work (and time) out of the assessment and development process. In a worst-case scenario, the IT department will tell you to go with a solution that was professionally developed and supported, fully documented and is based on industry standards.

While you are mulling over these guiding principles make sure you take the opportunity to get some IT-related questions ready yourself. After all, success requires execution on all sides. A good starting point is response time. As a marketer, its seems as though every time I ask IT for anything their answer inevitably starts with, “We’ll have to do a scoping study.” This is a major problem because scoping studies can take up to 14 months, the cost for which will be charged back to marketing. The funny thing is that this 14-month wait, which represents a lifetime in the marketing business, is generally the instigating catalyst for why the marketing team builds their own system, the first “no no” highlighted above.

Another item you may want to delve into in detail is cost – specifically cost of these scoping projects. As it stands now, marketing ordinarily flips the bill for the scoping study that lays out how much the project is going to cost and whether or not it is feasible. If the project is given the green light, marketing then has to pay for the overhead often embedded in the IT function. With budgets shrinking in all departments, this meeting is the best opportunity to talk about how both sides can be more efficient in getting to the “go/no-go” point. By discussing the timeline for deliverables during the preparation stages, both sides can reach compromises that streamline this process and help keep projects on track.

The last area you may want to talk to IT about is flexibility. Marketing has become more and more critical to the success of the organization — be it revenue generation, brand development or pricing. Taking this into account, IT needs to begin anticipating the degrees of flexibility that marketing will need and design some adaptability into the foundations of systems architecture.

If you really want your business to have a world-class marketing capability, you have to think of marketing as a primary customer of IT, not a secondary one. Then you have to bring the two sides together. By doing so at the onset of the next project you are taking the first step in that direction.

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