3 Pitfalls That Can Ruin Marketing and IT's Collaboration

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Disparities in expectations, KPIs, and skills can leave the two departments misaligned.

Life is better when marketing and IT work together. But organizational inconsistencies can prevent this collaboration from developing.

Based on data from the Leapfrog Marketing Institute's “2015 CMO Digital Benchmark Study,” here are three organizational gaps marketing and IT professionals should avoid.

Mismatched expectations

Marketers are much more optimistic about having a collaborative relationship than their IT comrades. After analyzing 131 B2B and B2C U.S. executives (81% in marketing, 19% in IT), the Leapfrog Marketing Institute revealed that 30% of marketing executives consider their relationship with IT very collaborative and productive; however, only 13% of IT leaders feel the same way. And although 20% of marketers say working with IT has significantly improved alignment, just 4% of technology executives agree.

“Marketers, by their nature, are optimists,” says Jim Carey, adjunct professor at Northwestern University's graduate Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Program and researcher for the study. “And, of course, we believe everybody likes us because we're charming.”

Unestablished success metrics

However, optimism isn't the sole cause of this divergence. Carey also attributes this lack of alignment to the idea that marketing and IT professionals define success in different ways. This is one area where executives from both departments agree: 63% of respondents in both marketing and IT say they do not share incentives or metrics for improved alignment.

So, what does success look like to each department? From a general standpoint, Carey says that IT professionals measure success based on functionality (such as whether a website is up or an app is working); marketers, contrastingly, have to benchmark their performances against not only their customers' standards, but also those of industry leaders. “Marketers who are good at their job look outside of the organization,” Carey says. In other words, what could be a complete success in the eyes of an IT executive could be an utter failure from marketing's perspective.

Conflicting opinions about omnichannel experiences help illustrate this point. Both marketing and IT executives agree that their companies deliver omnichannel consumer experiences (54% and 50%, respectively); however, one third of IT respondents consider these experiences developed, whereas just one fifth of marketing executives agree.

In this case, Carey suspects that IT respondents are measuring developmental success based on functionality (e.g. if a customer logs into his account, does the system link back to his customer ID?), while marketers are comparing their omnichannel experiences to those generated by leading companies, such as Amazon. So, although the execution of the omnichannel experiences may be satisfactory from an IT perspective, the meeting of expectations may be subpar from marketing's point of view.

It's possible that this disparity causes mismatched prioritization. After all, about half of marketing respondents consider omnichannel consumer experience important to their companies, but just one third of IT respondents place it that high on the to-do list.

Inadequate skill sets

It's difficult for marketers to fully understand IT's expectations and success metrics when their own skill requirements are evolving. “Change is hard,” Carey says. “We're no longer going to be doing the things that we're really good at.”

Consider the following data from the study: 60% of marketers say data tracking and analytics are extremely important for achieving marketing objectives. Mobile and Web (52%), SEM and SEO (43%), and omnichannel (35%) are also considered extremely important areas. However, marketers may not have the skill sets that they need. According to the study, mass marketing (offline ads) is where most marketers say they've built their expertise (44%), followed by data tracking and analytics (41%) and mobile and Web (40%). Only 27% of marketers have expertise in SEM or SEO and only 15% are knowledgeable about omnichannel marketing. 

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