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Marketers Feel Misunderstood

CMOs have a relationship problem. They need to win the hearts of their CIOs, but when it comes to communicating, the two are more like cats and dogs than colleagues. In fact, only 9% of marketing leaders surveyed think that IT understands what they do, and just 19% of IT leaders polled feel understood by the marketing leaders they work with—according to the Rackspace study “Marketing and IT: Overcoming a Cats and Dogs History to Create a Seamless Customer Experience.”

“What surprises me is the fact that CMOs and CIOs know what success looks like, but are unwilling or unable to get there,” says Kyle Metcalf, general manager of Rackspace Digital. “Typically, when people define a problem they can start working on a solution. These folks know what they need to do…but very few are actually doing it. It’s not a new problem, but it’s incredibly important to overcome.”

One significant disconnect is speed versus quality. Nearly half of marketing leaders polled (46%) say IT doesn’t work quickly enough; conversely, 47% of IT leaders say marketers want IT to move too fast, which could compromise quality and security.

“The solution here is proper planning up front,” Metcalf advises. “The IT leader needs to be more involved in the timeline from the marketing side of the house.” It shouldn’t be a case, he says, of marketing deciding that they’re going to build an awesome website by the end of Q3, locking it down, and then IT is an afterthought—assuming that IT can meet the goal when it hasn’t been consulted at all.

“Marketing needs to bring IT in at the start of the conversation to ensure what’s possible and realistic,” Metcalf says.

Doing so is also one way to ensure alignment—another area of disconnect. Consider: 29% of marketing leaders surveyed cite alignment of marketing and the company’s key priorities as a top-three success driver; compare this to 37% of IT leaders who say alignment of IT and the company’s key priorities and 35% of IT leaders who cite collaboration and communication between IT and other departments as two of their top-three success drivers.

“The problem,” Metcalf says, “is that marketing looks at IT as a buzz kill: ‘They’re going to say no and then we can’t do X fast enough.’”

Marketing leaders don’t want to bring in IT early, but they have to or will look bad later when they can’t meet the goals they’ve set, he asserts. “IT will bring reality into the room, and marketing needs to know that that’s important,” Metcalf adds. “A really good IT partner will say, ‘No, but’ and give an alternative solution, like a realistic timeline with a clear explanation of why.”

Metcalf notes that a third party can act as a translator between the two groups. “They appreciate the help in pushing the conversation in the right direction,” he says.

The source of frustration

Interestingly, more than half of marketing and IT leaders—56% and 54%, respectively—say the biggest issue between them is that their relationship is time-consuming. The reasons for this include active conflict, cited by 51% of marketing and 35% of IT leaders; speaking different languages, say 47% marketing and 43% IT leaders; and focusing on different goals (42% marketing and 39% IT leaders).

“I read ‘time-consuming’ as frustrating,” Metcalf says. “It boils down to misaligned goals and different languages. Until marketing and IT leaders learn how to effectively communicate, their relationship and conversations will go in circles. They need to learn each other’s languages to avoid wasted time and frustration.”

Metcalf recommends that CMOs and CIOs ditch their ego and say things like, “I don’t understand what you’re saying” or “Why this timeline?” so they can work through issues to find a mutually beneficial solution. “It can be humbling and challenging, but marketers need to understand technology and IT needs to be more strategic,” he says. “They need to embrace being uncomfortable.”

They also need to create alignment between the two groups. Despite the disconnects and frustrations, it is possible. “Partnership is the key word here,” Metcalf says. Respondents seem to agree. The path forward, according to the study, is to create a partnership focused on common goals. In fact, 72% of marketing and 55% of IT leaders say building a true partnership is critical to a successful IT-marketing relationship; 64% of marketing and 65% of IT leaders cite a focus on the same goals as another critical factor; and 63% of marketing and 58% of IT leaders say frequent communications is essential.

Ultimately, creating a successful IT-marketing partnership requires integration of the two teams; i.e., integration into overlapping planning and processes, Metcalf says. “‘How do I make sure that my counterpart is more integrated into my team and my processes?’ is what marketing and IT leaders should ask themselves,” he says. Although only 14% of marketing leaders and 17% of IT leaders polled say they’re currently very integrated, 92% and 75%, respectively, want more integration.

“They see where they need to be, but are having trouble getting there,” Metcalf says. “Ego is a main driver of that. They need to put themselves in a more vulnerable position to make forward progress. It can be difficult, but the benefits—bottom line, team success, customer experience—are worth it.”

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