Is Marketing Really Shortchanging IT?

budget pieI just finished reading Marketing’s New Digital Role Is Shortchanging IT.

The article had a good premise (e.g., IT and Marketing are fighting for budget) but rather than discuss the real reasons for this current predicament, the author obliquely places the blame at the feet of the Marketing group for ‘stealing’ budget from IT. The author claims that Marketing is shortchanging IT by taking budget away from IT initiatives.

While marketing budgets have been growing and IT budgets haven’t generally been on the increase, I’d argue that its the fault of many IT groups and CIO’s for not stepping up and leading organizations over the last few years.

Let’s take a look at a few things from the article. First, the author writes:

This might be all to the good except that the rapid change in marketing roles and skills has come at the expense of the traditional IT organization. More than just a drain or overlap in skills, organizational budgets have shifted rapidly away from IT, leaving the CIO scrambling to support legacy systems that are still necessary and costly to maintain.

The shift to digital in the marketing world has changed the landscape of every organization. Marketing budgets have grown and IT budgets have not (generally).  That’s not a surprise to anyone but I think we in the IT world need to step back and ask why marketing’s budgets for technology solutions have grown.  Is it because marketing and CMO’s are that much smarter than the IT group and CIO’s and know how to tell a good ‘story’ to the CEO to get that budget?  Perhaps it is…but I’d argue that the reason that CMO’s have been driving more technology projects is due to the fact that they (and everyone else in the organization) have tired of the IT group’s focus on operations over innovation.

A few short paragraphs later, the author writes:

…organizational power can’t simply continue to devolve from IT to the marketing department. CIOs and CMOs must meet in the middle. Decades of safe, smart IT practice needs to be applied to the new ways of finding and using data. Only a partnership will allow marketing to be efficient and effective as this revolution continues to unfold.

I can’t argue against the author’s comments here. For long term success, the CMO and CIO must be partners but I do think that partnership has to start with the CIO making the effort to mend any broken relationships they have within the organization. Again, the reason we are where we are today is because most CIO’s haven’t really been helping to drive innovation and business value…they’ve been focused on operations.

The author finishes up the article with this:

What is clear is that something will need to give as this revolution permanently changes the way organizations are structured and how all software, not just marketing tech, is purchased, deployed, and maintained.

Yes. This is clear and it has been happening.

Marketing isn’t shortchanging IT. IT has shortchanged IT. Rather than help lead organizations into the digital world, the IT group has faltered in most companies. It is time for the CIO to come out of the data center and start talking about how technology can help driver new and more efficient products, services and solutions to the organization and the organization’s client base.

As IT professionals, we can’t just keep pointing the finger at the marketing group and complaining that they are ‘taking our jobs’. We should be out front helping to lead those marketing technology initiatives.

2 responses to “Is Marketing Really Shortchanging IT?”

  1. David Harris Avatar

    Eric, first I really enjoy reading your perspective. The comparison between Marketing and IT is misaligned. Why not compare IT to Sales? What is the difference between Marketing and Sales? IT exists to support a business and the CIO should be a consultant to all of the operations both to provide insight into how systems and information can be better leveraged but also to identify where systems, services and data have shortfalls. In the digital marketing space, consumers are driving the needs, wants and desires. IT Teams often have a inside out view vs. Marketers who are often looking outside in. The difference creates friction between the two teams but understanding their unique perspectives is important.

    I return to my questions about what is the difference between Sales and Marketing. Sales is responsible for generating revenue and profit in the immediate future. Marketing is responsible for supporting sales but also keeping and eye on generating Demand and profit in the extended future. Marketing does this by staying abreast of market trends, looking for untapped customers and understanding how to reach/communicate to them. Honing the brand and ensuring that communications are building on each other. IT should support that endeavor and in some cases should recognize their limitations and step out of the way. IT should self govern to understand what it does best and work with outside agencies and technology providers to meet the businesses needs rather than their own needs.

    IT, HR, Operations, Logistics, Marketing, Sales all should work together but for one department to point at another department and say hey they are stealing our budget is childish at best and detrimental to the business at worst.

    1. Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. Avatar

      Hi David –

      Thanks for stopping by. I agree wholeheartedly with your comment and it is the point that I made in my post. IT (or anyone) shouldn’t be blaming some other group for ‘stealing’ their budget. It does sound childish when someone (or a group of people) point fingers at other people or groups and say they are responsible for something.