The external facing technologist role is one that’s lacking sorely in most organizations. This role doesn’t necessarily have to be the one undertaken by the CIO / CTO, but should be a fairly important role in any IT group and organization.
This is the role that many non-IT groups are screaming for today. A great example is the many people within marketing looking to create / fill a role that focuses on marketing technology (e.g., the marketing technologist).
I wrote a little about the technologist role, and its importance to the future IT group in a Cutter Journal article titled The Futureproof CIO (co-written with Gene DeLibero). In the article, Gene and I talk about what CIO’s need to do to ensure there’s a role for them and the IT group in the future.
In that article, I wrote:
Tomorrow’s CIO must continue to evolve much like the CIO of today has. Gone are the days of the ‘old’ CIO who manages IT operations and ‘keeps the lights on’. Also gone are the days of the ‘present CIO’, who’s focused on delivering low cost IT services while providing innovative platforms for organization’s to overcome their competition. Tomorrow’s CIO will need to be focused first on the business and technology second.
The CIO of the future must find a way to use the commoditized world of today’s IT platforms and services to create competitive advantage in the future. Rather than spending time building systems, CIO’s and IT groups need to utilize systems in new and unforeseen ways.
The article continues on (and on…you know how I like to type) but eventually I come back around to talk about Google and Amazon’s use of existing technology platforms to drive new revenues. Another piece from the article:
Both organizations have seen information technology as an enabler to drive new revenue.
Much like the IT groups within Amazon.com and Google, the CIO of the Future must find ways to capitalize on IT investments to deliver measureable value to the organization. The organization of today demands this and the CIO of the future must deliver or the role of the CIO will no longer be relevant.
The External-facing Technologist role can help an organization drive new business but using new and/or existing technology for new service and revenue opportunities.
Of course, the External-facing Technologist role is a key one but it isn’t the answer to every prayer. There still needs to be someone within IT that takes on the The Infrastructure Manager, The Big Thinker and The Technology Visionary and Operations Manager roles.
Which role is most important to your organization? Which one is missing? I’ve found the External-facing Technologist is usually the one missing in most organizations.
I love peanut butter and jelly. What a great idea to put those to food items together on a piece of bread.
Have you ever thought about how much the information technology and marketing organizations are like a PB&J samich? Yes…I said samich….been wondering how to work it into a post forever. Never worry…I use sandwich from here on out…maybe.
Peanut Butter, much like IT, is the glue that keeps things together. While Peanut Butter can be found in a few different varieties…its pretty much the same everywhere. it may have a different taste if you try different types / brands of PB but you pretty much know what you’re getting when you ask for peanut butter, you get peanut butter. Kind of like IT…you know IT is pretty much the same regardless of where you go.
Now…the marketing team is the jelly. It can come in many varieties. Grape. Strawberry. Kiwi. Cactus. Squash? Yep…Squash Jelly.
Just like real jelly, there are different varieties…different companies need different approaches to marketing. The problem…when you ask for jelly, you really don’t know exactly what type of jelly you are going to get…unless you are very specific (squash jelly please). The same can be said for marketing….unless you are extremely specific, you may get something other than what you asked for.
So….when you put the PB (IT) and Jelly (Marketing) together, you get something delicious right? Sometimes. But sometimes you end up with a Peanut Butter and Squash Jelly Sandwich.
You got what you asked for, but maybe not what you expected.
Marketing Technologists – Helping IT and Marketing work together (or…how to make the sandwich)
I’ve started describing a portion of my consulting practice as that of marketing technologist.
Because I’ve spent a good portion of the last few years working with and for marketing organizations as their technology strategist, manager and liaison with the information technology organization. In this role, I’ve leveraged my technology background along with my marketing experience to form a bridge between IT and Marketing and, for the most part, I’ve been very successful in getting things done.
I’ve found this role is one that most organizations haven’t figured out yet. Many companies have IT groups who feel as though they must own and manage all technology within the organization. Most marketing groups need technology to do their job but have a hard time interacting with IT.
These types of situations lead to the rise of Shadow IT throughout organizations. Most companies fight Shadow IT with arguments about security, platform stability, technology platform integration and budgets…and normally these fights are won by the IT group and the CIO. Usually, the IT group within an organization owns, manages and leads all technology efforts and their happy to do it.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The IT group has the technology expertise and should be involved in any technology decisions and, in fact, should manage the operational aspects of any technology platforms within the organization. .
That said….there are many times when it makes sense for areas like marketing, HR and Finance to step into a leadership role to ensure they have the necessary technology to move forward.
Note that I said leadership role. I’m not arguing that non-IT groups should go out and find their own vendor/technology, purchase it, implement and manage it. I prefer to see the IT function remain in the middle of all technology decisions but I do see a role for technologists within these non-IT functions.
Think of the marketing technologist as the sandwich maker.
As I’ve said, the marketing technologist is someone with a technology and marketing background. This person can easily interact with both IT and Marketing to ensure that everyone understands exactly what is needed, what the goals are and why the request is being made. This person can also help to lead the IT developers and architects down the right path when developing functionality / websites for the marketing team. This person is also in a perfect spot to lead branding and usability of new technology platforms.
The Marketing Technologist is the one that figures out what type of bread you want, just how much peanut butter you need, what type of jelly is wanted and how to combine them to form the sandwich. The marketing technologist is also in a place to spread the peanut butter and jelly on the bread, makes sure everything fits nicely together, works well and looks nice.
Jump over to the signup process that Scott Brinker mentions in his Shadow IT vs. Shadow Marketing article (awesome post BTW)….he had to go through five or six screens to download a white paper. I’m sure someone within the organization asked for a website for users to register and download whitepapers. While the website works, the registration process, usability and usefulness of the website are downright bad.
Would it have been better with someone acting as a liaison between IT and Marketing? Who knows…maybe yes…maybe no. But…in most instances, these types of fiasco’s can be avoided.
Making the IT & Marketing Functions work better (or…making a great PB&J sandiwich)
Here’s my Five Steps for helping IT and marketing work better together.
Step 1 – move away from the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality. You can’t have marketing today without IT…and IT won’t have a reason to exist within most organizations without a good marketing function. Just like you can’t have a PB&J without both the PB and the J.
Step 2 – Agree that IT owns and controls technology, but Marketing lead its own initiatives. While its true that peanut butter is usually more noticeable on a PB&J sandwich than the jelly, you can’t have one without the other. The Jelly adds just as much to the taste equation. Stop worrying about who controls technology and ‘who does what’ and focus on getting your projects done.
Step 3 – Agree that Marketing owns branding and usability. Remember that Squash Jelly? You don’t want that do you? If you want to make sure your organization gets the right jelly, you’ve got to make sure the Marketing team is leading and owning the look/feel, usability and branding of all projects that have any ability to interact with clients, employees and partners.
Step 4 – Engage with each other – IT and Marketing need to engage. Let the technology savvy folks in marketing lead some technology projects. Let some IT folks into the marketing projects. Get to know each other. You’re going to be on the same bread together…might as well know each other right?
Step 5 – Promote marketing technology as an area for growth. Find those folks that have an interest in both IT and marketing and put them into the marketing technologist role. You’ve got to have someone who knows how to make the PB&J sandwich.
While these five steps aren’t guaranteed to create a successful relationship between Marketing and IT, they’ll go a long way to making it easier to get marketing technology projects initiated and completed. Who knows…if you work hard enough, you might just make the perfect PB&J samich too.
Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. is a technology consultant, investor and entrepreneur with an interest in using technology and data to solve real-world business problems. He currently runs his own consulting practice focused on helping organizations use their data more efficiently. Additionally, he is the Chief Information Officer of Sundial Capital Research, publisher of sentimenTrader
Eric received his Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) in Information Systems in 2014 with a dissertation titled “Analysis of Twitter Messages for Sentiment and Insight for use in Stock Market Decision Making”. His research interests are currently in the areas of decision support, data science, big data, natural language processing, sentiment analysis and social media analysis.In recent years, he has combined sentiment analysis, natural language processing and big data approaches to build innovative systems and strategies to solve interesting problems. You can read some of his research here: Eric D. Brown on ResearchGate
In addition, he is an entrepreneur that has launched a few companies with the most recent being a company focused on proving data analytics and visualization services to the financial markets.