4 out 5 analysts recommend a marketing technology office

4 out of 5 recommend…

Admittedly, the statistical validity of that headline is suspect. As a child of the 80’s, back when people actually watched commercials on our sole screen in the living room, such tag lines were embedded in my psyche and occasionally pop out. (I always wondered why the fifth dentist from those Trident commercials was such a killjoy.) But I digress…

More and more people — even those with credentials primarily from IT — are reaching the conclusion that putting marketing in charge of its own technology is the right thing to do.

An article on CIO.com last month, Sell the Idea of a Marketing Technology Office to CIOs, reports on a presentation that Suresh Vittal of Forrester gave advocating for a marketing technology office. The article opens with this premise:

Marketing departments should sell the idea of a marketing technology office (MTO) to CIOs, who would have to relinquish control of certain customer-facing technologies and hand responsibility for the function over to the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).

Brave words in CIO.com. When I made that exact point in InformationWeek in an article in 2010, Why Marketing Should Run Its Own Technology, I received — how should I put it diplomatically? — robust feedback of differing opinions.

But times have changed.

According to this new article, Surresh said: “Surprisingly, IT is very willing to give up serving the marketing organization. Why? Because they aren’t process aligned, they have very different goals, they speak different languages. You do have a challenge in making IT comfortable with this MTO, but you want to set it up with their blessing.”

“It’s not an easy conversation,” he added. “But they start to recognize that some of the needs marketing has — the pace of change that the marketing department is trying to achieve — IT in its current form isn’t set up to do this. Enlightening your CIO on why this matters and why this can be done in a controlled fashion is important.”

“As a rule of thumb,” he said, “I like to think that infrastructure technologies, storage systems, authentication systems — these would all be centrally owned. However, channel and customer-facing technologies would be owned by the MTO.” (Emphasis added is my own.)

Surresh isn’t alone in this viewpoint either. John Dodge, community manager at the Enterprise CIO Forum embraces it as well in this video editorial remark:

“Why do this?” Dodge rhetorically asks his IT audience. “Well, marketing is more nimble than IT. It’s the tip of the spear when it comes to crafting and disseminating messages to customers in the marketplace. One function of the MTO would be to use technology to communicate those messages to customers and partners in an opportunistic way. Mobile apps, for instance, would reside in the MTO. Meanwhile, IT would take care of central resources such as the data center, while the MTO would be in charge of customer-facing and channel apps.”

He also notes the emergence of the chief marketing technology officer as the new executive, reporting to the CMO, who is in charge of this MTO mission. (He attributes the concept to the article in VentureBeat a few months ago, which is a great piece. However, I would humbly footnote that I’ve been advocating for this role since 2008.)

“If you think about it, the MTO simply acknowledges and formalizes what’s already happening,” says Dodge. “Legitimizing your marketing department’s shadow IT is tantamount to crafting a BYOD policy of sorts.”

“There’s power in this concept and the new labels convey that.”

I couldn’t agree more. And, as recent research from Gartner revealed, more and more companies are coming around to this same point of view.

Of course, there is a fifth dentist.

If you’re looking for a counterpoint, consider this article by Eric D. Brown — A Marketing Technology Office… The next fad? — and his follow-up addressing comments from readers.

I’ve been a big fan of Eric’s writing for years, and I think he’s a great champion of innovation in IT. I do agree with his points that the marketing technology office is not something to be undertaken lightly. It’s a big commitment. It requires the right people. And such an official restructuring should be done in partnership between the CIO and the CMO.

But I’m much more bullish that marketing departments can and will set up successful marketing technology leadership within their ranks. The marketing technology team can be more than just a liaison to IT. They can be the folks actually designing, implementing, purchasing, configuring, integrating, operating, maintaining, etc., the far majority of the growing stack of marketing technology. They’re bona fide technologists, but they’re 100% dedicated to the marketing mission. In their best incarnation, they fuse marketing thinking into technology design and operations.

And indeed that’s happening today.

When I presented the case for this as part of the future of marketing to the ITSMA last week, I was surprised by how many VPs of marketing from Fortune 500 companies came up to me afterwards and shared their stories of how they’ve already implemented this. One of them begins with a big letter “I”.

It’s happening not because this is the future of IT. It’s happening because it is the future of marketing.

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2 thoughts on “4 out 5 analysts recommend a marketing technology office”

  1. This debate goes back to the late 1980’s for me. My degree program was Marketing Research and Information Systems. The Inforamtion Systems portion was MKIS internlly at school. MKIS stood for Marketing Information Systems. This half of my Marketing degree was focused on the marketing disipline as it related to databases and database systems for marketing analysis. WHhen I got into the real world I was thwarted with IT departments saying they owned everything computer related. There were many times throughout my career when I had to put the stop on certain projects becuase IT got something wrong. IT got things wrong becuase they were not Marketing and did not have the approrpriate skill set. No matter how hard they tried they were simply out of their league as data analysts and marketers in general. Over the years the IT discipline has gotten stronger but at the end of the day, it is always better for the subject matter experts to be fully involved. This is not a new concept. I am glad to see articles like these expressing the view that Marketing needs to own their own technology stack. Not outright on their own but with a tight partnership with IT and any other interested party. Some industries have already learned this lesson. Now it is time for all industries to adopt the Marketing Technology role.

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