The 10-years war between marketing and IT is over

Marketing and IT Make Peace

I was reading Gartner’s latest CMO Spend Survey 2019-2020 — spoiler alert: average marketing budgets have fallen to 10.5% of company revenue and the percentage of the marketing budget dedicated to martech slipped from 29% to 26% — when something truly remarkable popped out at me.

On page 20, Gartner included the chart at the top of this post, listing CMOs top supporters and top inhibitors. The IT Organization was the top of the top supporters.

Take a moment to breathe that in.

Only two years ago, Gartner had previously identified IT as a major detractor of marketing in 2017. It’s been that way for ages. Heck, I remember writing about why IT and marketing were diametrically opposed over 10 years ago. Even though there were plenty of reasons why these two functions should have collaborated together, there was a lot of tension and struggle between them in most organizations.

In all fairness, over the past decade, both IT and marketing were going through cataclysmic disruptions and reinventions of their roles and capabilities in a digital everything world. You could say the boundaries between them got “cloud-y.”

In those turbulent years, marketing technologists in the marketing department were often seen as a threat — shadow IT! — to IT’s mission, rather than an acknowledgement of its infinite expansion into the business. In truth, marketing technologists were not taking existing work away from IT. They were contributing net new digital capabilities to the organization. But under the stressful fog of change, that wasn’t always clear to their colleagues in IT.

Marketing technology teams certainly weren’t blameless either. For instance, while addressing the needs of the marketing department, they too often turned a blind eye to fundamental security and compliance responsibilities. This did not help their case for IT giving them the keys to the car.

But in a sign that the awkward teenage years of digital marketing may finally be behind us, the relationship between marketing and IT seems to be maturing into the kind of partnership it always had the incredible potential to be — in no small part because marketing has developed its own martech chops.

Quoting Gartner’s report:

Marketing’s technology and data capabilities have grown, and marketing and IT have developed greater collaboration through shared objectives, martech roadmaps and implementation. This closer collaboration has no doubt contributed to a more harmonious relationship.

With that, I say we declare the 10-years war between marketing and IT officially over.

Granted, your mileage may vary, and there will inevitably be skirmishes at the border. Different companies are still at widely different stages of martech maturity. Individual personalities of CIOs and CMOs can help or hurt.

But the rest of us are moving on to an era of mutual peace and prosperity.

It’s also fantastic to see that the other top supporter of marketing is now sales and business development. Again, this was a pretty rocky relationship in many organizations over the past 5-10 years — similarly due to the disruptions each were undergoing and the new demands they had to face together.

Wow, if marketing isn’t in conflict with IT or sales anymore, who are they going to wrestle with?

Apparently finance and legal, which Gartner now reports as CMOs top inhibitors. Which in a kind of strange way is a “good” thing. Ultimately, the barriers that everyone in a company must face are the limits of finite resources and the limits of the law.

Clearing other, artificially-created barriers is an accomplishment.

P.S. I, for one, would like to take this moment to declare, from the bottom of my heart, my deep, personal admiration for finance and legal teams as wonderful, amazing, brilliant people. And I’m not just saying because I’m waiting for approval of my 2020 budget and the greenlight on a particular contract.

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1 thought on “The 10-years war between marketing and IT is over”

  1. From my view, I see both progress being made between IT and Marketing and some of the same old battles happening (sometimes even more so).

    On the positive side I see marketing embracing the IT aspect (either hiring within their departments or agreeing on a STRONG counter part in the IT org). I also see IT making a bit effort to understand the MarTech landscape (particularly at the Martech conference!). There are shared roadmaps and good conversations happening.

    But on the not so positive, I see IT being very defensive of marketing’s spend on tech, taking a heavy hand and slowing down progress on mission critical projects. Some of this is valid since marketing has been known to be a bit reckless with their martech spend, but some of it is a lack of trust and slowing down important innovation. I see marketing still trying to spend on whatever whenever they want or bypassing IT instead of keeping them aware of their approach.

    So is the “war” over? I’d say there is still progress needed, BUT without a doubt progress is being made (as shown by Gartner’s survey).

    And on the finance side…I have a lot to say there, but I believe there is a HUUGGEE opportunity for marketing to work with finance more closely.

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