If marketing and advertising executives are poised to become more involved in actually specifying, commissioning, approving and paying for IT systems, they really should be starting from a very solid platform that suggests they're the "go to" guys when you want to get more from data.
Trouble is, in so many instances they simply aren't. Let me relate my moment of clarity -- in fact, there were two -- which recently made me think along the lines of "if they can't get this right, why would the CFO and CIO let them have the keys to the IT corporate cheque book?"
My moments of clarity recently happened via both easyJet and Ryan Air. Two lots of flights booked for next year after finally getting through Ryan Air's arduous process, which makes you feel conned when you can't find the "no insurance" option and end up with an inflated bill -- come on guys, just offer us a clear box we can check or uncheck!
Ironically, the real problem comes when these companies, which you'd imagine would be data masters, try to get you to add extras. In this case, it was parking. Shouldn't be difficult, should it? They're not offering a discount on a week's parking, but at least there should be the convenience of clicking a button to get it sorted, right? Well, no, not really. Quite the opposite.
Click through to book parking and you are asked for your flight number. Would that not be exactly the kind of information the airline could pre-populate in the parking form? When you go back to find out the flight number, it then asks which terminal, which day and what time. You're left wondering quite what century the airlines are in if all the data they held above the "click here to book" button can't be added to a form and then must be added one fact at a time, even though you've come via the airline whose systems already know everything you're being asked to tap in. It's as far away from the Amazon-style "one click" purchase as you could possibly hope to find.
So booking the parking was annoyingly time-consuming and involved a lot of switching between the Web and email to set up. That, however, was only the start of the moment of clarity.
There had actually been a third booking for a business trip my wife was taking, which saw her jump through all the hoops to repeat information to park at Bristol Airport.
Come the morning of the flight, nothing from easyJet -- but her phone "pinged" with a message from the airport parking people warning of an accident on the main road to the airport, prompting her to look up another route and to not blindly follow the sat nav.
There it was, the moment of clarity. The airport car park had proactively been both welcoming and useful. It wasn't the kind of message you want to receive when catching a flight, but it's better to know than to be left in the dark.
The big question, then, is why on earth have the airlines not chatted to these people who obviously take digital customer service very seriously? Why on earth have they not had a conversation where everything is ready to roll the second you click on a "buy parking" button, or alternatively, why can't it even just be a tick box when you're buying flights so there's no need to think about it?
The IT people will come up with ten reasons not to do it -- sharing data, what if a flight's late, what if they arrive earlier than we anticipate and so on. But here's one reason to do it. It would be very useful and exceed your customers' expectations.
If marketing is seriously going after a slice of IT budget, it has to make sure that it is already getting the simple things right.