Commentary

'It's IT's Fault'

As marketers, we love to blame IT for all of our problems: Not getting that preference center up and running or fixed. Not integrating our ecommerce system with our email program so we can get that cart abandonment program up and running.
 
This is nothing new. But it has become all too convenient just to blame IT when half of our projects are stalled or broken. Sometimes it results from company culture. Then there are the times neither department understands the needs, priorities and problems of the other.
 
At small to mid-sized companies, marketing and IT teams often sit near each other, have lunch together and see solving a Web site or customer problem as a shared goal.
 
In large companies, marketing and IT might be on different floors or even in different buildings. They may have different goals and priorities. Interactions happen through email, corporate chat or in passing in the elevator. Shared lunches rarely happen. 
 
Despite this non-engagement, marketers can break up the logjam, stop blaming IT for inaction, and turn them into partners who solve problems and realize opportunities for their company.
 
How to Turn IT From Goat to Great Partner
 
1. Get to know your IT colleagues: Buy them coffee; take them to lunch. Get to know key department members as humans, learning what makes them tick. What are department politics and culture? Who are the key influencers?
 
2. Understand their projects, priorities and processes: Marketing probably shares goals and initiatives with IT, such as adding Web site personalization or enabling in-store email receipts. Look for overlapping goals so you can join forces. Learn how IT does its work, including necessary timelines for processes like QA and security testing.
 
3. Show the potential revenue or savings: IT has project priorities, too. So, show them the money: Provide realistic projections of additional revenue or dollars saved because of a project. Or mention how much money your company loses every month that a particular project doesn't progress. 
 
4. Solve their problem: Instead of adding to IT's workload, see what you could take off their project plate. Maybe you could research, recommend and secure budget for a tag management system so you don't have to depend on IT every time you need to add tracking or analytics code to your Web site.
 
5. Build goodwill: Ask IT to take on a project for something you might normally outsource, to build good will and subtly test their ability to be flexible and deliver on time and in scope. You might find out IT is your best asset ever.
 
6. Get outside help: At other times, call on your ESP, agency, consultant or marketing integrator to solve your problem. Although it will involve out-of-pocket costs instead of internal budget, IT might be ecstatic that you've been able to get your project done yourself instead of nagging them. Additionally, if your IT team is holding a project up, ask your ESP or other involved vendors to reach out directly to offer help and convey the “one thing” needed to get the project launched.
 
7. Create a roadmap: Review all your IT needs for the next 12 months or so, and create a plan that maps out integrations, data flows, and other IT needs. Show how one integration with your ecommerce system will enable eight different triggered emails that will generate millions in new revenue. 
 
8. Think like an engineer: As a former CEO of mine once explained, engineers think asynchronously: One step can happen only after a previous step has been completed (such as computer code). Marketers, often driven by right-brain creativity, can bounce all over the spectrum. Present your plan and requests in terms that mesh with your  IT team's left-brain process.  
 
9. Say “thank you”: Don’t forget to show IT some love. Take them to lunch after they help out, and thank them in internal presentations and communications about the new project successes.
 
I’m sure I’ve missed many other tips to get your IT projects checked off the to-do list. Please share your successes in the comments below.
 
Until next time, take it up a notch.

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2 comments about "'It's IT's Fault'".
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  1. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, June 20, 2016 at 11:42 a.m.

    ROFL: "Buy them coffee; take them to lunch. Get to know key department members as humans"
     
    And the word is "synchronously" - if you're going to insult people, please do it properly: "As a former CEO of mine once explained, engineers think asynchronously: One step can happen only after a previous step has been completed (such as computer code)."

  2. Loren McDonald from IBM Marketing Cloud replied, June 20, 2016 at 2:23 p.m.

    Pete, wow, I clearly failed at many levels. The column was neither meant to be funny or offend anyone - in fact it was written to provide a few ideas to help marketers work more closely with their brethren in IT, and to stop blaming IT for so many projects not getting done. (Maybe that offended some marketing readers.)

    Getting to know co-workers - by whatever means - was that one point, so you have a better working relationship. Perhaps I should have said tea or beer instead of coffee. The "us and them" issue is common in large companies, the point was merely to get to know each other better. Sorry that was deemed funny.

    I'm not sure who you are referring to that I insulted? I was relaying what my start-up CEO (who was an engineer) relayed to me more than a decade ago about the difference between how engineers think and how marketers tend to think. While changing, a lot of marketers tend to be right-brain centric and do often think differently than their peers in IT. This is not an insult to anyone, just that people think differently, and if you understand how each other thinks, you might be successful in your communications.

    But clearly I failed in my communications approach with this article. I'll buy you a beer on my next trip to the UK.

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