Why Marketing & IT Alignment Is Mission Critical For Success

Published: January 10, 2023

1benbAs technology advances and strategies mature, Gartner research found that marketing teams are starting to find themselves slightly out of their league and turning to IT teams for help. However, IT is finding itself at a disadvantage to assist due to the deep organizational silos that keep the two departments separate. In fact, a recent Gartner survey found that marketing data/analytics and marketing technology are among the top three capability gaps cited by CMOs. 

To help bridge that gap, organizational leaders — specifically CMOs and CIOs — need to work together to bring their teams into one cohesive unit. To learn more about the disconnect and dive deeper into alignment strategies, the Demand Gen Report team sat down with Ben Bloom, VP, Analyst at Gartner, to discuss the survey’s findings and implications. 

Demand Gen Report: What were some of the most surprising findings uncovered in the survey, and how do they impact leaders’ ability to do their jobs?

Ben Bloom: It was surprising that the majority of CMOs (61%) said their team lacked the capabilities required to deliver their strategy, and they had some substantial pain points:

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  • 26% said marketing data and analytics; 
  • 23% pointed to customer understanding and experience management; and 
  • 22% indicated marketing technology. 

These are real blockers that prevent CMOs from accomplishing their objectives. To provide solutions to those problems, we started looking for organizations that were the exception to the findings. From there, we gained critical insights, such as what CIOs are doing to help support CMOs in digital transformation and the power of building cohesive teams that break out of organizational silos. We typically think of CMOs as a relatively optimistic group trying to achieve their business objectives, so it’s surprising to see how many felt like they weren’t well positioned to overcome those capability gaps.

DGR: With that in mind, how can CMOs and marketers work to address those challenges through a collaboration with the CIOs and IT team as a whole?

Bloom: There are some legacy mindsets about marketing’s role in business strategy, such as letting it dominate discussions about technology, which leads to siloed technical and data investments and territorialism around those complex topics. We often see activities that reinforce IT and marketing zones, which prevents the entire business from working cohesively. 

To break down those barriers, CMOs need to think of it from the customer’s perspective: The customer doesn’t care whether sales, marketing or digital commerce delivers their end goal; they just care about the value they received from doing business with the organization. So, there must be a real redefinition of this cohesive business that delivers value to the customer.

DGR: What led to this big divide between IT and marketing teams? Have you seen any strategies or models that help break down those barriers?

Bloom: Historically, marketing has tried to build its own tech stack because of a perception that IT, as a more generalized business function, didn’t understand the needs of the technology marketers wanted to manage the customer journey, deliver insights or serve up digital ads. But as that marketing technology matured, it required a greater level of discipline and governance that marketing was struggling to manage, and IT didn’t have enough of a business mindset to assist marketing. 

Organizations need to blend both of those approaches. They need to help marketing achieve a more iterative and product-oriented mindset while helping IT understand business objectives beyond 200 rows in an Excel spreadsheet of technical requirements. Where those two sides come together is this effective idea of fusion teams that create digital products and continuously improve and iterate on them. There’s always a constraint on time and resources; you can never do everything. But if you say, “OK, we’re going to start with one feature and then continuously add to it,” you have a much better chance of delivering the innovation that customers want.

DGR: How can organizational leaders expand these collaboration practices to unite all of their departments?

Bloom: One trend we’ve found effective is the use of “communities of practice,” where leaders are trying to bring together people who are doing similar kinds of work, such as a team that’s focused on SEO and another managing content across the whole global organization. The beauty is that bringing those communities together internally might not require much more than your typical collaboration tools. 

That unification helps teams collaborate, share best practices and, ultimately, get more value out of the technology, because the practices for using them are being better shared and disseminated. That investment is primarily in time, and it’s well worth it.

DGR: What pieces of advice do you have for marketers around building these unified teams?

Bloom: The first step is to re-examine these legacy mindsets and re-orient around business capabilities as opposed to thinking about technology immediately. Technology should be the second or third step after you’ve determined what your business is trying to do and realized the capabilities needed to deliver value. From there, you can focus on combining talent and technology that delivers on the capabilities. 

Secondly, don’t just assume that your current team has enough skills or capabilities to make advanced technology work. Your marketers have a full plate of work with their current responsibilities, and the industry has a real role design problem with respect to marketing technology. There’s an opportunity to re-examine the role that team members are playing, who’s doing the work and what’s going to be required to make new technology investments productive. 

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