One of my favorite factoids comes from a Computerworld survey in which IT managers placed marketing technologies at 20th of 28 items on their priority list. This either shows that martech managers are less important than they think or explains why martech managers are needed in the first place. Maybe both.
But the disconnect between corporate IT and marketing technologists could be more than simply amusing. A recent Deloitte study described IT trends that seem incompatible with common martech strategies. If that’s really the case, martech may end up isolated from other company systems – or, more likely, huge investments in martech may ultimately be scrapped once it becomes essential to pull marketing back into the corporate IT fold.
What are these worrisome trends? One was positioning of IT as an innovation driver; another was a loosely-coupled technical architecture of standards-based components; a third was replacing individual applications with enterprise-wide services. Each is problematic for a different reason:
- IT as an innovation driver suggests that IT should take a larger role in marketing technology than it plays when marketing runs its own systems. It probably also implies innovations that cross departmental boundaries, again reducing the independence of marketing technologists.
- a loosely-coupled architecture implies that marketing systems will conform to corporate standards to ensure interoperability. This also reduces marketing autonomy. More concretely, it conflicts with the internally-integrated marketing clouds and customer engagement platforms that some marketing departments have purchased to reduce complexity.
- enterprise-wide services suggest that marketing would be expected to use the corporate solutions rather than its own systems. This goes beyond setting standards for marketing systems to actually dictating at least some components of the marketing stack.
These trends all pull towards reduced technical autonomy for marketing departments. Let’s be clear that this doesn’t represent a power grab by IT departments seeking to regain lost turf. Indeed, the Deloitte paper mentions marketing just 12 times in 140 pages, confirming the Computerworld finding that marketing systems barely register as a concern for corporate IT.
Rather, what’s happening here is a good-faith effort by IT managers to help their company and its customers. (The word “customer” occurs 139 times in the paper.) Indeed, the paper proposes that technical innovations can lead to entirely new business models. Many of those models will surely integrate marketing functions as part of the whole. The paper also lists opportunities such as using machine intelligence to run systems more smoothly and more flexibly than human operators. Those would benefit marketing systems as much as any others, putting the burden on marketing to justify keeping its system separate.
There may be something oxymoronic about “tightly-integrated, loosely-coupled systems”. But that’s exactly what’s being proposed and it actually makes a great deal of sense. Perhaps the trend of marketing taking control of its own systems has run its course and the pendulum is now swinging back to centralization. If so, marketers, marketing technologists, and martech vendors need to ensure their systems meet the new requirements for loosely coupled integration. In fact, they should do this gladly, because the new integrations promise grand new benefits for companies and their customers.