Last week I read two excellent articles on IT and Marketing working together (or not) which got me thinking quite a bit. The first was “IT + Marketing: Innovation Through Collaboration in B2B Software Companies” by Julie Hunt, the other was “I own the technology, you own the content” by Eric D. Brown. Go check them out because each writer makes some excellent points.
Let Me Put On My IT Hat
Those of us who read Scott Adams’ “Dilbert” comics are familiar with the character “Mordac, The Preventer of Information Services.” While we can laugh at the silliness of those comic situations, there is a bit of tongue in cheek truth to what is portrayed.
Often, we IT folks are looked at as spoilers and inhibitors. What I often hear and read from those frustrated people is like a line from the old Five Man Electrical Band song: “All we hear is ‘Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the signs?'” In this case the signs come in the form of a policy document or a banner across the monitor screen of someone trying to accomplish their mission. Their frustration goes up and out come the comparisons to Mordac.
Unfortunately, what these people don’t realize is that we’re just doing the job delegated to us. We’re tasked with making sure the enterprise’s network and data remain secure. No one wants to go through the nightmare of a T.J. Maxx or Epsilon security breach. Many IT Departments are understaffed, overworked and looked at as merely a cost center and not a business multiplier. In this type of environment, the easiest way to head off security issues is to raise the shields and plug up any holes found in the perimeter.
Switch To The Marketing Hat
What marketers really need are flexible systems which allow them to reach out to customers wherever they are. They need to be able to reach out via email, web sites and social media spaces. While IT development shops dabble in Agile Development, marketing shops need and want to get into what Scott Binker calls Agile Marketing. When we run into what looks like an IT roadblock, we get frustrated and don’t feel protected or secure. We just want to get our mission accomplished.
Can’t We All Just Get Along?
So, how do we get going in the right direction? Is there any skipping along arm in arm down the yellow brick road? I think there can be. It’ll take some work and a whole lot of communication, but it is possible for all sides to accomplish their individual missions while still working together to bring about success for the overall organization.
I once worked in an organization where work was divided into different “shops.” Each shop had its own mission, leadership and way of doing things. Work was supposed to flow from front to middle to back. The front and back offices were supposed to react to priorities based on guidance from the home office while the middle shop had a supporting role in helping the work flow between all three shops. In reality, though, this rarely worked out. What usually ended up happening was the front and back shops argued over what the home office meant by priorities while the middle shop sat back out of the fray and waited for the dust to settle.
The leadership of the front and back shops decided to smooth things out. Instead of two committees of people interpreting home office directives each shop appointed a liaison to work with the other office. All communication was funneled between these two. They made the decisions how home office directives were to be interpreted and those decisions could only be overridden by the managers of their respective shops.
To be sure, it took a little time to work out the kinks in this system. After a few weeks of working things out, though, work flowed much more smoothly. Production went up and arguments went way down. Everyone benefited from this arrangement – even the home office took notice.
There is a lesson to be learned. I propose those IT and Marketing departments who find themselves in disagreement consider having an in-house technology summit. At this meeting, sit down and discuss the challenges each side faces in an open and honest way. At the end, with guidance and direction in hand, appoint a person from each side to be the liaison who will be empowered to communicate and help make decisions on behalf of their department. Let those two work out the priorities and permissions and bring the results to their respective departments.
Oh, and don’t pick the new person to do this. The one tasked with this job needs to be taken seriously. Appoint your best and brightest so the job will get done right.
And don’t forget: You’re all on the same team. In the end, overall success of the organization benefits everyone.
What about you? How do you smooth out communication between departments. Do you think a “Department Ambassador” program will work at your shop? Please feel free to share in the comments.