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Strange Love: How Marketing Will Learn to Stop Worrying and Start Loving IT

Increasingly, IT is involved as a partner with marketing, not a dictator.

A new report from Gartner Inc. gets at how the traditional, top-down governance model must and will be made more flexible. Think of it as pragmatic governance.

Yes, that's right: pragmatic and governed. That's not contradictory.

According to Gartner, IT must evolve to support new marketing technology initiatives. This will require it to become faster and more agile. "IT leaders supporting marketing need to provide an IT environment where marketers can test and experiment with new ideas and innovations while still providing IT governance, technical assistance, and assessment," a Gartner news release indicates.

Ironically, because new marketing-related products and services are so technology-dependent, IT will have a more prominent role in marketing technology purchasing decisions.

Today, Gartner says, IT is involved, on average, in about one in three such decisions; by 2018, that percentage should increase to 50 percent. Why would marketers relinquish the autonomy and local control that have long been their prerogatives? They won't, necessarily. Increasingly, IT is involved as a partner, not a dictator. Its role is to advise -- but not necessarily to consent.

Call it genuine business-IT collaboration.

It's been a long time coming. First, back in the early 00s, the agile revolution transformed both software development and project management. The next half decade saw the emergence of another transformative paradigm, bring-your-own-device, or BYOD.

Shortly thereafter, self-service became a Thing -- spearheaded, in the fields of business intelligence (BI) and analytics, by insurgent vendors such as Qlik, TIBCO Spotfire, and Tableau Software.

All of these things started out as bottom-up challenges to top-down authorities, be they a dominant, decades-old software development paradigm (waterfall); an emerging security paradigm (network access control); or a tradition of IT-provisioned use of data and tools.

Add in a slew of other destabilizing forces -- the ubiquity of social media and mobile devices, the coming of big data, Internet-of-Things (IoT), and the rise of decision automation and advanced analytics -- you have a prescription for large-scale business and IT transformation.

Now, if Gartner's on to something, things will, in a way, have come full circle. Marketing will be an epicenter of business-IT transformation and innovation for at least the next half decade.

This will be a collaborative process, with CMOs, executives, and other stakeholders working with their counterparts in IT to determine the best technology buying decisions and to develop resources to permit marketers to more easily work with new technologies, services, and -- especially in the context of IoT -- sources of data. "[N]ew technical forces for social, mobile, big data, and the Internet of Things ... have opened up a plethora of new ideas and opportunities for marketers," said Kimberly Collins, a research vice president with Gartner, in a prepared release.

"Speed and organizational agility of both business and IT are needed to test new ideas and innovations to keep pace with market changes. The pace at which IT delivers new solutions, or supports existing implementations, must be the same at which its partners in marketing operate."

There's another wrinkle here as well. Because things are changing so rapidly, software vendors will struggle to keep up, Gartner projects. One way they'll try to do so is by acquiring pure-play or best-of-breed marketing players, both startups and established vendors. The upshot, Gartner forecasts, is that by 2019, few vendors (10 percent) will be able to boast of meaningful integration across their marketing software stacks. It's a situation that smacks of the BI arms race of the '00s.

Back then, BI was an IT-led and IT-provisioned domain. Input from IT will be vital in helping marketing organizations make sense of a hugely dis-integrated technology buying landscape, Gartner argues. "Many of these larger vendors are now touting their 'marketing clouds' -- which implies ... an integrated set of technologies offered on the same platform and code base with a ... [SaaS] deployment model," the release says.

"In reality ... many of these acquisitions remain as silos and separate divisions of the acquired organization, with limited integration and a variety of different deployment and pricing models. Many of these vendors will attempt to bypass IT and sell directly to marketing, which may not be aware of these issues and their impact on pricing, deployment models, and integration. It is, therefore, important to get IT leaders involved early in these decisions."

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a technology writer with 20 years of experience. His writing has focused on business intelligence, data warehousing, and analytics for almost 15 years. Swoyer has an abiding interest in tech, but he’s particularly intrigued by the thorny people and process problems technology vendors never, ever want to talk about. You can contact him at [email protected].

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