In our first bold prediction of 2020, we suggested that the due date for return on investments in marketing technology is rapidly approaching. Despite increased spending on marketing technology, marketing leaders only use 61% of their MarTech stack’s capabilities (Gartner).

In 2018, Scott Brinker of published his Marketing Technology Landscape, which identified 6,829 solutions offered by 6,242 unique companies. Econsultancy found that 51% of organizations use 21 or more MarTech solutions (Forbes).­­

For organizations that have already made significant marketing technology investments, CEOs are looking for the ROI.

There are many challenges to faster monetization, including marketing process integration, customization, and adoption. All of these require marketing and IT to collaborate more effectively. For that to happen, understanding the divergence in skills and mindset which differentiate IT and marketing, is essential.

These teams are two of the corporate functions that have traditionally been the most distinctive, in terms of both organizational and individual culture and temperament. There is a good reason for this – these teams have had different organizational goals and relied on very different skillsets.

IT teams are focused on identifying solutions that accelerate business efficiency and implementing, maintaining and securing these solutions at scale. Deep, engineering expertise is essential to this role and the stakes are high – failures in compliance or systems downtime can expose the organization to millions, even billions of dollars in risk.

Meanwhile, the marketing team is tied closely to sales and the generation and retention of revenue. It is responsible for developing value propositions and ‘managing’ customer relationships. To do this they pull the insights and create the content which flows through the ‘pipes’ enabled by IT.

Marketing has historically been seen as a more ‘creative’ and subjective discipline. Its teams tend to be staffed by individuals who have a broader business, social science and humanities backgrounds.

It is fair to say that the two functions do not always see eye to eye. For example, marketing has a history of blaming IT for failure to deliver new capabilities in a timely fashion. In recent years, marketing’s frustration has been expressed by turning to ‘Software as a Service’ solutions which typically provide faster time to market and are operated outside the main IT environment.

In turn, IT believes that given their skills, marketing teams don’t always have the skills to understand the complexities of the technology landscape. They fear that without ‘adult supervision’, the solutions that marketing turns to, such as Cloud, expose the organization to greater risk.

This legacy of mistrust has resulted in a lack of mutual respect. To over-simplify, IT believes that marketing does not have the technical skills to identify and activate the right MarTech solutions. Meanwhile, marketing has a view that IT is neither agile nor innovative enough to take advantage of new capabilities.

As with most cultural divides, the disconnect is rooted in the fact that in most organizations the professional lives of technologists and marketers are generally led in isolation of each other, their goals and measures of success very different.

The pressure to maximize the effectiveness of new marketing technology investment is a perfect opportunity to test new ways of working together.

Some IT teams in large organizations have already moved towards this by creating the role of technology/business liaison. The focus is to work as a translation layer between the marketing and IT teams.

Their goals include more effectively communicating the requirements and constraints of both sides, and, providing facilitation to address misunderstandings or misalignments. Whilst this has certainly been effective in some cases, the challenge remains that there are still two distinct organizations operating with different goals.

Other temporary models for collaboration, such as assembling cross-functional Project Teams to oversee large scale technology and business change projects can be effective for a while. Here too though, there are often no MBOs or goals beyond system go-live. Teams are often dissolved at the very stage when working together is so critical – such as in the post-launch, early operational phase.

As marketing and technology grow ever closer the key to success will be much more integrated teams, working together daily, toward the same goals. This cannot be just for one-off transformation projects; it has to be part of the day to day ‘business as usual’ functioning of the organization.

It makes more sense to create a permanent team, built for purpose, with shared goals and aligned incentives. Those goals could include short-term marketing effectiveness; the medium-term implementation and operational efficiency of delivery platforms; and long-term growth in the value of the customer base.

Initially, such a team would be composed of both marketing and technology specialists. In the longer term, we foresee a new skillset emerge –‘marketing technologists’.

We see them today, but they tend to exist on niche digital islands – practitioners of SEO, web developers, UX designers, Social Media and email marketing gurus.

Over time, these individuals will evolve more holistic perspectives and become as comfortable with the development of marketing strategy and planning as they are with data science and technology platforms. The boundaries between marketing and technology will continue to blur and organizations will evolve to adjust to the new reality.

However, one underlying principle remains true. As we said in our original prediction: “it’s not the machine, it’s having the right person behind the machine” which will become the mantra that enables existing platforms to perform at their best and for brands to drive better content relevancy and results.





James Vila 

Principal, Strategy and Analytics.