Recently, there has been much talk about the declining role of the IT department. In 2012, when Gartner analyst Laura McLellan predicted that CMOs would surpass CIOs in terms of IT spending by 2017, marketers and techies alike shook their heads in disbelief. And promptly went about making the prediction come true.
To be sure, the three years since have been a thrilling and fun ride. But, like every party, this one too must end. While it’s not quite last call yet, companies are feeling the first signs of a hangover and starting to worry about the tab they’ve run up.
Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!
For sure, marketers love shiny objects. And, being human, it’s only natural to seek simple solutions to complex problems. And (seemingly) simple solutions are something we’ve seen a lot of lately.
Marketing automation and AdTech – two areas of massive growth recently – have captured a huge amount of investment and corporate spend. The same is true for social media, lead nurturing, and anything to do with data & analytics. And by doing an end-run around those stodgy IT folks and other barriers – avoiding CapX through SaaS-based pricing models, using cloud-based systems and Web solutions to get around infrastructure standards, etc. – marketing has had relatively free reign.
But has all this investment delivered much measurable return? Are campaigns performing far better? Is customer satisfaction rising? Do we know yet what our most profitable customers look like, what triggers their purchases, and how best to reach them? Not yet, says marketing. But we will. Real soon, too.
We just need to get our social measuring platform integrated with our CRM, develop an effective attribution model, get our web analytics data to line up with our paid search, and integrate everything with the wCMS to deliver a personalized web experience. Oh, and then everything needs to be tied back to our eCommerce system, which in turn will need to integrate with the back-office systems to support omni-channel commerce and in-store pickup. But we’re real close now.
The Important Role of Integration
And therein lies the problem: while each of these systems and tools may be exceptional in their respective areas – a small detail we will assume for now – without effective integration along the entire value chain they are of limited value and impossible to assess as a whole. We are left with fragmented silos, just pieces of the puzzle instead of the whole picture.
I recently had lunch with a digital marketing manager at a large hotel company who lamented that each of their portfolio brands had different agency partners, who in turn employed different tools for analytics and tag management. While they were all required to use the same wCMS, as mandated by IT, they were free to choose when it came to analytics, marketing automation, ad targeting, search and a host of other things.
The result was that there was no way to measure performance across the enterprise, much less the ability to track customers across multiple brand sites and the central reservation system to determine which channel, campaign, or series of interactions ultimately led to a booking. Worse yet, since search was not integrated with display media, and each was managed separately by brand, effective attribution was impossible. Individual brands were effectively competing against one another, bidding up keywords, and each department was optimizing for their own KPIs, chasing clicks and traffic without the ability to tie these to actual bookings.
Creating integrated dashboards – critical to actionable insight – was nigh impossible, since the various systems each had their own data formats and structure, and often identified and tracked users differently. Techniques like look-alike modeling were impossible to employ since there was no central CRM data to draw from.
The result was that every department showed impressive performance improvements, but the sum total of what they each lay claim to greatly exceeded the overall increase in business. And, while total bookings did increase, growth was merely in line with the overall industry due to a recovering economy. So, despite millions in investment, their performance was no better than their competitors, and, much like John Wanamaker a hundred years ago, they were still unable to determine which channels and methods were more effective than others.
Enterprise Software as Foundation
If this sounds like a familiar scenario to you, then you’re probably in your 40s, work in IT, and were around to witness the rise of Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP.
Before companies like SAP, Microsoft and Oracle offered integrated ERP systems, other parts of the enterprise – finance, supply chain, operations – were in a similar fragmented state. The only way to integrate one with the other, production planning with supply chain or sales with finance, was to export data from one system, create a report and compare it to a similar report from the other department’s system of record, trying your best to match them up.
ERP systems changed all of this and ushered in a new era of transparency, accountability, and performance within business and in doing so made things like lean manufacturing, just-in-time supply chains, and mass customization possible. Enterprise systems can do the same for advertising, marketing, and eCommerce. By providing the underlying infrastructure, systems of record, and means of integration, enterprise systems are the lynchpin to connecting critical business functions and the convergence of technology, data, and marketing, make them the logical choice to serve as the backbone of the inter-connected enterprise. They are crucial to a successful and rewarding user experience and effective omni-channel commerce, for few things are more detrimental to the customer experience than an order that cannot be fulfilled, is fulfilled incorrectly, or a transaction that times out due to poor integration.
Enterprise solutions enable cross-functional business processes that are the connecting tissue of the enterprise. They also provide the real-time visibility that is crucial to performance. Marketing, like other functional areas including sales or finance, is a means to an end and not a standalone function. As it becomes increasingly sophisticated and technology centric, it will need to be integrated within the broader enterprise IT landscape in order to be truly effective.
Hence, marketing and IT both serve the same master – the business – and the debate around who controls what should not be a competition. Both must operate in unison and function as partners, with marketing providing domain expertise and functional requirements, and IT ensuring effective operations and integration, just like other departments. Anything less would be a step back to the dark days of spreadsheets, printed reports, without visibility or accountability. Which some marketers may soon discover wasn’t all that bad.