With the increasing richness and complexity that digital channels and social media bring to the marketing equation, senior marketers increasingly realize that, to be relevant in shaping their brands’ interaction with customers, their teams need to embrace new technologies with the help of the IT group.

In my latest joint research effort with my fellow analyst Nigel Fenwick from Forrester’s CIO role, I explore how marketing and IT can successfully work together in enabling organizations to master the customer data flow.

Our early findings were not very promising . . . What clearly emerged from our interviews with CMOs and CIOs was how deeply ingrained the stereotypes about the two teams are. We heard that:

  • IT is the department of “no” and does not care about customers or what’s happening in the market.
  • Marketing is having all of the fun and spending money without rhyme or reason.

We did come across organizations that established productive working relationships between marketing and IT, and some of the key findings were:

  • The majority of the interviewees agreed on the need to have a central organizing principle that will help federate the alignment efforts between marketing and IT. They called it different things, like “brand experience,” “delighting customers,” “dealership experience” . . . And what they all meant was that effective alignment is focused on a measurable impact on customers and their experience with the brand. In the words of a marketing leader at a major car manufacturer: “We are not an IT shop; we need help to adopt the right technology that can help us with our customers."
  • Speed-to-market and agility are recognized as potential areas of friction between IT and marketing. Setting up dedicated teams and processes on the IT side is increasingly viewed as the best approach. The CIO at a CPG organization said, “We did realize that marketing lives in a different time frame, and a lot of [its] activities demand agility and fast turnarounds. Setting up a dedicated process staffed with people who understand what marketing is about dramatically changed our effectiveness as a team.”

What are some of the other findings you can read in the report?

  • Agile methodologies are emerging as a key delivery approach for IT to respond to the ever-increasing demand for speed-to-market from marketing.
  • Data ownership is a not just an operational issue but is being elevated to senior management.
  • New professional profiles and backgrounds are emerging in both teams to facilitate alignment.

The good news is that marketing and IT leaders are planning to make big changes over the next 12 months to address many of today's shortcomings. For more insight into how the new rules of engagement apply to marketing and IT, Forrester clients can read our initial findings in two reports released today. And we will further explore this topic at our upcoming CIO-CMO Forum in Boston this September.

What do you think? Is this shift a big opportunity for marketing to gain control of the customer data flow? Will marketing be able to get IT excited about focusing on the customer? Or do you think that the stereotypes are true, that we are too optimistic, and that marketing and IT will always struggle to work effectively together?