Last year, Gartner analyst Laura McLellan predicted that by 2017, chief marketing officers will spend more on IT than chief information officers. Marketing budgets are large and are growing more quickly than that of their IT counterparts, and marketing now “influences” almost half of IT purchases.

This prediction added fuel to an already fiery dialogue around the roles of the IT and marketing departments within organizations. While 2017 is still a few years away, this shift in power has already taken place within many companies, and marketing’s involvement in IT decisions is simply evidence of this shift.

How did we get here?

What was the main factor that drove marketing to make technology-buying decisions independent of IT? In a word, speed. As technology advanced and the Internet empowered marketers to engage directly with the customer, marketers became hungry for the technology systems they needed to support these engagements. And the need for speed led directly into the evolution of software-as-a-service (SaaS) systems.

Over the past five to seven years, IT has increasingly been unable to keep pace with the speed demanded by marketing teams that were looking for tools for campaign management, content management. social media and real-time analytics. So we saw the rise in SaaS systems designed to make it easier and faster for non-IT users to set up and leverage the systems they need. All this while circumventing IT in the process. Marketers are making independent IT decisions with their budgets so they can rapidly execute at the speed of the market.

Marketing is the new sales force

Previously, selling was the most important function in a business, as it most directly drove revenue. The ubiquity of the Internet has completely transformed the sales process and function as we know it. Now, marketing is fast becoming the sales force, and mobility is at its core, allowing you to reach your audience and influence the moment of truth in decision-making. A sale is now led by content and context, not a day on the golf course. We now see marketing-led organizations that are having a major influence on all departments, including product development or customer care.

Where do we go from here?

As a result of this shift, IT and marketing cannot afford to find themselves at odds and instead need to be even more closely entwined. For instance, IT will manage out-of-the-box SaaS implementations and ensure the integration of functions across the enterprise that encompasses sales, marketing, product development and customer experience.

In a marketing-led organization, how can the CIO maximize his or her role and work in partnership with the CMO? Here are five key ways:

  1. Provide a holistic view: CIOs can facilitate cross-functional collaboration for departments to offer everyone a shared view of the customer, create efficiencies and cut costs. To give you an idea of how necessary the role of cross-collaboration conduit is to an enterprise, check out this “Digital Marketing Transit Map” that Gartner recently created to visualize the relationship between different business functions and applications — revealing just how many hands are in each pot.
  1. Secure the silos: A lack of centralization could pose problems if there is a data breach or in the case of an audit. Because data is scattered and harder to track, silos make it harder to oversee all aspects of security and privacy, including password policies, blocking and detecting threats and compliance.
  1. See through the clouds: SaaS and cloud-based systems are not a silver bullet and will come with issues including security, customization and support, particularly on the enterprise level. CIOs can provide unmatched perspective to marketers and other executives on when an on-premise or hybrid model is preferable, and why.
  1. Integrate, integrate, integrate: Marketers rely on a wealth of data to help them develop and target their campaigns. CIOs can help ensure that the data and applications are integrated across marketing and other business functions; for instance, helping marketing track campaigns from lead generation all the way to the sale and ensuring that CRM systems integrate with marketing-automation tools.
  1. Remember privacy: CMOs will lean on the CIO to help manage privacy, security and data-management issues that may arise from marketing activities, such as those using social media that can leave enterprise data exposed. The cloud-based systems that marketing rely on so heavily are more vulnerable to security breaches than traditional licensed software, so they need special oversight from a privacy perspective.

Glenn Conradt is vice president, global marketing and North America, at CoreMedia.

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