Who owns the MarTech roadmap? the CMO or the CIO?

Who owns the MarTech roadmap? the CMO or the CIO?


Recently I’ve been in many many discussions with marketing teams about the new toys they’ve been getting to play with (CRMs, Marketing Automation & Social Media toys to name just three, for example).  They’re all great for the modern marketing team.

They’re fun, exciting, funky, trendy and powerful, and – above all – generating real, tangible results for the business. But, they’re IT systems aren’t they ?

They’re IT assets that the company pays for. So who “owns” them?  Who maintains them? And who owns the data within them?

We marketeers are straying into the realm of the IT department.
And we need to be careful.

Now, I am in dangerous (personal) waters here. I happen to be married to a CIO. She’s rather clear in her opinion about who should own these systems. But she’s also very clear that – by and large – these are not mission-critical systems – if they fail, then no-one is going to get fired, customers won’t leave in droves, and it’s not going to have a huge immediate effect on the business (generalisations, perhaps – but also pretty accurate as far as most of RMS’s customers are concerned).

In this blog then, I am going to attempt to put both sides of the story here when I ask the simple question: Who owns these hosted, marketing-led IT systems?  The answer has serious implications for the well-being of the system within your organisation.

What the CMO probably thinks. These are business systems. Marketing led the selection process, designed it, built it out, built it up and have the technical nous and skills to capability run and maintain the system.  Salesforce is “kept going” by invisible Californian (or wherever they are) minions, gets backed up by other minions, doesn’t need system rebooting or any hardware or software upgrades.  Ditto our marketing automation system, CMS, website and Social tools.

Marketings’ opinion is that the whole reason for having these hosted systems is to be fleet-afoot, provide awesome response to campaigns and to empower the smart marketing department to respond fast to changing business conditions.

Marketing sees IT as s-l-o-w-i-n-g the creative process enormously (one of our customers used the analogy of a chain being dragged around the marketing teams’ neck) and forcing systems and unwarranted processes on a system that’s designed to be infinitely changeable by a non-techo to respond to a business need in a few minutes, not days or weeks.

What the CIO probably thinks.  Sure, Salesforce will keep going, will get backed up, doesnt need system rebooting or any hardware or software upgrades. But there’s other maintenance required, exports for back-ups/security & usage policies, connections to Outlook, mobile devices etc. The business needs IT support to get them going. Let alone the support questions we’re getting. Heck, these systems maybe even need HR’s eyeballs too – if you want to ask employees for their LinkedIn account details as a part of your social media activities.

Typically, the IT department sees marketing as “princesses [and princes] who want to have their cake & eat it … but who don’t want to do the washing up”. (another direct quote).

Marketers as System Administrators. Recently, one of our customers asked for a quote to execute a program/campaign using their Marketing Automation engine. When the quote was duly provided, we added in a small component for on-going maintenance of the automation engine – tidying up the garden and performing systems maintenance (in this case, ensuring the CRM<>MA sync was OK, tidying up of reports etc.). This was queried and eventually removed from the quotation – because this is not part of a deliverable for that campaign. Fair enough, this is more a systems management issue. But in this instance, IT doesn’t see it as theirs to maintain either.

Now, it’s not a massive drama, but it is indicative of a question that needs to be asked: “Who tends to the garden ?”

So what’s our guidance?  Who tends to the garden?  The fact is that many of these things need to be managed by the IT department – they have systems and procedures and people. They also probably have some skills that might make the system [even] betterer. But I do suspect there’s a lot of systems out there that are “kept away” from IT – especially in the early days of systems implementation.  It’s certainly my experience that IT departments are (necessarily) slower than the business.  That’s to be expected, and there is goodness and reason for that.  Also, I think a lot of IT departments still haven’t gotten their heads around hosted (SaaS) systems yet. I suspect it’s still early days, despite Software as a Service having been around for a long time. These hosted systems like Salesforce are designed to be nimble, fast to change and a new field should take three minutes to add – not three weeks. The business simply cannot wait. The Salesforce infrastructure is virtually indestructible and we’re operating in an environment which is robust as… well… as robust it can get.  It’s not uncommon for many businesses to implement Salesforce.com or Marketo without the approval of the IT department. This causes control and ownership issues – and it ends up being retrofitted with existing systems and processes (for example – what is the procedure when a user departs your company, or your top salesman is walked?).

All it will take is a security breach and – suddenly – Marketing is out of its depth.

So – both the CIO and the CMO has a point. Which is why it makes sense that these systems are owned by both departments. We have a great way of managing this – if you’re interested, drop me a line.

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