Marketing Cloud: The final nail in IT’s coffin?

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Will the Marketing Cloud deepen the divide between IT and marketing, or bridge it? MyCustomer.com talks to Adobe's John Mellor and Mark Phibbs.

Not only did the Marketing Cloud dominate proceedings at last week’s Adobe Summit in London, but it is also likely to be high on the agenda at Salesforce.com’s London gig this week. And with vendors such as Marketo and Infor also circling the space, 2013 really is shaping up to be the year of the Marketing Cloud.

If you believe Gartner, one of the catalysts for this activity is the growing influence on IT procurement of the marketing department, with the analyst forecasting that the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO by 2017.

“It’s a trend that Gartner is highlighting, but it’s very real,” John Mellor, VP of business development and strategy at Adobe, told MyCustomer.com at his company's Summit in London last week. “Somebody at the Summit said that technology isn’t driving these trends – it’s the consumers. Technology is just the enabler. Consumers all of a sudden want to consume real-time personalised information in any place on any device they want. The fact that you have hundreds of millions of people in the world shifting their behaviour into mobile and digital is a sea change that organisations can’t ignore. And it’s happening so quickly.

“Things that were traditionally considered IT implications are now requirements to serve the changing consumer, like content management and how you serve up an experience – not a web page, but an experience – that is dynamic and personalised, and how do you do that for every individual that comes to your site or your mobile app, and how do you do that across multiple devices.  The technology to do that hasn’t been available until now. You look at the old content management systems and infrastructure systems and they were very difficult to change and to do any kind of personalisation. So even if marketers aren’t the ones spending the money, they are the ones driving requirements of how IT needs to respond.”

With the IT and marketing departments traditionally having a difficult relationship, and with marketing now seemingly horning in on IT’s racket, things look likely to become more fractious. With the emergence of the role of chief marketing technologist, could marketing be seeking to cut IT out of the picture all together?

“When you look at how much technology marketing is taking on, what’s the CIO’s role going to be in three years’ time? And they kind of view the CIO and the IT department as almost an operational thing – like keeping the lights on!” says Mellor.

“In certain companies, user experience has been really brought into marketing and they are driving customer experience, and are dictating requirements to IT. IT is building projects but the ultimate ownership of the project, mainly the yes/no, lives with marketing. Even though IT is still doing the work, the business owner lives and reports to the marketing people, whether that’s president of online or head of digital.”

Improving collaboration

But marketing still can’t do it all alone, adds Mark Phibbs, VP EMEA at Adobe: “Marketers need to keep IT involved or else that can slow down the process. There is also a lot of expertise in IT. So you have to partner with them.”

Nonetheless, the Marketing Cloud has enormous appeal to the CMO because it reduces the reliance on IT. Phibbs continues: “I spoke to a customer yesterday on the marketing side and they want to get on with it, but when they spoke to the CIO they said that their IT roadmap meant they couldn’t do it for another year. So the Cloud was great because they said to IT you need to be involved initially but you don’t need to do much, not as much as they traditionally would need to do. So that is pretty compelling to the marketing department.”

But rather than supporting a land grab by the CMO, the Marketing Cloud is very much focused on breaking down siloes and improving collaboration, both within marketing itself, and across departments.  

Mellor continues: “The big push is to get marketing to talk together and to get groups to talk together. And this is a trend I’m seeing where organisations are starting to ignore reporting structures and build teams - even virtual teams that come together for a time and then disband – around parts of the customer journey. Delta Airlines did this. They built a consumer experience map around the customer journey and built virtual teams around parts of the journey regardless of who they reported to, made up of marketing and IT.”

Marketing and IT working in harmony? Wow. And there’s a further tell-tale sign of the influence that the Marketing Cloud will have in the near future, according to Mellor.

“If you rewind three or four decades and look at the other big tectonic shifts that were technology-enabled that had much bigger implications other than just investing in IT - like CRM or ERP – these were things that redefined how companies did business and  had implications around business process optimisation, reporting structures and changed the DNA of organisations. Those companies would never have been successful without the ecosystem partners that they enabled to come in and help companies through these changes. People like Oracle, SAP and Siebel wouldn’t have got anywhere if it wasn’t for the likes of Accenture, who really wrapped themselves around this technology and came in and helped organisations redefine themselves and get into the new age.

“One of the most interesting things I see is the emergence of this ecosystem around digital marketing. Just here on the Summit floor you have got SapientNitro, Deloitte, Razorfish… big organisations that are making big bets. They are platinum sponsors. They haven’t sponsored a summit, but they’re platinum sponsors here and platinum sponsors in the US. To me that says you are starting to see an ecosystem emerge and that is recognition of the level of change that we’re dealing with. A big part of success is the technology but it’s also the partnerships that we bring together with these companies to deliver change at the CMO level. Because they don’t really care about optimising the search campaign, for instance. They want to know how to build competence of testing and measurement in the organisation and push those KPIs through the system - and get IT to work better with marketing! Those are the things that are driven at that strategic level that require a level of service expertise and to work with partners to deliver.”

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