For many companies, the Marketing and IT departments are, let’s just say, less than “best of friends”. In fact, I’ve seen cases where their relationship is downright antagonistic! Even if they’re not butting heads, they may be coolly detached from each other, existing on different floors, socializing with different people, and living different “cultures” within an organization.
There’s something wrong with this picture—in this digital age, collaboration between these groups is more important than ever. Instead, projects may get “doled out” out to one group or another. A simple question such as “Who is in charge of the web project?” can be telling; some companies hand it over to their IT department, while others give it to Marketing.
Why such a separation? For one, the knowledge, processes, and language of each group is so distinct and specialized, they typically have a hard time understanding each other, and this makes for some rough communication. Closer to home is the simple fact that the two sides are threatening to each other. Threatening?
Not physically, of course, but perceptually—to each other’s workload and sense of authority and importance. Marketing, tasked with impressing customers and bringing in new business, tends to be free-thinking and ambitious, whereas IT, which wrestles with the complexities of “getting it done”, strives for practicality and quality of work. Individually, each group has different problems to worry about.
The disparity is revealed in how the two groups communicate to others and to each other:
Marketing: (To customer) Of course we can do it! Your satisfaction is our priority.
IT: You promised them what? There’s no way we can meet that deadline!
Marketing: (To customer) We are a complete solution provider.
IT: You didn’t tell them we do eCommerce, did you? Because we’ve never done that before. I don’t even know how to estimate it!
Marketing: We’ll simply get all these systems to talk to each other, and we’ll provide a centralized portal where customers can log in and customize their reports. That will be our competitive advantage!
IT: Do you have any idea how complicated that will be to accomplish? We’ll need to triple our staff and budget just to get off the ground—and there’s still no way we can meet that launch date!
Marketing: We’re not thinking big enough.
IT: We don’t have enough resources.
From the Marketer’s point of view, IT is an obstacle, constantly raising objections and putting up roadblocks. IT’s push to simplify and scale things down directly hampers Marketing’s attempt to push bigger, better, and bolder solutions.
From the IT point of view, Marketing is constantly proposing impossible deadlines, overly complex ideas, and frequent course changes and “scope-creep” until projects become a tangled mess and stress levels raise through the roof.
No wonder there may be inter-departmental feuding! So who’s more important? Marketing is quick to point out that without them, there wouldn’t be any business to begin with. From the IT point of view however, the business would fall apart without the infrastructure they build and support. They’re both correct. Having had careers in both marketing and IT management, I know this first hand.
Smart firms also know this, and they seek to get both parties not just on the same field, but playing the same game. The common denominator is that both groups seek influence over their work, and involvement in it its greater context. It’s all about collaboration and learning mutual respect—but it takes work to get there, and it can be a rare thing to achieve.
One of the “calling cards” of our firm is this very point—that we believe in shared ownership of our projects, and a true fusion of strategy, marketing, and technology. Our creative folks and technical folks sit right across from each other. Both groups are invited to attend all phases of a project, including client meetings, brainstorming sessions, strategy meetings, review meetings—any and all interactions where multiple perspectives are valuable. Every step of the development process involves both groups sharing ideas and information with each other.
This I feel, is the future of work. Our team has reaped tremendous success with this approach, and our clients benefit from their projects being well-architected technically as well as being excellently designed and usable. This is an aspect of Project Management that I rarely hear mentioned but that I feel is critical to success—learning to lead a team that operates effectively across the boundaries. Getting past the battle of egos, the communication conflicts, and the “silos” in your organization is all part of the new paradigm of successful web and software development. The only question we have to ask ourselves is, are we ready to accept it?