Not having worked for a marketing agency before, it took me a while to understand the role IT plays in such a company. I do believe that IT and marketers (sorry, I have lumped everybody other than IT in this group) are smart and talented in their own fields. But there tends to be some kind of friction between the two groups. Though we in IT - and I am sure the marketers - humorously portray each other based on personality, I think it is more based on the mindsets each group has and how these pertain to their roles in the company. For example, in IT's eyes, here are some of their priorities in no particular order:
• Process - to have a process for all work flows
• Stability & reliability
• Security - make sure the systems are secure
• Ongoing support, maintenance - we are the fixer-upper for anything and everything
As you can see, IT does seem to be more conservative and buttoned-down in nature and these issues. Tinkering with new and potentially unstable ideas, deploying something without going through vigorous testing, being ready to deploy at 5:00 PM on a Friday, etc. are not generally encouraged in the world of IT. IT seems to be very rigid and that is why you see most ITers having a middle name of "Process". Of course, that is not to say that innovation is not important to IT. It is. But even with innovation, it's IT's job to make sure that it is completely tested before implementing it.
Marketers, on the other hand have a slightly different set of priorities:
• Acquiring more customers quickly, cost-effectively
• Speed to market of new ideas
• Flexibility to change direction quickly based on client feedback
• Trying to be unique in the marketplace
They basically want everything to happen instantaneously. They want that "easy" button that when pressed, will give them the desired results. And to a large extent, that has to be their mode of operation; markets are in constant flux and there is an insatiable demand for more prospects, more customers, more sales etc. By waiting for IT to go through a process, they will miss out on opportunities. Marketing does respect stability, security and standardization, but those values in their eyes are often abstract and - in many situations - conflict with their primary mission of reaching more people quicker than the guy next door. As you can see, IT and marketing are each pursuing their objectives, but they often seem to take different paths. And now with social marketing thrown into the mix - some with security holes which again goes against the IT mantra - these paths have diverged even further. So, it appears that IT and marketing cannot coexist.
As Scott Brinker says in his article, and I am paraphrasing here:
"IT and marketing should conflict. Businesses as a whole succeed by balancing competing priorities. You need to have both IT infrastructure stability and innovative marketing experimentation, in some reasonable proportion to each other."
Do you really think these two critical groups cannot coexist? Well, I do not think so. But to just say that I do not believe it is not enough. Here are some steps each group can take to make their coexistence possible in peace and harmony:
• Communication - This has been harped over decades now, but, with communication at the appropriate time, it will do wonders. Try it and see. The moment the marketers are aware of an idea, let them get together with the IT group and see what can be done and how quick. It is really very simple, but for some reason never put into practice.
• Involvement of IT - This is more of an extension of the previous point. The sooner the marketers involve IT, the better it is for both parties. We are geeks, but when shown some appreciation in the form of being asked to get involved, it makes us feel part of the process and will result in excellent products. It is very difficult for IT to understand why the marketers want to take a certain path if they are not involved from the outset. You will be surprised to see the "marketer" in an IT person if they are involved right at the beginning.
• Flexibility - IT needs to be more flexible in their processes. And I think overall, new methodologies have been introduced (for ex. Agile, SCRUM etc.) which show more flexibility in implementing the concepts brought about by marketers. I see no benefit in IT being rigid in their approach if they want to be respected by their marketing folks.
• Tone of voice - Sometimes, IT gets too monotonous and appears very firm in their responses to marketers. This could be regarding new ideas or even getting some support help from IT. This to me is a huge issue which causes miscommunication and can result in losing trust in each other. IT needs to mellow down their tone and learn to explain the "why" and not just say, "it is not possible". I am sure, when IT does that effectively, it can help create that sane atmosphere where both the groups can coexist.
Bottom line is, we are one - both IT and the marketing groups are part of the same company. I often see the marketing group treat IT as a separate entity and treat us as a service provider. We do provide service, but feel that we are part of the same company and the ultimate objective of both the groups is the same. A little bit of love and appreciation goes a long way.