Sunday, May 4, 2014

Marketing vs. IT: Oil on Water, or Milk with Coffee

IT and marketing can be well blended smoothly, like milk to coffee, and co-create the java of innovation.
At industrial age, organizational functions usually think and act as silo, it seems to always have conflict when executing business strategy. Some say marketing is from Mars and IT is from Venus, they ‘think’ differently; or market vs. IT is like oil & water, it is just hard to blend in. However, by the hyper-connective nature of digitalization, IT and marketing must work more closely than ever, to create synergy in business innovation, customer-centricity, information life cycle management, as well as process optimization. Indeed, according to industrial survey from CIO media, digital-ready CIOs are notably more determined to forge close relationships with the CMO — 59% cite this as very strong, compared with 37% of CIOs generally. As CIOs and CMOs move closer together, their shared expertise can be a powerful voice for monetizing customer insights. Can market and IT, like milk blended with coffee, co-make a cup of delicious innovation java?  

Both IT and marketing are “creative”: IT and marketing may have different skills, but they have common traits such as creativity. Marketers and engineers have different knowledge, skills and behaviors to bring to the party – so there are differences in business focus and responsibility. Although there’s perception, that marketing is creative, but too 'flashy', floating on the surface; and IT is logic, but too 'bored, hidden on the background. Indeed, engineers are actually the creative people as well, they are designing products that are solving a consumer demand or business need. When marketing communicate to understand customers better, they need IT support to improve customer experience; when engineers think outside-the-box and develop interesting products that create desire, and that directly translates into sales. So IT and marketing partner can recognize the human aspiration of progress to move business forward.

Both engineering and marketing are science. Generally engineers get trained to think systematically and IT is clearly a scientific discipline, they have input --> process --> output; while the marketers seems to be more like artist, still, marketing shouldn't be perceived to be superficial only, marketing is a science as well – just like engineering. There are processes involved in both; cause & effect like prices versus demand or the cost-time-scope iron triangle. Many successful "entrepreneurs" have an engineering background with innovation driven expertise, and in the mean time, they have a good marketing competence, seeing what are interested customer contexts, zooming in and out and even looking at similar contexts in other markets, to learn and adapt elements from those. When IT and marketing work closely, they can gain understanding of "customer contexts" and societal contexts in a broader sense, it may be a big inspiration to come up with radical new thoughts upon business innovation.

IT and marketing collaboration enables systematic innovation management: If a firm is truly implementing an ongoing system of innovation, it must operate in an environment where IT and marketing intersect and where innovation systems are driven by a guided, process-based approach and set of principles, there must be a convergence of the two worlds in order to (1) innovate, and (2) market the innovation. One is not possible without the other, for to truly have a system of innovation, the entity must have diverse sets of complementary inputs. Linking marketers and engineers within the process of innovation that generates meaningfully unique ideas and funnels them into a process of commercialization, where ideas are validated up front scientifically and investments increase only at the end of the pipeline during development and delivery. The benefits include: 
• Puts discipline into an ad hoc and chaotic innovation process, manage and support the process for generating, collecting and reviewing new ideas or concepts.
• Provides a roadmap for the project leader, defining his/her tasks and deliverables, communicate to make process known and understood by everyone in the company.
• Attention to quality of execution, 
set the criteria for passing, from one phase to another, which is set out in advance.The evaluation points are the quality control checkpoints. 
• It is multi-functional collaboration– it collects input from all parties, tear down the walls that separate research, design, and manufacturing. 
• It is coherent and adaptable– activities are done concurrently rather than sequentially
• Estimating the return on investment of each idea and continuously review it if the idea is taken forward. 

It comes down to a matter of mutual respect for each function. Such oil & water, marketing versus engineering conflict happens because marketing's goals & strategies are at odds with engineering's goals & processes and vise versa. Marketing simply wants the best possible product, with features that create value to the consumer. Often there a gap between what marketing wants for a given price and what is feasible to produce at that cost. It is Marketing's role to challenge the engineering team to provide more value for the economical value. It is IT role to take governing approach for information and risk management as well. They all have the same business goal, to put out the best possible product with the highest possible perceived value . Their very natures have a tendency to pit them against each other. But it would be a mistake to weaken either department's natural strengths in order to encourage compromise; and it would be a mistake to pit the departments against each other.  Only through corporation and collaboration, business as a whole can be optimal than sum of pieces. 

Management needs to understand that in order for each department to function at peak efficiency and performance, each department's natural talents & tendencies need to be encouraged to the max and simultaneously, management needs to promote interdepartmental trust, alliance, and joint problem-solving. The goal for such cross-functional collaboration is to create digital synergy: Focusing on business strategy and identifying key stakeholders is better in most cases; strategizing who to include for change management might be an important consideration; whatever your business goal is defined as, you would add marketing and engineering to the team to create synergies and end with a vision both departments are exuberant about. And then, IT and marketing can be well blended smoothly, like milk to coffee, and co-create the java of innovation.  


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