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From the Trenches

Your IT Guy Should Not Be Your Chief Marketing Officer

Mike Sweeney | September 15, 2009

Admit it marketing people.  You dread the moment when you realize your website is down.  You refresh your web browser 38 times in 90 seconds.  Nothing.  You reboot your computer, thinking it’s a problem on your end.  Nothing.  You check with junior level marketing staffers (the ones that won’t freak out at you if they discover the site is – in fact – down) to see if they’re having the same problem.  They are.

You dread this moment for a couple of obvious reasons, but it’s the least obvious reason that really frightens you.  It’s now your problem, and that means you have to walk down the hall and talk to the “IT Guy”.  You know the guy I am talking about.  He lives in a deep dark corner office, where very few dare to venture.  He is always “maxed out” in terms of responsibility and resources.  He is represented as invaluable, even though only 2 other people in the entire organization know what he does.

And based on what we’ve seen lately, he is being empowered to make marketing decisions that he is not equipped to make.

You’d never ask your financial advisor to treat your high blood pressure; you rely on the advice of a physician for that.  You’d never ask your accountant to double up and help you find and negotiate a new home purchase; you rely on the advice of a real estate agent for that.  You’d never ask your golf instructor to do your interior decorating; you rely on the advice of – well, an interior decorator – for that.

So why do organizations put critical marketing decisions in the hands of the IT department, or at a minimum allow the IT department to exert too much influence on the marketing decision making process?

A myriad of explanations are typically offered.  Unfortunately, most of these explanations are flimsy.  My favorite goes something like this:

“We consider our website a technology asset, so it makes sense to have it under the control of the IT department.”

A technology asset.  Interesting.  And here I’ve been telling people for years to treat their website as a living, breathing, ever-changing marketing vehicle first and foremost, and that the underlying technology is what enables the website to achieve certain marketing functions.

My point isn’t to slam the IT Guy.  God knows I’ve relied on some phenomenal IT Guys to handle critical functions and contribute to significant decisions over the years.

Notice I used the word “contribute”.  Contribute to the decision on which CRM software marketing ought to use to manage lead generation and nurturing.  Contribute to the decision on which content management systems (CMS) marketing should consider for the new corporate website.  Contribute to the decision on whether we should use a hosted or home-grown email marketing solution.

A solid management team will allow marketing leadership to make marketing decisions and IT leadership to make IT decisions.  An exceptional management team will not only do that, but also create a collaborative environment where decisions that impact both marketing and IT are made with a structured and effective process.

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