The Rise of the Marketing Technologist Part 2: Who Owns The Marketing Technology Stack?

Last week we discussed the aftermath of Gartner’s prediction that the CMO will spend more on technology than IT by the year 2017. I posed a few questions at the end of the post — is a Marketing Technologist role really the approach we should be taking to managing marketing’s growing investment in technology? Should the marketing technology stack be led across the business? Should it be strategically managed across marketing, IT, and the C-Suite?

It’s clear that marketing wants to own their technology stack. In their 2012 Interactive CMO-CIO Insights Survey of 400 senior marketing executives and 250 senior IT executives, consulting firm Accenture noted some interesting trends regarding collaboration between marketing and IT:

  • 44% of CMOs don’t believe there’s any need for alignment with CIOs
  • 57% deemed their relationship with the CIO as important
  • 13% of CMOs said their relationship with the CIO is “at the right level”
  • 41% of CMOs say they need more collaboration with the CIO
  • 45% want to enable marketing employees to operate data and content without IT.

And marketing has been traditionally managing their own technology projects — or at least significant portions of them. But how have they been doing? Referring back to the Fournaise Group study I discussed last week, it’s clear that the C-Suite has not been impressed, “…CEOs feel Marketers…have forgotten that technology is only a support tool that does not create demand per se – only accurate strategies and campaigns pushing the right products, product benefits, content and customer value propositions do.”

So what is the answer? Should marketing continue to own the Marketing Technology stack, or should IT become more involved in making sure the implementations, integrations and day-to-day requirements are running properly?
challenges image for 3.11

In their recent white paper called The Marketing Technologist – A New Role For The Modern B2B Marketing Organization marketing technology personalization platform Demandbase makes a good case as to why the marketing technology stack needs to be owned by marketers. To summarize their reasoning:

  •  Configuration of marketing technology often requires marketing expertise, and is often a customer-facing function. 

Consider just one of the pieces of the stack, the marketing automation piece – a business application that could potentially touch demand generation, field marketing, content marketing, sales, and more. The users driving these solutions are responsible for building out campaign workflows, lead scoring and lead management programs, audience and targeted list segmentation, and landing page and email copy/creation. There needs to be an inherent understanding of how modern Demand Generation Programs work.

  • Marketing technology requires speed and flexibility

There is often no time for adjustments based on Demand Generation Program responses to sit in an IT request queue, as marketing is a response-driven activity which requires experimentation, testing and adjustment. There needs to be an inherent awareness of current marketing campaigns, as well as intuitive iteration and interaction with the marketing technology to make adjustments on the fly. 

  • Modern marketing is a data driven activity

Every detail feeds the beast — the content they have read or downloaded, the emails they clicked on, forms they filled out, pages they visited, calls they received, events they attended and the live connections they made. We are in the business of collecting data, and there needs to be an understanding of the true value of each recorded interaction throughout every separate stage of their purchase journey. 

  • Marketing technology is a strategic concern

Any one Demand Generation Program may touch multiple technologies and distribution channels all at the same time. Marketing automation, CRM, web (CMS), content planning, live event tracking, social media, testing, tracking, blogging, personalization and many more are all a part of the Demand Generation Strategy mix, and technology is what enables the execution of your defined strategy.

All the pieces need to fit, and that requires an understanding of the technology strategy within the context of a larger demand generation strategy which is aligned and planned around the buyer’s journey.

Marketing technology clearly needs to be managed by marketers.

Or does it?

Marketing technology has been (historically) managed by marketers, but in a March 2013 ITSMA study called Realizing the Promise of Marketing Technology, only 30% of companies responding believe they are receiving value from marketing technology investments. Less than 30% rate themselves as “best-in-class” when it came to the use of their technology purchases. And what are the top barriers to marketing technology success? According to 58% of respondents, “no strategy or plan, but rather cobbled together over time.”

Increased complexity calls for expertise in deploying and integrating disparate systems. It also calls for a defined strategy for each and every technology deployment, much the same way your typical IT department has a series of checks and balances for their implementations. We may complain about the length of time some of these deployments take, but the reality is that there are many different systems, compatibilities, updates, security concerns, and access levels within our companies that we, as marketers, often have no understanding of.

Just because the CMO is soon to be spending more on technology does not mean that the CIO is irrelevant to the mission of a marketing department.

Referring back again to the Fournaise group study, 71% of CEOs believe that while B2B Marketers are focused on the latest marketing technologies they are still failing to deliver the level of incremental customer demand expected of them. Marketing clearly needs help managing the technology stack, and needs to turn to the groups within their organization that have the most experience with large-scale technology deployments. And make no mistake, these deployments can be very large.

Marketing technology clearly needs to be managed by IT.

Or does it?

I may have painted myself into a corner here, kind of like the Sicilian in The Princess Bride, trying to decide which cup is poisoned. The marketing technology stack requires marketing expertise, clearly it needs to be managed by marketers! But wait — marketers have been handling the stack so far and have been botching the job. Clearly it needs to be managed by IT!

So what’s the answer? Somewhere in the middle? A new role with a blend of marketing and IT expertise? The Marketing Technologist?

Honestly, I have seen a few job descriptions for the marketing technologist role, and it seems like it might be easier to find a unicorn. In their June, 2013 article called Why Your Brand Marketing Needs a Chief Marketing Technologist the Content Marketing Institute listed a few of the requirements for the role:

  • Depth of technological experience … hands-on experience in working with technology — e.g., having worked in software development, as an IT analyst, etc. … experience in and a solid understanding of the challenges involved in technology management, such as vetting vendors and selecting and implementing technology solutions.
  • Depth of marketing experience … a clear understanding of your organization’s marketing mission, and a passion for contributing to it through the strategic use of technology
  • Depth of management experience … solid general management skills, because on a fundamental level, the … core responsibility is to manage change. 

And perhaps most importantly, “… brand marketing strategies and techniques are continually evolving … must be adept at ushering a team and its processes through the changes it will inevitably encounter.”

Change management skills, strategy development, marketing experience, demand generation strategy development, and software development or IT analyst experience. Finding an individual like this is going to be very difficult. So difficult, in fact, you should consider a move to plan B: investment in your existing team and their professional development.

The CMO needs to do better, and needs to become your Chief Marketing Technologist. They need to spend more time building and owning the strategy for the usage of these technology tools before deployment, understand the depth and breadth of these offerings and how they work together, and perhaps more importantly give more credence to the expertise of the technical team when it comes to the more tactical concerns associated with the technology suite across all departments.

*Image Scott Brinker,

Personal and professional development, training and experience are required — but there is a strategic level of expertise here across the C-Suite that the CMO needs to own, and one of the most important signs of leadership is knowing when to ask for help and when to delegate authority.

The CMO needs to own the strategy, and understand (but delegate) the tactical.

Next week in part 3 we are going to discuss People, Process, Content — and then Technology as we outline a plan for how our marketing leadership can do a better job of managing the technology stack.

*Technology Landscape image via Scott Brinker

Author: Jason Stewart @jstewart_1 is Vice President, Demand Generation for ANNUITAS.


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