The CIO vs. the Marketing Technologist

There are plenty of blogs by and for marketing executives that spend an inordinate amount of time and energy denigrating IT’s efforts to “control” technology. One of the most vociferous is Chief Marketing Technologist (, which preaches the gospel of technology self-empowerment for marketers. Its author, Scott Brinker, is president and CTO of Ion Interactive (, an online marketing firm.

Brinker, however, is not the IT oppositionist he makes himself out to be. “Some of my posts, I admit, express frustration with the status quo,” he says. His main point is that the rapidly changing technology landscape, particularly in regard to online commerce and social interaction, is an evolving area that will, by necessity, require more technology savvy and leadership directly by marketers. “That being said, I think there are a number of ways IT and marketing can collaborate in such an environment,” Brinker says.

Q: The relationship between IT and marketing has been described as “polarized” and even “adversarial.” What are the basic problems between IT and marketing?

A: The underlying problem is that IT and marketing have conflicting priorities and incentives. That's not to say that one is right and one is wrong — they're optimizing different goals. IT optimizes stability, security, standardization and cost efficiency, while marketing focuses on differentiation, market speed and agility, brand positioning and embracing disruptive innovation. They respect each other's missions — marketing wants customer data to be secure, and IT cares about leveraging new innovations — but the priorities are ordered quite differently.

Q: What can the CIO do to overcome those problems? Are there any quick fixes, or is it a cultural problem?

A: Quick fixes depend a lot on the culture and people in particular

organizations, so it's hard to generalize. Increased communication at both the executive level and the boots-on-the-ground level can certainly help. Co-locating marketing and IT teams can be a good way to bridge some of the cultural and contextual barriers.”

The real solution, in my opinion, is that marketing must develop more technology leadership capabilities within its own ranks — highly focused on the digital marketing application layer that's growing exponentially. These "marketing technologists" need to blend marketing ideas seamlessly with the on-the-fly technical implementations required to achieve them. I believe that IT should facilitate this transformation rather than fight it, but at the same time establish

boundaries of technology governance. Marketing should have more distributed freedom with technology, but within a framework of checks and balances overseen by IT.

Q: What are the demands that the new social media/search engine optimization style of marketing places on IT? And who should lead that effort?

A: IT and marketing need to work together. Again, the "conflict" between marketing and IT is a natural outgrowth of different priorities. Rather than try to change IT's priorities — I don't think IT should behave like marketing — a better solution is for IT to carve out more application-layer technologies that marketing can lead on its own agenda, albeit with some reasonable level of governance from IT.

Because technology is advancing so rapidly, especially in the marketing domain, and being infused into so many new roles and contexts, control of technology doesn't necessarily seem like a zero-sum game. There's more technology to be led and managed and harnessed in the modern enterprise than a single top-down group can or should control. Enabling a reasonable level of distributed leadership in technology, such as fostering marketing technologists to really deliver the burgeoning value that is unique to their domain, doesn't mean that IT is shrinking overall. Instead, its role is evolving.

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