Who Should Own Marketing Technology?

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Marketing technology is becoming increasingly important in organizations as online marketing becomes a larger part of the overall marketing strategy. Yet getting anything done for marketers in many of these organizations is becoming increasingly difficult. Marketers typically do not have insight into the technical underpinnings of the systems they rely upon and the IT department is tasked with other projects and simply do not have time or staff to support the marketing department. So what is the solution?

Scott Brinker is the CTO of Ion Interactive and a self-described marketing technologist. In his blog, Scott calls out the the pain point for organizations and proposes that many organizations should consider instituting a new department of marketing technology, complete with its own C-level delegate, the Chief Marketing Technology Officer. When you consider the political struggles within large organizations, its not a bad idea.

Meanwhile, a recurring theme at the online marketing conferences, are solutions for marketing teams to work around IT. Tealium and Enisghten for example, provide a tagging management system, whereby IT only needs to be requested to drop a single JavaScript tag into the footer of a site, and marketers can then login to a management system and add the tags for whatever else they want such as 3rd party analytics packages. And while the solutions provide obvious appeal for marketers, many people on the IT team rightfully resist these solutions as ‘trojan horses’, citing poor and excessive choices by marketers as to what all to include once they have the ability to do so, not realizing the effect on site performance.

Then there is the reality of the evolving online medium itself. Only a couple years ago we were talking specifically about websites and search engine rankings. Now, brand management has moved outside of organization’s website and to the social sphere (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn); even the physical media by which we consume online media is changing with the ever increasing prevalence of mobile and alternative devices such as iPads. All of these things require technical facilitation. To build a simple Facebook app isn’t so simple any more with Facebook now requiring even the most trivial customizations to be run through an ‘app’ and registered in its developer’s center. Mobile requires sophisticated device-specific applications. Meanwhile the changes are just beginning and the past of change areas such as eCommerce looks poised to explode with innovations such as eBay’s X.commerce platform and where.com’s Geo IP fencing technologies.

The more I’ve pondered this dilemma, the more I’m inclined to agree with mr Brinker’s thesis that organizations now require a dedicated department for marketing technology. All of these challenges are entirely outside of the scope of support and fields of expertise for both traditional marketers and IT. When you look at what’s happening with technology, its no longer an entity separate from the marketing message; the technology is becoming the expressive media itself! Imagine a songwriter who cannot play an instrument, or a skilled pianist who doesn’t understand music theory – neither one is going to be effective at composing good music. What’s really needed is a group of people who are both analytical and technical; they sit somewhere in the middle, and right now, there is no room for these individuals in the normal corporate structure, so they typically go to work for advertising and digital agencies instead!

So, instituting an online marketing department seems a natural direction that corporations will evolve, particularly those doing a lot with online marketing. In the meantime, the optimal solution for many organizations may simply be to partner with an agency capable of bridging this gap. These agencies can take ownership over marketing technology and operate at a more organic level, creating the types of solutions not capable within organizations who require solutions such as tag management to succeed.