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CMOs forced to become CMIOs?

Posted by Chad O'Connor  May 14, 2013 11:00 AM

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Gartner Group famously dropped a bomb by predicting CMOs would outspend CIOs on IT by 2017. For most companies this is unlikely to be true, but it does draw attention to a major change that is underway.

Large company marketing departments are finally making a significant shift away from broadcast media and into digital channels. The intensity with which marketing is focused on digital channels, the uncertainty around best practices, the speed of change in the underlying capabilities (mobile, social, SEO) and the plethora of software providers makes it nearly impossible for a CIO to keep up and fully support marketing, particularly given everything else on the CIO’s plate.

So if the IT department struggles with this pace of change, how will the marketing department fare any better? This is the question that most CMOs are struggling with. Companies across industries are trying a variety of approaches to solve it. I’ll share the approach my company started in 2011 and the lessons we learned along the way.

Scope of Marketing IT
It may surprise many CEOs that marketing is already managing many IT systems with little to no IT involvement. Software-as-a-service (SaaS) has made it very easy for marketing to continually experiment with new tools with no burden to corporate IT, no capital approval process and, in many cases, paid for via marketing’s credit card. Below is a list of commonly used marketing IT systems, broken into categories: From my conversations with other CMOs, this is a fairly common list although many have even more especially in B2C or heavy online/mobile advertising models:

1. Marketing operations - All systems required for marketing to get its work done.
a. CRM (Salesforce)
b. Marketing Automation (Marketo)
c. Web analytics (Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools)
d. Paid Search (Google AdWords)
e. SEO(BrightEdge)
f. Webinars (GotoWebinar)
g. Document sharing (Googledocs, Dropbox)
h. Ticketing system (ActiveCollab)

2. Social platforms - All networks to reach prospects and influencers.
a. Networks (Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin)
b. Content (Youtube, Vimeo, Slideshare)

3. Web presence - All customer facing web content and commerce.
a. Corporate website (Wordpress on Amazon)
b. Blogs (WordPress on Amazon)
c. Divisional/Microsites (WordPress on Amazon)
d. Ecommerce (Braintree, Django on Amazon)

4. Globalization - All tools to ease the translation and management of multilingual content.
a. Website translation (Lionbridge Translation Proxy)
b. Video translation (Lionbridge Rapid Video Translation)
c. Multilingual Forums & Chat (GeoFluent)

This list alone yields 23 separate systems, and many companies have even more. What may be more unusual is what is listed under categories three and four. Given the centrality of the website to the success of other channels (e.g. landing pages for social/mobile/search campaigns) and the pace of experimentation and change to the sites, at many organizations, marketing is starting to take over and manage the development and hosting responsibilities for the customer-facing web presence. For many organizations, this is likely still under IT’s responsibility or outsourced to an web development agency or IT outsourcer, but we are starting to see a shift.

As a global company, we have also tackled the challenge of multilingual content across all of these channels to move as fast as possible on a global basis. To make this transition to marketing ownership for our global, customer-facing, web presence we established the following operating principles:

1. Global native - Always think about content development and delivery on a global context to minimize global time to market.
2. Open source first - There is great software and development talent in the open source web app/ web content management space and we will look to that community first for our needs.
3. 100% cloud-based - We will rely on cloud providers for hosting our web apps to minimize investment and management overhead.
4. Full accountability - We have taken over responsibility for our websites and must have full accountability for any issues that arise and cannot rely on IT.

Results to Date
We went live with blogs and microsites in 2012 as part of a website refresh in January 2013 under this model. The multilingual aspects of these sites are being well-managed by the translation proxy and video translation to rapidly deploy multilingual versions of new content. We are able to move very quickly with new functionality on these sites and only have ourselves to blame for any delays in desired enhancements. Our CIO and I maintain a continual dialog on areas of coordination.

Open Challenges
Moving forward, here are the top areas we are focused on to continually improve performance:

1. Marketing contribution to pipeline - Managing development and hosting doesn’t generate demand. We still need to do more to leverage digital channels.
2. Straight-through processing - Customers entering in through ecommerce for Marketing defined offerings create a round trip through operational systems that require integration.
3. Credential management - We are managing 23 separate systems and we are not alone. Maintaining control of credentials across this range of systems and a broad number of users is a challenge. A common identity management tool is being considered.

How is your marketing organization tacking these and other challenges?

If you would like to continue this conversation, please join me in our Global Marketing Operations Linkedin Group.

Marc Osofsky is SVP of Marketing at Lionbridge and Founder of the Global Marketing Operations Linkedin Group.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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