Sound familiar?

To greater or lesser degree this misalignment has been something that’s been on my peripheral radar for some time. As an IT professional and architect this misalignment between your IT and Marketing departments within organisations is an handicap for your organisation, a problem  that both IT and Marketing professionals need to look at in some detail and try to bridge the chasm that has been the bi-product of traditional departmental silo based thinking that has been typically adopted by organisations.

Neither Digital (or IT for us traditional types) nor Marketing are new disciplines but the methods and channels in which marketing now utilises has changed. This has caused a conflict betweens the ends (Marketing) and means (IT) of digital transformation. Marketing want their requirements being fulfilled at speeds that traditional IT departments can’t keep up with, and rightly so, keeping with the pace of the enterprise (in this context, the wider enterprise beyond the realms of your organisation, its suppliers and customers, refer to the enterprise canvas for the best analogy). Marketing wish need to work at lightning speeds, and deem the overly bureaucratic nature of IT departments as an hindrance and crucially reduce the time to market.

It’s not all one way either, some IT departments have failed to keep pace with the disciplines, techniques and technologies that modern digital marketing includes. For example, understanding the purpose and benefits of Customer Experience, Analytics is something that still requires some work. Inside-out over outside-in thinking is another area in which IT departments need to change their mindset and move towards a customer/business first approach.

In my career, I’ve worked for a digital marketing agency which have worked with a range of clients and also I’ve worked within organisational IT departments. More often than not, these departments are not in alignment. It’s the relationship between these worlds that that needs some real attention for “digital transformations” to be successful.

I’ve recently read a very good book on the subject of digital transformation, known as Leading Digital.


This book provides a well researched and comprehensive playbook in succeeding in the area of digital transformation (which I’ll include some examples in the course of this post but not not too much as I feel you need to read the book in full to gain the full benefits of it). One of the concepts within the book is the notion that there are four levels of digital mastery, and the “Digital Masters” (the organisations which succeed at digital and redefine their businesses utilising digital) are a combination of Digital and Leadership capabilities.

Leadership capabilities being the “how” of the transformation, for example the digital vision, engaging the organisation as a whole, and governance models. Digital capabilities being the “what” of the transformation, for example Customer Experience and reinventing business models etc.

The classification used within this matrix works well to conceptualise the IT-Marketing divide. Beginners are just starting on their digital journey, with only basic digital capabilities. Conservatives ensure digital investment is carefully considered and strongly coordinated, are unconcerned about technology fashion and can be seen to prevent organisations from building strong digital capabilities, focusing more on controls and rules than making progress. Fashionistas within this classification are said to have all digital capabilities but lack strong digital leadership and governance.

Now, from my experience, your Marketing department are typically your fashionistas within your organisation, they’re embracing digital and its capabilities as the direction the marketing discipline is moving towards. Your IT department are your conservatives, they’re less concerned with these capabilities questioning its longevity. What these departments don’t realise is that these departments are to some degree converging and will need to collaborate in ways that have never been seen before. From experience, there is still some work to be done to bridge the gap between your IT and Marketing/Digital departments.

Leading Digital provides some very good techniques, structures and processes to bridge the divide:

  • Shared Digital Units/Digital CoE (Centre of Excellence) – Organisational Units that provide resources from both IT and Marketing/Digital and work together through transformations
  • Improving Digital IQ – Engage the organisation as a whole, promoting and educating the purposes of digital to the entire organisation
  • Digital Governance – Utilising the correct governance structures to standardise systems, process and information, automate to eliminate none value-added interactions and accelerate decision making via real-time information
  • CDO (Chief Digital Officer) – Someone on the executive board with the mandate and authority to transform the business.

These are what I believe is required to bridge the traditional IT-Marketing chasm, fighting against organisation fragmentation and silo-based thinking. To reiterate my previous sentiment, I would recommend reading this book if you’re involved within a digital transformation or work within an organisation with the traditional IT-Marketing divide. What needs to happen now to bridge the divide between these departments is that organisations need to think beyond the traditional silo-based approach and look to bring these departments into alignment.

In summary, the poor relationship between digital and IT is a real handicap for organisations. As the boundaries of marketing and IT/digital blur more and more, these departments will need to become more collaborative. IT will need to innovate quicker and increase velocity. Marketing will need to have more patience, be open to working in more collaborative ways with IT.