Why IT and marketing must unite to drive business growth

By David Loughenbury, November 2015

In the digital world we live in, it’s unsurprising to hear that, according to managed services provider Avanade, 37 per cent of technology spending is now controlled by departments other than IT, with a majority share going towards marketing. It is clear that the relationship between IT and marketing has changed in recent years, and as a result the role of IT and marketing leaders is changing rapidly.

At Police Mutual, we’ve been helping officers, staff and their families with their finances for over 140 years. In February 2014, the Police Mutual Group acquired the R3 Group, which includes Forces Financial, an established provider with around 180,000 UK Police and military customers.

With the rise of digital and online services, outdated technology threatened to trap us in the past. Our systems and processes were built up by piecemeal over time, and were ultimately creating corporate drag in multiple areas of the business. Combined, this critically threatened our customer service, performance, competitiveness and culture – we knew we wanted to overhaul our IT.

Moving forward meant realigning the group’s technology investment with its strategic objectives and its people.

When I joined Police Mutual in 2011, the IT and marketing departments were heavily siloed, with a low awareness of the other team. This wouldn’t work in today’s mobile-first world, and we needed to change our approach to IT and marketing if we were going to remain competitive. Working with Avanade, the company began its journey to the digital workplace, implementing technologies that addressed many of the challenges listed above, and slowly the two teams were recognising an aligning of their skillsets.

We realised that both marketing and IT skillsets were needed for Police Mutual to maintain optimum customer satisfaction. We decided to unify the CIO and CMO to create the CIMO [chief information marketing officer – a term coined by Avanade] perspective.

This was by no means a quick fix, but at the Police Mutual Group we found that with the CIO, and CMO, working more closely together it means new ideas and innovations emerge and come together faster. By merging the two roles, we were then open to strategic conversations about growing our customer base and improving customer experience, with technology acting as the enabler. When the CIO and CMO work more closely together, both technology and sales are on the same page, with the shared goal of growth.

In practice this means, for example, that marketers are brought in at the early stages of technical and platform project groups to jointly address fresh challenges. With the technology side of the business being similarly consulted on how, together, they can achieve the organisation’s “mar-comms” goals.

This doesn’t mean a systems analyst and content strategist needs the same set of skills; it does mean that only through greater understanding and shared objectives can today’s businesses find the right path forward.

The CIO role itself has changed too. CEOs now want a more aggressive approach to innovation, co-ordination, input to strategy, and so on. Much like what’s expected of today’s marketing directors. Nor is a contemporary marketing programme complete without the understanding and utilisation of data.

The CIMO perspective was an evolutionary process rather than a fast-and-hard approach, as we needed to manage the rapidly shifting priorities and responsibilities of the CIMO, and readdress both short and long-term priorities to achieve true collaboration between IT and marketing. But the result was worth it – identifying ways to better serve our customers and enable an enhanced digital experience.

You can’t make decisions without insight, and the best insights of all come from IT and marketing operating in harmony.

David Loughenbury is CIO of financial services and advice group Police Mutual.

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