Thank you to the Society of Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) for permitting Knowledge Architecture to share “When Marketing & IT Collaborate” with you. It originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of Marketer.
It wasn’t so long ago that the Marketing and IT departments at A/E/C firms interacted only when the printer broke down during the production of a proposal. But with the evolution of big data, on-demand marketing, client relationship management (CRM) systems, application programming interfaces (APIs), mobility, and social media, Marketing and IT have become intertwined—whether they like it or not. As a result, it is increasingly critical that they partner with each other to achieve common goals.
“Technology is redefining the role of marketing, to some degree,” says Christopher Parsons, founder and CEO of Knowledge Architecture, a knowledge management and information systems consultancy based in San Francisco that focuses on the A/E/C industry. “IT provides the platform, but Marketing has to take a lead role in understanding the technology, the data, and the choices that need to be made from the data.”
Working together yields process improvements
At Mithun, a 100-person sustainable design and urbanism firm with offices in Seattle and San Francisco, Marketing and IT have realized that collaboration is vital. According to marketing manager and associate Courtney Rosenstein, “We work together with IT throughout the whole cycle that begins with business development and goes through to post-project data collection. IT makes sure that all of the tools we need work for us, and they help us to continually look at ways to improve processes.”
Realizing that marketing is about more than just making proposals look good and that IT is about more than just making sure the printer works, Mithun’s approach to integrating marketing and technology is strategically directed and reinforced from the top down.
“Our culture of collaboration is part of the mission of our firm,” says Mithun director of technology and associate principal Marcy Good. “One of our design principles is that everything is connected, and that is true with Marketing and IT, too. We touch every aspect of the business, so we have a vested interest in creating smooth processes.”
Focusing on clients is everybody’s business
As important as it is for Marketing and IT to collaborate and fulfill each other’s expectations, both departments also need to be seen as partners with the rest of the firm in driving client-facing initiatives. Neither department should be relegated to a role of simply providing internal support in a time when everyone’s efforts should be directed strategically toward client service, thought leadership, and firmwide innovation. This can happen only if the corporate culture allows.
Array Architects, a 110-person design firm that focuses on the healthcare market with six offices across the country, is relatively unique in that president and CEO Carl Davis does not have a design background but rather a business background with a bent toward leveraging technology. According to Davis, “We compete with the largest firms in the country, and while we are never going to be able to compete on size, we have been able to use technology to level the playing field somewhat. We continue to evolve, and change is easy for us, because we are continuing to look for new ways that technology can accelerate our position in the marketplace. We’ve been successful in our technology initiatives because the staff has seen what it has done for their lives, their careers, and for the firm.”
One area where Array has been particularly successful is in building a knowledge-based practice in a digital age. But Davis doesn’t look at knowledge creation and management as being Marketing or IT driven. He expects it out of everybody, including himself.
“Since we have put the responsibility of knowledge creation and management on everybody’s desk, we’ve had much more success than ever before,” Davis said. “We have a culture where everybody believes it’s their responsibility to project a knowledge-based firm to our clients.”
Dedicating resources can bridge departmental gaps
Some companies are beginning to realize the benefits of organizing the marketing and technology aspects of today’s business into dedicated positions, particularly as spending on marketing technology is becoming one of the biggest pieces of overall budgets. Technology research guru Gartner predicts that, by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs.
Last year, firm leaders at HGA realized they needed somebody who could provide them with marketing data, reporting, and processes to help demonstrate their competitive advantages and track performance. As a result, this architecture, engineering, and planning firm, with seven offices and 600 employees nation-wide, hired Lianne Becker as marketing information manager to lead the effort.
“When I was interviewing for the position, I was nervous that it might be seen more as being nice-to-have than need-to-have,” Becker said. “But firm leadership convinced me it would be so valuable that it would be seen as a necessary role. It didn’t take long for that to happen.”
Becker, who previously worked as a marketing coordinator, now works with people from all areas of the firm—especially IT—to leverage their use of Deltek Vision, and she recently played a lead role in implementing the firm’s new intranet platform, Synthesis by Knowledge Architecture.
According to Becker, “Part of the reason the transition into this role has been so easy for me is that I have built strong relationships with Finance, IT, Marketing, and the firm’s principals. Through these relationships, along with an understanding of our business processes, I’ve been able to make a lot of improvements.”
Leveraging technology advances careers and brands
Even if their firms aren’t ready to invest in a dedicated position that can bridge the Marketing/IT gap, it is important for marketers to realize technology is not something from which they can hide. “Marketers stand to benefit the most from having things like a good CRM system, image management software, and an intranet that can serve as an incubator for content generation,” Parsons says. “So, I see more marketing and communications people leading these efforts, or at least having a significant seat at the table. They have the most interest in getting it right.””
And whether the Marketing and IT departments interact well together, one thing is for sure: Marketing and technology are part of everybody’s jobs, at all levels of the firm. The firms that are successful at this will not only have a collaborative work environment but a brand that is differentiated by their ability to leverage technology.
About the Author
Jennifer Andrews, LEED Green Associate, CPSM, is a vice president at Woodard & Curran (www.woodardcurran.com), a 700-person integrated engineering, science, and operations firm. She also serves on the SMPSTechnology Committee and is a past president of SMPS Northern New England (formerly SMPS Maine). Jennifer can be
reached at email@example.com.This is her first contribution to Marketer.