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How IT Can Break Down Barriers to Digital Agility

 Marketing has become increasingly dependent on technology and digital business transformation initiatives are prevalent in organizations, making the need for better marketing and IT alignment even more important to business success. In fact, a recent survey by Gartner states that the average marketing expense budget is now equivalent to 12% of company revenue and 27% of that is allocated to marketing tech. This 27% means that 3.2% of company revenue is now set aside for marketing technology. Compare this to 3.4% of revenue for the CIO’s tech budget.

And our own study supports this. If you have not yet read the survey-based report CMO insights on the Journey toward Digital Agility published by Accelent Consulting in partnership with Oracle Marketing Cloud and The CMO club, you should. Even though the report is CMO oriented, you will find CIO-relevant points regarding the relationship between the marketing and IT departments.


What is Digital Agility?

By way of definition what do we mean when we speak of Digital Agility?  It is the ability to quickly and easily adopt digital technologies to drive the business and maximize the customer experience. We believe that digital marketing agility requires the same fundamental approach as agile development that IT departments are embracing. As you know, agile software development is a set of principals empowering people to build requirements and solutions through the collaborative effort of self-organized cross-functional teams that promote continuous planning, testing and integration.

As an IT professional with over 25 years experience, having often worked with sales teams in product and systems support roles, I have also collaborated with marketing. So, I can offer particular insight as to what these findings mean to you as CIO’s and IT management. In this three-part series, I will share some of the perception of marketing execs about the role IT plays in helping them reach their digital objectives. And for our marketing friends reading this, I hope you gain some insight into the IT world too.  

This broad topic can’t be addressed in a single article, so we will cover it over a three part series.  Today, we will share a key finding from the survey -  what CMO's perceive as their greatest barriers to digital agility – IT Infrastructure.


My experience indicates that CMOs rarely have strong IT backgrounds or deep understanding of technology infrastructure issues. This is just a fact, not a criticism. This signals to me that they may perceive information systems and technology as a visible but unknown planet. They know the key requirements for them to execute a digital strategy but it may seem like a black box. They generally don’t understand how it all works or the layers of complexity involved. However, we do have to keep in mind that as long as it concerns digital marketing projects, our sponsors are most of the time the CMO’s so it is our job to be the best partner we can for marketing and the company to meet their business goals.

In the chart above, it is not a surprise that the barriers they perceive are a combination of the three words “Infrastructure, Support and Expertise”. They could be interpreting support across other functional areas of the organization or financial support, too, but IT support and being a priority on the IT project list were identified as a barrier. In terms of expertise, they also require additional marketing people with greater technical and analytical depth, but the chart is pretty telling where the gaps lie in achieving digital agility.

But even if we just take infrastructure as a key barrier, there are many pieces to the puzzle. In addition to the technological foundation of IT infrastructure (that also includes the marketing stack) there are other components related to systems and data. These include: the integration of business applications, (many legacy) data structure and organizations, accessing different types of information, security, networks, etc. They all contribute to build a flexible and agile information system which is required for marketing to get better information about their customers.

How IT Can Help Break the Barriers to Digital Agility

As IT professionals, it is our role to build and provide the most flexible and agile information systems to meet the business needs of our marketing colleagues. Therefore, it seems obvious that we not only need to understand marketing issues (it doesn’t mean we are or have to be marketing experts) but also must anticipate the needs and requests coming from that side. Marketing will come to you with a project request and ask questions including is this feasible, how long will it take, what is the cost? How can we answer this if we are not prepared?  

I suggest, if you don’t already have a checklist for all of your systems and information assets, then you should build one. Your team can access it and use to analyze marketing request more quickly and accurately. On that technical list may be:

  • Deep analysis of the data we are keeping
  • The level of integration between back-end and front end systems
  • The type of information we can extract and built from the legacy data
  • Up-to-date maps of all of the corporate applications
  • Defining the level of flexibility and openness for each system

On the organizational side, it means that IT departments have to dedicate a few experts whose roles will be to serve as the main interfaces between marketing and technical teams. This role should be mandatory and will go a long way to improving the perception that marketing is strongly supported. One trend that we have seen over the last few years, and was supported with data from the report, is that more CMO’s are adding marketing technologists to their own teams. These people are often responsible for the marketing automation tools and CRM systems and integrations. But more and more they are serving as the key interface with those dedicated to marketing on your team. This demonstrates to marketing that IT is a real internal partner in implementing the Digital Strategy.

Next time, I’ll review other significant results of the Digital Agility survey – who “owns” the digital strategy and the current role of the CIO and CTO. And we will look at how and when IT gets involved in digital marketing initiatives.

We must again remember that the survey results were from CMOs, so if we asked CIOs, we may get a slightly different result. Keep a lookout for our analysis on this in Part 2 of our series: How IT Can Break Down Barriers to Digital Agility. 

Please contact me if you have any questions or want to discuss this further, you can email me here.

About Accelent Consulting

Founded in 2001 by Barbara Angius Saxby, Accelent Consulting combines strategic Marketing & Sales leadership, with technology expertise and execution support to accelerate revenue growth and improve marketing effectiveness. We drive business results from the top of the funnel to the bottom line – while helping organizations become more digitally agile to better deliver customer value. Accelent serves a range of companies from startups to blue chips in several verticals with consultants based in the US and Europe. We work on a project, retainer, or interim management basis and serve as your outsourced team help you accelerate projects or programs and quickly scale your resources, up or down, as the business demands. For more information, visit our Website or email us.  

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Written by Pascal Cordebar

Pascal is a Principal Systems Consultant with Accelent based in Paris France. He is a veteran in building digital information systems with over 25 years of experience in IT and enterprise software. He helps companies align their back end systems and existing infrastructure with marketing and sales tools to streamline data flow as part of the digital transformation journey. Pascal has the right blend of business acumen, having run pre-sales and consulting teams, with his deep technical expertise.
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