The dysfunctional relationship between IT and marketing

Read Time: 5 mins

Everyone knows of the sibling rivalry that exists between sales and marketing. It’s a tale as old as time with the feud well documented and addressed.

But what about the relationship between IT and marketing?

The black sheep of the family, IT tends to sit on the periphery, the butt of many jokes and blamed for making life difficult. No-one relishes having to visit the IT department. But as the second biggest spender on IT in an organisation, marketing should have more reason than most to venture to the ‘laboratory’.

You’d think the two departments would get along, afterall, marketing is prioritising capabilities including customer analytics, martech and customer experience– all things that IT is ideally placed to assist with.

But they don’t.

Marketing is renowned for going rogue, implementing whatever technologies it wants without even glancing in IT’s direction. Marketing loves trialling new platforms and systems, and the free downloads, add ons and apps make it really easy for marketing to crack on without asking for help.

This makes IT grumpy. A big part of their role is to protect the organisation’s IT infrastructure and the data held and processed within those systems. For marketing to add something new behind IT’s back is a breach of trust, exposes the organisation to risk and is a sign of rebellion against the company’s policies. So IT retaliates by becoming overbearing and difficult to work with.

Shouldn’t opposites attract?

Marketing and IT should complement each other perfectly. One is a generalist (marketing) with a set of requirements they need help with. The other a specialist (IT) with all the skills, knowledge and experience needed to help. But for some reason the two functions sit at polar opposites – why?

It could be because they speak different languages. Marketing might use throw away words like ‘variables’ like it’s smoke in the wind, but to IT, ‘variables’ actually means something concrete. For marketing to misuse the word damages its credibility within the relationship.

It could be because there’s no commonality. Marketing is concerned with high level conversations, talking to the market, customers, journalists and analysts to tell the company’s story in order to raise brand awareness and build a pipeline. IT is more concerned with implementation, creating the systems and process that essentially keep the lights on. To IT, details matter because they’re responsible and accountable for high profile ticket items, like customer data, operational systems and maintaining a good Internet connection.

Or it could be because both people bring massive egos to the table. Marketing feels more important because they’re the ones lining up the prospects for the business to grow, they’re organising the big events that get the business noticed, and they’re securing a double-page spread in the industry’s top publication. But IT doesn’t care – it’s all colouring in to them. IT feels that it’s the important one because it has a range of amazing tech at its fingertips that no-one else understands – even the CTO might not understand the intricacies of a specific technology to the degree an engineer would. To demonstrate this knowledge, they enjoy asking the technical questions that make marketing feel inferior.

The point where things get really serious…


Knocking on every door like the auntie you wish you could ignore is organisational, personal, confidential and sensitive data. And she’s bought a big stick with her that she’s willing and able to use at every opportunity if you even think about ignoring her.

Legal and compliance teams oversee everything…

They don’t care about marketing or IT.

If there’s the faintest hint of risk they’re not interested.

Even if you tried to reason with them, they speak an entirely different language that you’ll never understand.

And their decision is final.

So how do we restore harmony to your happy family?

Create a marketing council for technology

Marketing organisations need to develop their own governance. Like traditional IT governance, it needs to reassure the organisation that any new martech is properly evaluated, secure and fully integrated into the current IT infrastructure. But it needs to be more flexible and inclusive, making sure that IT, marketing and compliance work together for the good of the organisation.

“As corporate entities we often have to be saved from our own thinking and ensure we take the right path forward for the long term as well as the immediate term. The WoolfHodson team’s leadership and depth of knowledge, of both our organization and the subject matter, gave confidence across our organization.”

Ron Myers, Corporate Vice President, AMD

One area that we really excel in is mediating the conversation between IT, marketing and compliance. Our business is equal parts IT and marketing, and the process we follow with our clients mirrors the way we operate internally. Both sides have their say and debate different views to understand the importance and relevance of everything shared. Adding value to the discussions, everyone works together to reach a happy medium for the good of the business.


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