You’re a marketer and you’re proud of and excited about your new digital marketing initiative. Your goals are clear, your communications plan is well thought out, and all you need now is the technology to put your plan into action, so you need to talk to your IT.
Now queue the record scratch sound effect.
In my 10-plus years as a strategist helping marketers define the optimal technology approaches to digital communication projects, I’ve often seen marketers prepare (or should I say, arm?) themselves for meetings with IT with a mixture of dread, fear, and annoyance: IT will be a hurdle; they will force me into our clunky and unwieldy enterprise CRM or CMS or collaboration tool; they'll tell me to get in line behind 400 other projects in their queue and that I need to find a billion dollars to fund what I need.
Typically, the larger the organization, the greater the chasm between IT and marketing—and the larger the group of tense and stern-faced stakeholders that need to be invited to the meeting. Everybody comes ready to protect their interests and not give in.
But, just as your directive and your goals as a marketer are based on your passion and your desire to do your job well, so are your IT department’s concerns—Your IT department has feelings too!
Instead of preparing for battle, apply some of the basic principles of communication that you, as a marketer, understand very well.
Know your (IT) audience
Understand that most IT professionals feel overworked, overwhelmed, and undervalued. According to the “Voice of IT Report 2016” sponsored by Kensington Computer Products, a significant percentage of IT professionals feel their roles are too heavily focused on administrative tasks, fixing employee errors, and just keeping things running. When presenting IT with a new marketing initiative, be assertive about your goals, but also acknowledge the challenges they may pose for IT and declare your intention to work together (and mean it!)
The Kensington report found that security was the top priority for 54 percent of survey respondents. Demonstrating that you take seriously the security and compliance implications of your digital initiative will go a long way toward putting IT at ease and getting them on your side.
Even if you plan to develop your digital initiative using an outside resource, extend the courtesy to IT of requesting at least their tacit approval and articulate what you might need from them in terms of security, help desk support, and integration with existing systems.
Educate yourself as much as you can about your organization’s IT infrastructure (the technology, the software, and the people). You don't need to become a technology expert, but demonstrating interest in and understanding of IT will help you level the playing field. If you’ve partnered with an external agency, ensure that the agency staff have a strong technology background and that they are comfortable interacting and partnering with corporate IT staff so they can lend technical authority to you and to your initiative.
Inspire IT to be creative and challenge yourself to be practical
It may surprise you to know that IT also would like to (and is expected to) be innovative and do cool stuff. Gartner's 2016 CIO Agenda Survey found that CIOs feel strong pressure to focus on innovation, which is difficult when there is more IT to maintain and keep running than ever.
Try, if you can, to present your initiative to IT in a way that provides them that opportunity to participate in innovation. But also be prepared to listen and incorporate IT feedback that could give your project more solid technical footing.
Cultivate the relationship
After many tough meetings but also many successful implementations, I have established long-lasting and very amicable contacts in client IT departments. IT deals mostly with machines and software, but don't forget the individuals are people too and they are often as passionate and creative as you. Be courteous, truthful, personable, do your best to make them part of the creative process, and don't forget to give them credit in your success too. That warm feeling can be the catalyst to make marketing and IT truly a team.