Where 'Mad Men' Meets 'Math Men'
Marketing is marketing, technology is technology, data is data, and never the three shall meet — right? Not so, says Frank Cutitta, a research associate in CSC’s Leading Edge Forum, which provides clients a knowledge base and global network of innovative thought leaders on the current and future role of IT. To find out why, CSC World, spoke recently with Cutitta. An edited version of that conversation follows.
Watch Frank in the five-minute discussion - Town Hall Sound Bites: Weapons of Mass Discussion
How can IT and marketing learn to cooperate and coordinate?
Cutitta: We’re researching that right now with our Weapons of Mass Discussion™ project, which is an offshoot of the “socially awkward” research we completed last year. That research looked into the relationship — or lack thereof — between marketing and IT. We found there really were two cultures. In some organizations, it’s a pitched battle, while in others, more of a “friendly fire” situation.
Either way, there’s still the age-old stereotype that IT is the “land of slow and no,” and marketing is the realm of unguided missiles. The truth is somewhere in between, of course. But many people still believe that IT’s major function is simply to keep the lights on, while marketing is much more customer-facing.
We’ve also found a great deal of anxiety among CIOs and other IT professionals. They worry about marketing taking share and control of IT budgets. CIOs also see marketing absorbing traditional IT functions, mainly in a quest for greater agility. And, in an age of instantaneous metrics, there’s even a difference between how IT and marketing define agility. This has a bearing on investments, because a lot of marketing technology doesn’t look like traditional IT. Marketing doesn’t have to worry about email, databases, networks and the like. Yet many other things that walk like IT and quack like IT are now part of marketing’s budget.
You mean things such as social media?
Cutitta: Yes. IT often doesn’t have a personal relationship with social media. In fact, in both our socially awkward research and other surveys we’ve done, CIOs and other IT professionals tend to view social media as little more than using LinkedIn as a CV or resume service. They don’t see social media from the conversational marketing point of view.
Could this be resolved by creating C-level positions that combine marketing and IT?
Cutitta: In some cases there will be chief marketing information officers, chief information marketing officers, perhaps even chief marketing data officers. So we can see the development of a whole new alphabet soup.
Job titles aside, our research shows that organizations need new skill sets to reflect the rapid coevolution of IT, marketing and data. These skill sets will differ significantly from those of the past. It relates to what I call the biophysicist problem. In IT and marketing, we think that if someone has taken a marketing course and an IT course, [he or she] could become a marketing technologist. But that’s like saying that if I take a physics course and a biology course, I could become a biophysicist. It’s just not that simple. What’s needed instead are people who think in a way that combines both marketing and technology. It’s like learning a second language; when you start dreaming in French, you know you’ve got it. The same is true here.
Then, making it even more complicated, we need to add data. So now you’ll be seeing the convergence of IT, marketing and data. This will herald a new way of thinking. It may also give data scientists an advantage over IT professionals. Data scientists already possess many IT skills, and it’s relatively easy for them to acquire additional behavioral marketing and psychology skills.
What can CIOs do to improve the situation?
Cutitta: CIOs need to develop personal branding strategies on a global scale. This will help them enhance their careers, be viewed as legitimate partners by other parts of the organization, and form new alliances among IT, marketing and data.
Data is a separate issue. You might suppose that anything having to do with data automatically belongs in the IT department. But we’re finding new organizations that cannibalize both marketing and IT. We’re also finding that less-than-agile business intelligence organizations can fall victim to new big data and predictive behavior groups.
You mean by way of “shadow IT”?
Cutitta: Yes, and we’re seeing a lot of it. In the past, it was limited to marketing stealing IT people to create agile, technology-powered marketing programs. But now, new data organizations are emerging that are independent of IT and marketing. Within these organizations, data scientists are setting up shadow IT and shadow marketing. While they operate in a world that’s separate from marketing and IT, they’re also dependent on them.
In response, marketing is saying, “Wait a second! Data is now part of social media. I need that information for my metrics.” At the same time, IT is saying, “Hold on. We’ve always handled data. Why aren’t we handling this?”
So it behooves both marketing and IT to look closely at how data has evolved. In the past, data was like a rear-view mirror, showing us historical data. Now, it’s more like the front windshield, giving us a much more predictive view.
Could data scientists be the ones to bridge the IT/marketing gap?
Cutitta: Certainly, they add a third party to the relationship. But we’re still trying to determine how data science operates within the organization. Is it independent, or is it really an extension of IT and/or marketing?
We’re also at a moment when CEOs are fed up with all this infighting. As a workaround, some CEOs have established innovation centers that report to them and incorporate IT, marketing and data science. It may be that where IT/marketing alliances fail, data-minded CEOs can succeed. Certainly, our research shows that when a marketing-technology or data-science deployment is driven from the top, it has a much greater chance of success.
Has something important changed the nature of data?
Cutitta: We’ve always had database managers, and they tended to be part of IT. Every now and then, you’d see an instance where data was totally independent. But because much data was coming from customer relationship management (CRM) systems and finance feeds, IT was able to hold onto it. Mainly for historical and legacy reasons, this data was considered the domain of IT. But now, as data becomes more predictive — and as data intersects with both the science of “why they buy” and technology-driven loyalty programs — a new way of thinking has emerged.
One example is the way Target has identified women customers in their first trimester of pregnancy — in at least one case, even before the father knew the baby was coming! Target essentially triangulates the shopping patterns of women customers based on tiny, obscure buying “blips.” Maybe a woman buys a new vitamin, an organic food, or something else that seems unrelated to her pregnancy. But in this way, Target can pretty accurately determine when a woman customer is in her first trimester of pregnancy. Then the retailer uses that information for targeted messaging. Target’s research shows if it captures women at this earliest stage, they are more likely to consider Target a preferred supplier after their baby is born and, more importantly, as their family grows.
So data marketing involves far more than just social media?
Cutitta: Yes. It’s part of the “Internet of Things.” We have literally hundreds of new kinds of feeds, and these make data different from what it had been before.
Of course, this is also related to the phenomenon of big data. I like to say that the “big” is actually a verb: We’ve got to “big” the data. Though it doesn’t mean you must have petabytes of data.
For CIOs and others in IT, data is a big challenge. They must look at the unstructured, conversational data coming from blogs, customer feedback and the help desk. Thomson Reuters, for example, has nearly 19,000 indices it tracks, based on the intersection of news and social media feeds.
Typically, that’s outside the mentality of IT as we know it. Yet enterprise IT is increasingly under pressure to turn unstructured data into a corporate and competitive asset. When we talk about “weapons of mass discussion,” that information — the ability to optimize conversational content — is, in effect, the enriched uranium.
You seem to be making a distinction between content and data. Why?
Cutitta: You can’t optimize data unless you optimize the content that generates it. This data can be traditional (print/broadcast), online, social or conversational. Then IT has to look at what I call the “alchemy of content” as inseparable from data. That means inculcating a culture of content as data, then developing an intimate relationship with the content developers in the enterprise. For example, what are the characteristics of the content that let me make a supposition about what a recent engagement meant?
This is essentially a lab test on content. We want to quantify data’s characteristics, much as a physician might analyze your blood sugar or cholesterol level. Needless to say, this is quite a stretch for IT. But in the new “content as data” culture, it is an essential skill.
Anything else IT executives can do to retain their marketing relevance?
Cutitta: CIOs should get more involved in the social enterprise, as opposed to customer-facing social media. Mainly because the social enterprise is, like CRM, still seen as an IT concern. Also, because marketing tends to have a much more indirect relationship with the internal social enterprise, this presents an opportunity for IT.
Besides, the social enterprise is a great place for CIOs to get their feet wet. By using platforms such as Jive, Chatter and Yammer, CIOs can learn about the psychology of communication and unstructured data. The social enterprise can also improve the way IT is perceived within the organization. It’s a subliminal way to market IT internally. And many CIOs are bringing in shadow marketing talent to do just that.
Once you’ve established credibility within the organization, you can extend your credibility to external, customer-facing projects. Because now you know the dynamics and metrics related to social enterprise interactions. You also have the street cred when it comes time to extend to external, social CRM deployments.
Can you give an example of how that might work?
Cutitta: One of the fastest-growing areas in the social enterprise is reducing the number of help desk tickets. IT can do this by implementing a pre-emptive social self-help service. In effect, employees help each other. Other social enterprise initiatives have found IT and HR working together to create collaboration platforms. These let people across the organization share ideas and knowledge, as well as offer suggestions to corporate management. So the social enterprise can touch IT in a positive way from both a perception point of view and in terms of cost reductions and resource efficiencies.
Other marketing tips for CIOs from your research?
Cutitta: Perhaps the most important area involves adopting what we call an “outside-in” approach to deployment strategy. Our research shows that many deployments fail as a result of an updated version of the old last-mile telecom problem. The technology gets to the curb, but not into the house. Often, it’s because either IT or marketing neglected to research the limitations of the current corporate infrastructure, skills sets or ingrained habits.
Consider healthcare: While physicians use a great deal of technology to treat patients, when it comes to putting those patients’ healthcare records online, doctors mainly scribble illegibly on a paper notepad. Then they hand it off — often, to someone who can’t read their handwriting — to be uploaded into a medical records system. As a result, the accuracy rate for transcribed dosages can be frighteningly low. That’s what I mean by the problem of the last mile.
To what degree are these issues generational? Some workers are digital natives, but many of us are recent digital immigrants.
Cutitta: It’s definitely an issue. CIOs should survey their users to determine their mix of digital natives and immigrants. Otherwise, they could end up supposing that all of their users are comfortable with social media or tablet usage, when that’s not true. In fact, some CIOs may need an entirely new game plan, one that involves either re-educating workers or making sure they get their data in a form that’s digestible.
In this way, a CIO could avoid a budgetary surprise when, say, transforming to a data-driven sales force or agent network — and that surprise could be more expensive than the technology infrastructure modernization. Further, our research shows that in this outside-in model, an analysis of the digital immigrants in the field should precede any work on the design and deployment of “Weapons of Mass Discussion.”
Patricia Brown is director of digital content strategy at CSC.