If there’s any certainty in my job, it's that moment when you chat with an IT department about how they work with their marketing team.
The rolling eyes. The furrowed brows. The gnashing of teeth. “They just don’t understand”, they cry. “They just don’t understand!”
Yeah, those cool kids in marketing. With their groovy glasses and obsessional use of hashtags. Firing out things to do without knowing how things actually get done. Marketing! Keeping it fluffy since 19-whenever.
Take a deep breath, because I’m going to talk about relationships. That’s what you’re in, a symbiotic relationship. You need each other, but, sometimes, it gets dysfunctional. At Good, I’ve been in the position where I’ve had to sit between the IT’s and the Marketeers and look to see where we can mend fences and build bridges. Why? Because the best work comes from mutual appreciation and respect.
As a massive generalisation, I’m going to share five tips that IT can take on board to try and make things a little more constructive between the two groups.
1. Explain why there are no little things
“Can we just change this little thing on the site?”
Don't fire an email back saying, “No”. Look at this as an opportunity to provide some light-hearted education to your non-IT colleagues. Ask them to pop down (it’s always down), and you can explain why it isn’t just as easy a change at it might first appear. The reason for the “no" may be down to the fact that it’s part of an overarching style guide, and changes would have a knock-on effect. The bottom line is that there is always a reason for saying no, it's never, "just because". Yes, it may seem simplistic, but it does lead to the second point...
2. "The road to hell..."
I run this by my team and clients a lot. When the website was initially created, it probably had a pretty defined scope of work. Then, when the site launched, someone else had a great idea to you know, add a carousel on the homepage, or something. The challenge here is that it isn’t as easy as chucking up a carousel. There may have been something in the initial brief which means that the architecture of the site makes it difficult to add a carousel. That’s not anyone’s fault, it just wasn't thought of just at the time of the original site. By anyone.
That said, just because it might not be easy to do doesn’t mean that it can’t be done.
3. Be proactive
Ask clients what they would like to see from their agency, and “being proactive” is one of the top three requests. We recommend that internal IT teams do the same for their marketing team. Being proactive (and ideally creating something around business goals or something else on their list of ‘things to do’) shows that IT listen, understand and are seen to be a helpful part of the team. IT teams are often considered as being a blocker…and while I think this classification is usually unfair and undeserved, the occasional ‘gift’ can help. It can go a long way to getting everyone working as a team. That said, little helpful things mean nothing if you don’t…
4. Get on the same page
Marketing departments have had a tough time over the last decade, with smaller budgets but massive targets. On top of that, they are relying on digital more than ever. They will have some tough targets to hit. They will be relying on the IT department to help deliver on those targets. You, as IT, ultimately deliver the service to your customers, but if you don’t know what the endgame is, you can’t be expected to add value. So, if you don’t understand what you're doing to help with the big picture, ask. It will only make the work better. For everyone.
5. Don’t accept crap briefs
I’ve been in meetings where Marketing has complained about how IT “just don’t get it” when they’re looking for updates to the site. When I ask to see the brief that marketing has supplied, I’m not surprised. That’s assuming, of course, there’s a brief at all.
You need it nailed down, and you should ask for that.
The way to do that, of course, is to write the brief together. You may be working with a team that knows what they want but aren’t sure how to articulate it. Help them. With a smile. Again, look at this as an opportunity to share and to learn about each other and the challenges that you both have. The more that both sides share, the stronger the work that you’ll produce.
I know I said five things, but I’ve got one more thing…
6. Know your value
When it comes to delivering service, IT is second to none. But know your strengths. You know how it gets your goat when someone says, “I just want this one small thing added”? Well, bear that in mind when you start asking questions about the design. Sure, if you’ve been tasked with a quick site and the design is holding full bleed, high-resolution images at 20mb a pop, fair enough - that has an impact on what you’ve been asked to do. But your voice is best heard in when you’re talking about your area of expertise. In your domain, your value is so much more, so don’t dilute it by trying to be the expert in all things digital. Nail what you know. Let marketing deal with the design, and you deal with the delivery.
OK, so I’m not saying that this is the case for every IT and Marketing team, but it is surprising just how often it feels like you’ve got two departments working on a problem, rather than one unified team. Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any specific questions or are looking for a bit of advice. Happy to help.