For years, marketing departments have sidestepped corporate IT and deployed cloud-based solutions in an effort to keep up with a rapidly changing and intensely competitive landscape. Now this go-it-alone approach is coming back to bite them.

Over the past 15 years, the cloud made it easy for marketing to break off on its own and acquire the technologies like marketing automation and analytics, customer identity and other consumer-facing apps. Taking advantage of the cloud’s out-of-the-box functionality and quick time-to-value, it wasn’t long before a shadow IT operation was in place. Many companies went so far as to put in place a structure under which marketing owns, funds, develops and operates its own application stack, while IT remained in charge of the other enterprise systems.

Now, marketing departments are grudgingly realizing they can’t participate in their organizations’ broader digital transformation without IT’s help. Just about every industry is looking for a unified view of the customer that includes all relevant information including data derived from social media, CRM, billing, loyalty and marketing automation apps. Unfortunately, the shadow IT approach has created a proliferation of information silos, making data integration a complex and challenging task.

Exacerbating the situation, the software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions favored by marketing are out of step with IT’s internal security and data governance protocols. Although most SaaS providers are meticulous about securing their own services, it is still difficult to incorporate them into the business’ overall security and privacy practices. Existing islands of martech applications are a source of potential security breaches, a stumbling block for data audits and put regulatory compliance at risk.

A collaborative approach
So how should a CIO or a CISO collaborate with marketing? A successful approach begins with the proper mindset. IT needs to check its ego at the door and acknowledge that in many instances it will be carrying out the CMO’s plans.

That doesn’t mean that the CIO and other key IT execs aren’t instrumental to the process.

Over the past decade, as marketing’s use of technology has exploded, bypassing IT protocols was often the fastest way to get up and running. But the worm has turned, and today marketing organizations have become beholden to IT to maintain their agility and their security on a global scale. But IT leaders can only sustain this nimbleness if they have a thorough understanding of marketing’s needs. Accordingly, they need to adjust their thinking and position themselves as a sort of “MarDevOps.”

Breaking down data silos and supporting a compelling customer experience are at the top of the list. Creating a single view of the customer and personalizing communications involves more than building out APIs to connect internal and external data sets. Customer identity management needs to be centralized, so that updates to one part of a profile are instantly and automatically reflected in all the databases in which that customer’s data is held. This is a major marketing requirement, but the execution is up to IT.

Everyone knows data is tremendously valuable – especially as data science makes it easier to zero in on actionable “nuggets” of business insight.

Marketing also needs IT’s help to navigate new data privacy standards such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Marketing wants to do more with personally identifiable information, but is wary of running afoul of the stricter privacy standards being implemented around the globe.

It is up to IT to determine the right balance between personalization and privacy without compromising marketing’s effectiveness or breaking the law. Good models for this are the IT departments in highly regulated industries, such as financial services and healthcare, that have already succeeded at putting terabytes of customer data in the hands of their marketers, while remaining complaint with myriad regulations.

In sum, marketing can no longer go it alone with its digital agenda. The CMO may have a grand vision for digital transformation, but he needs the CIO’s help to make it a reality.

Darryl Nicholson

Darryl Nicholson is CTO and vice president of engineering for Janrain, a provider of customer identity and access management solutions.