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20 September 2013

If geeks are to inherit the earth, maybe us marketers should know how to deal with them

Have you also noticed how ICT guys are increasingly dictating your agenda?  How everything seemed well on track (e.g. great idea for new product, enthusiast feedback from potential customers, strong business case and green light from the board), until someone raised the fateful question: “are the ICT mandays budgeted?”

Regardless of the size or industry of your company, there will always be a solution, a platform, a tool or an app that needs to be developed.  You can try to plead that the development can be outsourced, but most of the time will not get away with it.  Integration, security, stability…  There are countless good reasons for your already overworked ICT colleagues to get involved with your baby (and for you to wait in line before seeing your new product on the shelves).

Before you know it, you find yourself writing BUR (business requirements), conducting UAT (user acceptance tests), filing change requests, and spending endless hours in meetings with business analysts. 

There are only two ways out for us marketers: dream of a world where Marketing department would invoice mandays to ICT department or – more realistically – be prepared to walk around the IT world more.  No need to become a developer yourself, but trying to understand the fundamentals of ‘what’s going on under the hood’ might help to:

  • Foster your creativity: understanding what is possible will boost the content of your briefing to IT (and make sure the result is in line with your wildest dreams).  For example, briefing A “I want a mobile version of my website” will deliver quite a different result from briefing B “I want a mobile version of my website that allows for geolocation of my customer and tracking of his preferences to display most relevant content to him”.
  • Boost your productivity when dealing with IT colleagues: explaining what you need in their words and proactively looking for solutions with them.  That will for example allow you to distinguish between the real “I’m sorry but this is not possible” from the politically-correct “I’m sorry but this is not possible” (because I have no idea how to do it, I would like to leave early, I can’t be bothered – tick all that apply).  In the first case, you’ll know that a compromise is really needed and that keeping on arguing will only be a waste of time.  In the second, you’ll know that you shouldn’t let go so easily: it is just a matter of talking to the right person or pulling the right motivational lever.
  • Lower your frustration level: having realistic expectations on leadtime, budget and quality of output.  No need to prove again that a good climate of collaboration and mutual-understanding can only have positive effects (especially on your mental health), right?

Most of us marketers were not programmed as geeks, but the odds are high that we will all have to explore this new world.  The fact that Marketing Week recently selected ‘technology’ as one of the 12 core elements of his Modern Marketing Manifesto is only one more sign of it.  And probably a good precaution if – as suggested by rockband “I Fight Dragon” – the geeks are to inherit the earth.