The IT-Marketing Divide

I’d heard and read plenty of stories about the IT-Marketing divide, about how IT people don’t really see eye-to-eye with the “business” people. But I never really believed it because I’d never experienced it.

As a business/marketing analyst I interact with both sides quite a bit of the time. So if it was so common, shouldn’t I have experienced it by now? Well I guess I had been lucky.

Because my luck ran out, and it happened to me.

I was speaking to an IT person discussing the pros and cons of several types of reporting software and approaches. The technical knowledge he displayed was extraordinary, and his enthusiasm was as contagious as the flu – before long my nose was running and I wouldn’t wait to delve into the software he was talking about.

Then we wandered into the area of report distribution — the way reports are put into the hands of the “business users”. And that’s where our ideas diverged. (By the way, some background here on myself: I’m a Marketing Analyst, interacting more with Marketing than IT, but quite a fair bit either way.)

Marketing perspective: Create special intranet site for business users. Encourage business users to visit this site regularly, if possible have it as their homepage so they see it the moment they open a browser window. Have a “reports” section on this site where they can browse through links to reports under their business unit and/or to relevant “business” headings, like “Sales” or “Inventory”. By clicking on a link to a report, they are brought to the report on the Corporate Intranet site.

IT perspective: All reports in the company are placed into a [virtual] folder on the Corporate Intranet site. Business users should be going to this site to get all the reports they need.

The IT person disliked how business users had to “jump through hoops” (in Singaporean lingo “go one big round”) in order to get their reports. For him, requiring business users to first go through the Marketing Intranet, instead of just giving them the link to where all the reports were stored, was inefficient and a waste of time–for both business users and the poor people maintaining the Marketing Intranet.

What he couldn’t (or refused to) understand was that inefficiencies brought about by having an additional layer of navigation–via the Marketing Intranet– was more than offset by the reduction in search costs. The Marketing Intranet made looking for a specific report faster and easier. And it also allowed similar and related reports to be placed together, giving visibility to reports the user might not have known existed.

What is more, reporting was not the main purpose of the Marketing Intranet. It was only an extension to it. It acted as a portal for users to view announcements, SOPs, Excel templates, and more. Being able to have reports distributed through the Marketing Intranet helped to make it more “sticky”, so if we were to have moved the distribution of reports to the generic “reports” folder on the Corporate Intranet it would be sacrificing a great opportunity.

But the IT person never saw it this way. Not because he wasn’t smart enough, but because in his world these things are simply not part of the consideration. There’s a saying in my company that goes something like this, “if it doesn’t get measured, it doesn’t get done.” Paraphrasing this saying, you can say that because it wasn’t part of his mental model, it didn’t exist.

IT people tend to be really good at looking at how to make a process run faster and more efficiently. But they have a habit of forgetting about the people. They think that if you can make a process take 3 seconds to run instead of 15 seconds that’s all that matters, even if you have to sacrifice usability and make the process less intuitive. But clearly that’s not the right thing to do. After all, technology’s only useful if there are people using it.

I’m not saying that the Marketing or “business” people are always going to be right. God knows they aren’t. But IT needs to understand that there is more to technology than simply being the most cost-effective, or most-efficient, or any other numbers-driven statistic.

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