April 2nd, 2013 by Forrester Research

The following post was written by Anjali Yakkundi, an analyst at Forrester Research serving application development and delivery professionals.

We’ve heard a lot in the past year about the future role of marketing technologists as solvers of the “IT-marketing clash of the titans” (as one Forrester client put it to me recently). These technologists are more than just your basic Webmasters. Instead, they are professionals with deep knowledge of how technology can deliver on marketing strategies in order to bring about better digital customer experiences. At Forrester, we’ve started to see an emerging trend of shared services groups whose goal is to bridge the marketing technology divide. Our latest research found that organizations have turned to this model—which we call the marketing technology group—to foster tighter integration between IT and marketing and between strategy/design professionals and technologists. Defining characteristics include:

Who? These groups tend to be made up of a diverse lot of professionals, but in general are staffed by a combination of marketing strategists, creative design professionals, and technologists with design and business savvy. We found some of the most sought-after technologists were mobile- and data-literate developers and higher-ranking IT leaders, like enterprise architects, who can coordinate an ever-growing number of digital experience technologies (e.g. CRM, Web content management, commerce platforms, analytics, etc.). The key is to give these groups direct tie-in to C-level executives. As a vice president of strategy at a digital agency told us, “The problem with shared services is that too often it’s staffed by only powerless workers.”

What? A digital experience leader at a multinational organization using this model described it as a “digital innovation team.” Others we interviewed described these shared services groups as “internal digital agencies.” Much like an agency, these groups are responsible for providing various business units with a host of services to improve marketing and digital customer experience initiatives. This includes (among other things) strategic support, design and creative services, and technology support.

Where?  These groups are still emerging, and most organizations we speak to prefer to play it safe with a central or decentralized IT approach. We’ve seen the most innovation coming from retail and consumer packaged goods organizations, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t seen it from others as well. We interviewed a few key decision makers from financial services and healthcare organizations who are looking to move to this shared services approach.

Why? This approach has many benefits, including the tight integration between creative professionals and technologists, allowing the gap to close between design and the delivery of that design. Firms also achieve agile processes more easily with marketing and IT professionals working under one umbrella. The downside? This approach can be slow. A vice president of digital marketing at a financial services organization said: “[In my] shared service model, someone ends up waiting.” Organizations with multiple brands also worry that a shared service approach limits the brand differences and makes each one look too similar; better governance and brand guidelines can mitigate this risk.

So what’s the future of marketing technology groups? We expect that this trend will continue to grow as more organizations see the appeal of the “internal digital agency.” This doesn’t mean it will take over central IT groups; instead, we expect many organizations to use shared services groups to supplement existing IT groups.

Do you have a shared marketing technology group or have you begun to move to this model? Tell us about your case studies in the comments area below.

 

 

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