A new study by Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and Sapient titled, “The New Marketing – IT Power Partnership,” explains why it’s more important than ever for company growth that marketing and IT partner in their strategies. The report offers opportunities, best practices and common obstacles based on in-depth interviews with senior executives from Nissan, Celebrity Cruises, Hyundai Motor America and Vodafone.

According to the study, strong marketing-IT collaboration is required far beyond building Web sites and deploying interactive advertising — top companies use technology to ensure exceptional customer experiences across interaction points. The paper adds that tight alignment between marketing and IT strategies is required to speed innovation and measure value. However, most companies lag in this area.

“Kellogg School of Management research shows that 70 percent of organizations do not use advanced technological tools to guide their marketing campaigns,” said Mark Jeffery, associate professor of technology at the Kellogg School and co-author of the study. “The most innovative companies have not only leveraged such tools, but have an ingrained commitment to collaboration between marketing and IT.”

These innovative and successful companies, according to the study, have three major characteristics in common:
• A primary focus on the business and marketing vision, supported by technology
• A fluid, agile approach to marketing-related technology: “think big, start small, scale fast”
• Integrated teams from marketing and technology: “work together, not just meet together”

“Executives today recognize that marketing runs on technology, but many are frustrated with differences in priorities and measures of success across marketing and IT,” explained David Bond, director of business and IT strategy for Sapient, and co-author of the study. “We found that when these functions within organizations have a common understanding of value, rapid innovation happens.

New products and campaigns will evolve faster, customer experiences will complement the brand and relevant analytics will be available for planning and measurement.”

On the other hand, the study found three primary obstacles that deter IT and marketing alignment:
• The vision for enterprise-wide customer strategy is poorly defined
• Marketing and IT justify their investments differently
• CIOs and CMOs are experiencing a culture clash

The paper likens the relationship between marketing and IT to that of a power boater and sailor: they don’t enter the water with the same language, background or equipment, and they also have a different definition of “fast.” And while their destination may be the same, they need to understand the other’s perspective and challenges to reach the collective goal.