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Nexxus Blog

Digital is changing marketing and IT—and helping both put customers first

2015-7-6

In today’s digital age, business is all about the customer. Digital technology is changing how customers and companies interact, facilitating a two-way multichannel flow of information. Companies use the technology to engage their customers anywhere, anytime—and more directly than ever before—as they strive to create satisfying and seamless customer experiences across multiple devices.

For Life Sciences companies, these changes are being driven largely by the rapidly evolving expectations of consumers and health-care providers. Inevitably, this dynamic shift is causing many of those organizations to rethink how they develop, market and deliver their products and services.

Yet digital technology is also blurring the lines between two previously distinct organizational functions—marketing and information technology (IT)—creating overlapping and sometimes competing responsibilities. These changing roles of marketing and IT leaders have the potential to lead to either serious problems or unprecedented opportunities for many Life Sciences organizations. 

Those opportunities will be realized by organizations in which both the marketing executives and IT executives are able to forge a strategic partnership and work together to build a successful customer-centric business.  Life Sciences companies may face a special challenge in forging such partnerships. According to a 2014 Accenture survey, “pharma CIOs have a high desire to align –the highest of all industries –while pharma CMOs rank among the lowest across industries in their desire to collaborate.”

How marketing and IT are changing in the digital age

Twenty years ago, technology had much less to do with marketing, and it was the IT department’s sole responsibility.  Digital and cloud technology changed that. With digital technology, marketers gained the ability to harness big data, measure nearly everything, and work with greater precision. The advent of cloud computing meant that the CMO no longer had to ask the CIO, who controlled all of the hardware resources, to approve technology purchases—a process that might take weeks or months. Instead, the CMO could subscribe to a cloud solution that would help solve an immediate marketing problem, and be up and running very quickly.

A few years ago, analyst firm Gartner predicted that by 2017 CMOs would be spending more on IT than CIOs. In many organizations, that transition has already occurred, and the marketing technology budget is already larger and growing faster than the IT budget. In others, the CMO and CIO roles have been combined. In any case, CMOs and other marketing leaders today must be smart about technology, understanding what it can do, how it is evolving, and the kind of opportunities it allows them to create for their company and their customers.

The traditional role of the CIO and the IT department is changing as well. It is no longer enough for IT to focus on operational efficiency and reducing costs by providing and managing a reliable technology infrastructure that supports business functions. While that work remains essential for most organizations, Forrester recently noted: “The role of the CIO and the technology management organization is rapidly changing in the age of the customer. . . CIOs must rethink how they deliver value to the organization and, more importantly, how they measure and communicate this to their business peers.”

IT and marketing leaders: working together to serve customers

For Life Sciences organizations that want to move forward and succeed in the digital age, the key is for their marketing and IT leaders to work together as strategic partners and for both groups to share a common vision focused on serving customers.

Although modern marketing teams may be tech-savvy and have the budget necessary to buy their own technology solutions, they may not understand how those solutions need to connect and integrate with the rest of the company IT system. Marketers also may not understand the total cost of ownership of adding new technology and the related migration and compatibility issues. By taking a unilateral approach to addressing their short-term needs, marketing leaders may be contributing to the much larger problems of information silos, incompatible systems, and fragmented data sources.

Data security and privacy are also essential in the Life Sciences industry. The potential risk to the marketing sponsor (both financially and from a career perspective) can be very high if he or she works with a software vendor that has not been fully vetted by IT and then something goes wrong, such as a data breach or a privacy violation.

In addition, master data management—maintaining a strong “central record” for the doctor—is critical for coordinating activities with those customers and enabling reliable reporting. That is something IT leaders can help to ensure when they are involved in all of the technology initiatives, but something that is undermined when marketing leaders purchase and implement a point solution to address their own needs without IT involvement.

IT leaders must recognize that their role in the organization is changing as well. They need to become more engaged in the business and serve as valued advisors. According to Forrester, “savvy CIOs are already focused on developing and building two agendas: the traditional IT agenda and the new BT [business technology] agenda.” which “employs rapidly evolving technologies such as social, mobile, and customer analytics to drive better customer experiences.”

IT can advise marketers on which technology solutions best address their needs while also pushing data back into the organization to help drive innovation, refine sales and marketing strategies, and create better customer experiences. Marketing can help IT set priorities by making sure the department is devoting resources to things that differentiate the company and serve customers. Marketing can also assist IT by promoting new tools and platforms internally to speed adoption and increase efficiency. IT teams in Life Sciences can also benefit by closer collaboration with their marketing colleagues, because marketers often have a window into innovative new programs for patients, physicians and payers, and marketing can be a good source to help drive a forward-looking agenda for the IT team.

IT may have to further loosen its traditional control and ownership of technology, and marketing may need to let go of the idea of acting independently to solve short-term problems without thinking about long-term integration and collaboration. By working together, however, marketing and IT leaders can create a well-integrated business focused on exceeding customer expectations and providing outstanding customer experiences across all of its systems.