Few vendors are better poised to understand the needs and desires of the IT and marketing departments in the digital era than Microsoft and Adobe. Now, the two companies are embarking on a joint call for greater collaboration between the two departments to truly create compelling, personalised customer experiences at scale.
Speaking during Microsoft's Future Decoded event in London in October, AI was the hot topic of conversation between Michael Plimsoll, senior industry strategist at Adobe and Paul Bolt, CMO at Microsoft UK.
"Great AI needs great data," Bolt said. "One of the biggest pieces of work that we've undertaken at Microsoft in the UK has been around getting that single source of truth, that single source of customer data on which we can start to overlay some amazing tools and technology, some of those from Adobe."
Bolt acknowledges that in order to reach that elusive single source of truth, there needs to be greater collaboration between IT and marketing.
This was a key finding from some research conducted by IDG on behalf of Adobe and Microsoft earlier this year, looking into the changing relationship between the CIO and CMO. It found that a third of CIOs are planning on partnering with the CMO to map and support their future technology needs.
"Actually to do that requires a great deal of collaboration across the business, not just in terms of clearly working with the IT team, and ensuring that the technology roadmap, the processes, the stack, the usage all works beautifully, but then ensuring that's infused and integrated into the way our sellers work, and our product team work. Really what that needs is amazing collaboration," Bolt said at Future Decoded.
"Technology now just underpins everything we do and this is a fundamental shift Adobe made when we shifted from boxed products to cloud products," Plimsoll added.
In shifting from a world where products were launched every couple of years, and marketers could carefully construct a launch campaign, now organisations need to be more nimble, and this also requires greater collaboration.
"So that's different and more about the value proposition and getting closer to the customer," Plimsoll said. "So as businesses adapt to that subscription model that consumers are asking for, the whole organisation has to change. This is why the coming together of the CIO and CMO, and even the CFO, is so important. To be part of this journey, as it is ubiquitous now across business."
This broader change is also impacting the skills makeup of marketing teams at the enterprise level. As Bolt identified: "There's no doubt we've seen a big shift in the demographics in the makeup of marketing teams, in terms of data and operational prowess embedded in the heart of the way a marketing organisation works."
That doesn't mean that marketeers are increasingly becoming data scientists though. "What we've found is, even as we've changed the blend of skill set, to be more data led, more data driven, that doesn't mean that marketing is no longer a creative force," Bolt said. "It's now underpinned with data, it's now underpinned with a different mix of skill sets. For me, that shift has happened, but it's still about the tools augmenting human capability. That's where I see the magic and some of the best work we do happens when those two components work together."
That being said, our research showed 40% of marketing decision makers felt limited by their current systems and siloed data. Indeed, breaking data out of legacy silos is a key shared priority for the two departments, and a key driver for greater collaboration between IT and marketing.
Bolt talks about a common customer pain point related to data silos: the repeating of information when moving through a customer journey like upgrading your mobile phone or TV package.
"That is a data or systems silo, they aren't talking to each other and that drives frustration for a customer," he said. "It is a hugely competitive market today, irrespective of your industry, so I would encourage anyone to break down those silos. The need for businesses to collaborate and feel their collective responsibility to drive these outcomes is a prerequisite, not an option."
So why make this shift at all? What is in it for the business if IT and marketing do collaborate more effectively and break down these cultural and technological barriers?
"All the tools, all the technology in the market today mean, more so than ever, marketing's ability to reach customers, to drive great experience, to acquire new customers, to maximise the customers lifetime value, at scale, done incredibly well based on data," as Bolt sees it. "It's a great time to be in marketing, it's a great time to be using and utilising the tools available at our disposal."
GDPR is also leading to greater collaboration, and tension, between the two departments. Interestingly, 45% of respondents to our survey in the marketing department said they did not feel confident in the people, processes or platforms to remain compliant, whereas just 11% of IT decision makers shared their concerns.
"I think it has, in my mind, highlighted to the marketers the value and importance of the data and is no longer just IT's responsibility to treat data responsibility but everyone in the organisation. Everyone has to approach things with privacy by design. In that way I believe it has brought those teams together," Plimsoll said.
Read Key takeaways from the evolving CIO-CMO relationship to find out how CIO-CMO collaboration can truly revolutionise the customer experience.