Last updated: Long-established marketing silos create gridlock for e-commerce brands

Long-established marketing silos create gridlock for e-commerce brands


Having led and worked with many different e-commerce organizations in my career, I’ve been part of and witnessed the struggles that companies have in breaking down deep rooted organizational silos. Two of the most entrenched silos in many companies are those built around IT and marketing.

Traditionally, it went something like this: The CIO went off and focused on big, enterprise-level technologies rooted in multi-year analysis, road-mapping and complex implementations. The CMO went about his or her business of building their brand with a keen focus on creative, messaging, and media.

By and large the CIO and CMO did their own thing and as long as email was up and running then things were good for marketers.

I’m being a bit tongue and cheek here, but hopefully you get the point.

And then it all changed.

How long-established silos are creating gridlock across enterprises

I won’t go into a lengthy discussion on how digital disruption has rewritten all the rules…but it hasAnd now, those long-established silos are creating gridlock at many companies.

When it comes to marketing silos – and organizational silos, I’ve seen behaviors repeated a thousand times:

  1. There’s tension over who owns the digital strategy.
  2. IT leading technology roadmaps that aren’t tied to e-commerce and marketing strategies.
  3. I’ve been in meetings where IT has told e-commerce teams that their multi-million dollar business idea will have to get into next year’s queue.
  4. And I’ve been on phone calls where marketing has admonished IT for making “business” recommendations.  “That’s not your job.”

I firmly believe that in e-commerce, IT is the business.

You want to change the carpet in your brick and mortar store?
Well, that’s your retail operations group.

You want to update the window clings in your storefront?
That’s your marketing team.

You want to change the colors and fonts or add a new widget to your e-commerce website, or if you want to add a new widget?
Chances are, that’s your IT team.

To me, e-commerce just doesn’t work if tied to the organizational silos and processes of yesterday.

To thrive in today’s always-on, always-with-you digital environment and to stay one step ahead of your traditional competitors and slick new start-ups, companies need to be more nimble and responsive.

This means being faster at driving innovative new ideas (not always on a 3 year IT roadmap). It means offering more flexible technologies that can power customer experiences across today and tomorrow’s growing touchpoints (Not hardwired, custom applications that need massive customization to leverage beyond their current purpose). It means being able to collect and harness data to drive decisions across the enterprise  (Beyond a massive database that only the geekiest of statisticians can work with).

This is the difficult challenge that many CIOs and CMOs face each day. Those that are succeeding are trying some new and creative ways to bring marketing, e-commerce, and IT together to achieve common goals.

Top examples of how leaders are breaking down organizational marketing silos

  1. Creating hybrid teams: Some companies are freeing employees from their functional silos by creating smaller, independent project teams representing multiple business disciplines and empowering them to make autonomous decisions.
  2. Building centers of excellence: Others are creating digital or e-commerce “Centers of Excellence” consisting of key cross functional resources who work  to share best practices, streamline processes, and better leverage investments.
  3. Setting up innovation centers: Some high profile companies are setting up stand-alone units bringing together techies, creatives, marketers, and analysts with lean startup methodologies to rapidly develop and test newer, cutting edge solutions unhindered by the traditional corporate shackles.
  4. Re-thinking internal processes: Outside of shifting organizational and team structures, companies have to realign internal processes to better bridge business and technical discussions and resources. Technology should be front-and-center during business strategy discussions and business leaders should be integrated into technology road-mapping initiatives to make sure that companies are aligning their valuable resources and budgets to the projects that matter.

To break silos, companies are hiring business/technology hybrids

Given the accelerating convergence between digital and traditional shopping and media channels, business and marketing leaders now need to have a deeper understanding of technology.

Similarly, today’s technologists need to be more connected to the business drivers and priorities.

Companies that continue to hire CMOs with no digital or e-commerce backgrounds, or CIOs who do not think like business people, will continue to reinforce a siloed mentality and ultimately fall behind industry leaders.

With the rise of e-commerce, breaking down these silos has never been more critical and with more IT budget projected to be “owned” by marketing and e-commerce teams than IT itself in the coming years, it’s no longer a “nice to have.”

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