A revolution has quietly been happening in how enterprise tech is purchased.
Being someone who both makes his living writing about what's happening in enterprises, AND being a member of the marketing department of a software vendor in one of the most cutting-edge locations on the planet, you'd think I would've put 2 and 2 together.
But I was shocked as anyone to read Gartner's recent prediction that Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) will be spending more on IT than Chief Information Officers (CIOs) within five years.
There are lots of reasons why this appears to be happening:
Marketing has grown up. In the popular imagination, marketing is all about creating ads, issuing press releases and throwing fabulous parties.
Hat-heavy soirees like this one.
In fact, marketing has evolved from an art into a numbers-heavy science that leverages formidable tools for demand generation, lead nurturing, campaign analysis, social media automation, mobile marketing, etc.
Through the power of Big Data and predictive analytics, marketing has never-before-insight into what customers want and how they buy.
Even if salespeople still close the actual sales, marketing tees the deals up for them to a greater extent than ever before.
"Marketing is now the central engine of growth for many companies," Laura McLellan, a research VP with Gartner, told CIO.
Marketing has, through years of practice, learned to how to sidestep IT. "Ten years ago, marketing was always at the bottom of IT's to-do list," Kristin Hambelton, vice president of Marketing for Neolane, a marketing technology provider, told CIO. As a result, marketing professionals got tired of waiting and learned to go around them.
That became much easier with the rise of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and the cloud, and their low-risk subscription models. "When you can fund marketing software from a travel budget, it's easy to go behind IT's back," Hambelton said.
Marketing understands some of these new technologies better than IT. Social media is the most obvious example. But so are collaboration and unified communications, technologies that are generally easy to use but which require an information-sharing mindset to take advantage of them. Isn't that what marketing is good at?
Obviously, some of these new technologies still require deep technical chops. Outsourcing this to vendors is one solution, but it's still better to have someone who with both business and tech expertise.
Many companies are starting to create a new position to help bridge that marketing-IT divide. Some are calling it a CMT - "Chief Marketing Technologist." Others are calling it a MOO - "Marketing Operating Officer." I'm putting my money on CMT to catch on.
The Impact On Enterprise Mobility
I think the impact of the CMO's rise as a technology buyer has already been felt.
Take BYOD. To go and stereotype us, marketing folks are big fans of the latest and greatest. We love putting on a good show just as much as we love seeing a good show. Hot new products make us hot and bothered.
Mobile devices like the iPad Mini, the Samsung Galaxy S III, the Microsoft Surface - these all fit that bill. If you look inside your organization to see who are the biggest gadget hounds, I'll bet it's equally split between the IT guys and the marketing folks. I'm willing to bet that in many companies where BYOD has taken off, it was the marketing folks who made the most noise. That's what we're good at, after all.
And don't expect us to want to be married to a single platform again the same way we were with the BlackBerry. There's just too many delicious choices out there. So platform diversity becomes the rule.
Also, mobile marketing and mobile commerce are two fast-growing fields where understanding the technology is less important than understanding customer behavior. And who gets that better than marketers? The new mobile shopping app below from SAP Precision Retailing may have been built by developers, but I'm betting it was conceived by marketers (click on the image below to start the cute-as-kittens video).
As for enterprise apps, there's been a big drive to make the user interfaces more slick and the user experience more enjoyable, aka gamification. That's something that I bet your average marketing type understands intuitively better than an IT manager.
Where I Have Doubts
Honestly, I'm not convinced that marketing departments will, by themselves, outspend IT departments.
I DO believe, however, that marketing is at the forefront of the Great Culture War called the 'Consumerization of IT'. That the various lines of business, led by marketing, are wresting power over technical decisions away from the IT managers and their dismal PCs and data centers.
Think of it like peasants and workers breaking down the doors of the temples guarded by the once all-powerful high priests. Here, I totally agree with Gartner - the peasants and workers are winning.
I'm glad to have found an intellectual ally in SAP CIO, Oliver Bussmann. While Bussmann fully "believes" that there has been a "huge shift" in tech spend, he thinks that only by totaling up the combined spending of the various lines of business will you reach a figure larger than the IT budget.
Bussmann has also figured out a way to keep this change from boiling over into the conflict described above. Bussmann created the position of "Business Information Officer" to serve as a liasion between a particular line of business, and his IT team.
"A lot of the services that a line business might buy will eventually have to be integrated into our environment. That only works if we work together as a team," he said. Fortunately, "we have excellent relationships" with each business group.
Whether via revolution or managed change, the balance of power in technology is shifting inside enterprises. That can only be good news for mobile, which has grown from the bottom-up in many organizations, and which thrives in organizations where marketing and other lines of business are dictating what tools make them most effective and productive.