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The disconnect between marketing and technology

Tuesday, September 3, 2013 - 14:50
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Study results released in late August revealed a startling disconnect between marketing and technology at most U.S. businesses. According to Accenture, the research firm that conducted the survey of chief marketing and technology officers, only 10 percent of CMOs and CIOs believe collaboration between the two disciplines is sufficient at their organizations.

AASA also has identified this topic as a chief concern of its members and has held joint sessions of the AASA Technology Council (ATC) and the Marketing Executives Council (MEC) during its annual Vision Conference for several years to help bridge the gap.

AASA recognizes that information technology is no longer a stand-alone discipline – it is integral to marketing, sales, production, supply chain and customer service. The ATC and the MEC will address the convergence of business and technology at the upcoming AASA Technology Council (ATC) Fall Conference and the concurrent MEC Fall Meeting, slated for Sunday, Oct. 13, through Wednesday, Oct. 16, in Marco Island, Fla. In-depth discussions will be held during the MEC Fall Meeting, ATC Manufacturers-Only Meeting and the joint ATC-MEC meeting, all of which will be held during the Conference.

“Managing Marketing & Technology Expectations,” a point/counterpoint-style presentation at the ATC Fall Conference, will examine the integration of business and technology. Chris Gardner, AASA vice president and group executive of the ATC, will face off with Bill Hanvey, AASA vice president and group executive of the MEC, and will discuss the need for marketing and technology collaboration in order to succeed in today’s automotive aftermarket.

In this “AASA Supplier Essentials” Q&A interview, Gardner and Hanvey address key points from the Accenture CMO/CIO study and parallels in the aftermarket. To view the full article about the survey, “There's Disconnect Between CMOs, CIOs,” click here.

Question: The Accenture study shows that only 10 percent of CMOs and CIOs believe collaboration between the two positions is sufficient at their organizations. Do you believe that is true of aftermarket business and technology collaboration as well?

GARDNER: A significant amount of technology resources by AASA members are focused on meeting customer requirements, so by definition a certain level of collaboration exists. It seems that it is the area of emerging trends and technologies that cause challenges. Who owns Big Data, Mobile Apps, Data Analytics, etc.? Marketing needs the insight, but IT provides the tools to do the analysis and manage systems. One of AASA’s objectives is to help members better understand the outlook of technology trends so CMOs and CIOs can work in concert.

HANVEY: Whether it’s 10 percent or 30 percent, I would venture to say that most aftermarket companies would agree that collaboration could be improved between the two departments. I think most of the disconnect stems from the fact that in most organizations, the technology department services all aspects of the business (project based) and the marketing team is focused on growing the aftermarket segment. To have a dedicated technology head entrenched in the team would be a panacea but not practical in most cases; the disconnect will continue until each function feels and acts as part of the overall team.

While 77 percent of technology executives in the Accenture study agreed that alignment between marketing and technology is important, only 45 percent said that marketing is near the top of their priorities. Do you think that marketing is a higher or lower priority for aftermarket technology professionals?

GARDNER: I would guess that it is a little higher for the aftermarket because so much of IT’s focus is on customer requirements, i.e. cataloging, EDI and product information. I do think aftermarket suppliers can do a better job ensuring technology managers participate in customer meetings, social media planning activities and marketing exploratory meetings regarding mobile apps.

HANVEY: As per my earlier comment we have to get the technology team away from a project-based mentality. I put the onus on the marketing team to better quantify the outcomes of technology based endeavors to demonstrate the benefits. If the technology team better understood who, what, when, where and WHY, they would feel a greater sense of ownership and be more invested in the outcome.

The study shows overwhelming agreement among marketing and technology executives that technology is essential to marketing, and that its primary purpose is to gain insight and intelligence about customers. What are some ways that the aftermarket is using technology for customer intelligence?

HANVEY: With the advent of consumer data now readily available at the touch of a finger, the opportunities to use this technology are limitless. If done correctly the marketing team can marry hard data such as warranty information by part number with anecdotal data mined from the tech-line to show specific trends on a product category or part number. Related item sales are also a tremendous opportunity if the marketing team is analyzing product searches on the company’s and other internet sites. The amount of information available is overwhelming and can cost a fortune; the team has to decide what data they actually want and if they are actually going to use it in a practical application.

GARDNER: In addition to utilizing individual customer POS data sets, increasing numbers of companies are tapping into web listening or online sentiment sources to identify tendencies of shop owners, technicians and countermen. The challenge is in integrating this type of un-structured data with the traditional data collected on inventory, sales histories, VIO, etc.

The Accenture study responses show the disconnect between marketing and technology professionals most clearly in these responses: 36 percent of marketers said IT deliverables fall short of the desired outcome, and 46 percent of IT executives said marketing does not provide an adequate level of detail to meet business requirements. Do you think this would be the typical response from aftermarket CMOs and CIOs? What can the industry do to address this disconnect?

HANVEY: I am surprised the answers are as low as they are. This again stems from the fact that the IT guys are not involved at the customer level and don’t have a clear understanding of what the marketing person intended as the outcome of the project. As far as the IT executives saying the marketing guys don’t provide enough detail, is that really a surprise? The marketing guys are not specifically wired at the detail level – that is why the two departments must be entrenched in the day-to-day operations of the business in order to succeed. The marketing team has to involve the IT team when developing a project or customer request, the IT guys have to understand the business better. We are taking the first step in this collaboration at the ATC Fall Conference where the marketing executives will be joining the technology executives to better collaborate, hear each other’s pain points, and better develop a plan to integrate the two functions in an aftermarket environment.

GARDNER: Results from the 2012 ATC IT Spend Trends survey support the existence of this disconnect. Three quarters of AASA member IT professionals regard themselves as performing highly in specific areas, while only 34 percent of their business executive counterparts view IT as performing highly in the same areas. The absolute minimum manufacturers should do is have their marketing and technology professionals both attend select industry events, such as the ATC Fall Conference. AASA continues to create forums that enable these individuals to hear, learn about and discuss trends and technologies that will enable these two areas of responsibility to work more seamlessly together.

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