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Borrow from a best practice IT model to execute your marketing strategy

January 9, 2014

A traditional IT function is equally critical to marketing as the customer experience is more and more enabled by technology.

I learned several years ago the value of a strong program management office (PMO) when I managed a team solely focused on ecommerce platform deployment in a large corporate environment with lots of people and process complexity. Since then, I’ve twice built marketing teams from the ground up and in both cases; I brought in a PMI-certified program manager – someone who knows the importance of structure, disciplined project management and measurable outcomes against business objectives.

My point in this blog is to blur yet again the line between marketing and IT. Perhaps the crux of this message is mostly aimed at marketers to say “get it in gear and follow IT’s lead in how to roll out projects.” But I’m also telling the CIO to recognize the necessity of a strong partnership with marketing and the need for disciplined project management and deployment methodology for marketing-led programs that rely on technology solutions.

I am lucky to have one of the best PMs in the industry working on my team. So this blog is going “old-fashioned-Q&A-style” with my MVP Beth Carty, marketing program director for Peak 10. Her background before our working together was solely focused on IT program management in large corporations. And she knows what she is talking about.

Q. Beth, what are the core principles of an IT PMO?
A.  There are a variety of structures and roles a PMO can take on within an organization. A PMO, whether housed in IT, another department or operating cross-departmentally, focuses on consistency and effectiveness of project and program delivery; prioritization, visibility and governance of projects and programs selected for execution (the portfolio); and in more mature states, assessing the effectiveness of the portfolio in achieving desired business goals.

Q. How do these principles translate to marketing programs from your perspective?
A.  Based on the universal nature of these principles, they translate easily to marketing programs. With limited resources and the pressure to hit aggressive business goals, investing time and money in the right programs and projects and then efficiently and effectively delivering can be the difference between hitting the target or missing the mark for any department.

Q. How does a marketing-led technology program depend on a strong PMO?
A.  Technology programs can be challenging to plan and implement based on the complexities and the unknowns, and they typically have a large group of stakeholders, internally and sometimes externally. While initial business requirements can seem straightforward on the surface, ensuring the right level of communication and collaboration throughout the project to bring those requirements to life in a way that everyone can support can be challenging. A strong PMO brings the necessary knowledge and experience to not only ensure that effective program management methodology is used, but also the skills to facilitate consensus across stakeholders to resolve issues, negotiate resource constraints across departments, manage project dependencies that impact overall program delivery and keep the lines of communication open across project teams and stakeholders.

Q. What are the things a marketer should think about in implementing a PMO?
A.  First is clarity on the business challenge(s) driving the need and the belief that a PMO will address the root causes. If a marketer doesn’t feel certain they can help lead and manage their team through the changes to come, it may not be the right time to implement a PMO.

In addition, implementing a PMO will drive a level of process formality. However, a PMO shouldn’t be seen as an inhibitor of creativity. It can actually bring creativity to life that impacts the bottom line.

Q. What linkages do you see between marketing and IT?
A.  With the explosion of digital marketing, social media and cloud-based application deployment, the lines between marketing and IT are blurring. Marketing departments typically have one or more internal developers and, with quick and inexpensive external hosting services readily available like those here at Peak 10, it’s no longer a requirement to work with IT to get a web-based application developed and deployed.

With all that said, IT and marketing need to work together as partners. Sharing best practices, lessons learned and leveraging consistent processes and tools across the teams fosters an environment of continuous improvement for both teams. Despite the trend towards increased marketing budget to drive digital experience technology programs outlined in the Forrester white paper Refocus the Digital Experience Technology Investment Discussion, IT will continue to be a key stakeholder in those programs. Developing a solid partnership ensures an ally, sounding board and, when needed, devil’s advocate to deliver the best product.

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About Peak 10

"Our values are the foundation for everything we do at Peak 10, and are ultimately what enable us to earn our customers' business and their trust."
David H. Jones,
Board Member, Peak 10 + ViaWest