Fear and Loathing in the Department Silos

Fear and Loathing in the Department Silos

The cover story of the May 12, 2008 issue of Fortune magazine is “The Best Advice I Ever Got.” All of the stories cover a very diverse set of leaders and are both a quick reading and interesting.  The one that stuck out most in The Marketing Consigliere’s mind was that of Craig Newmark of Craigslist.  In particular, his statement that he “was working within a marketing division, and the culture was hostile to the technical culture.” That was back in 1990, long before the Internet was reaching any commercial critical mass.

Fast forward to 2008. Marketing has wisened up a bit and is beginning to embrace the net-centric marketing tools necessary for survival in a global environment.   While we can argue that too many Marketers still think that all net-centric marketing involves is SEO and Affliliate Marketing, at least their baby steps are in the right direction and before long they will know how to spell “EMM.”

In many organizations there is still hostility from the IT department towards Marketing and/or Sales. The Marketing Consigliere saw one first hand in the past five years when he deployed an SaaS-based CRM solution and the IT fiefdom fought his advocacy of it, kicking and screaming all the way. Nevermind that they were using unsynced, various releases of ACT! on clunkers of desktops and had never performed a data cleansing operation. Never mind that leads were getting lost and there was no true window into the pipeline.

One of the ironies is that with the solution, “IT Departments are not required.” SaaS solutions make IT marginal in that they just need to make sure that the Internet connection is working.  That’s the beauty of SaaS; IT can focus on other critical issues.  But some IT folks still see SaaS as a threat and many SaaS salespeople have told me so as recently as last week.


The IT director had an almost Rasputin-like hold on the CEO, and one whining albeit high-revenue producing salesperson who couldn’t grasp how to use the CRM system and preferred Excel pivot tables (WTF?) (OK, it was Salesforce.com and I am aware that the major complaint by salespeople about “SFDC” is that it is “cumbersome.”) sent the whole project into the dustbin.  So much for committed executive buy-in. Oh, and nevermind that this company is 60 years old and is stuggling to keep $50 M in revenue coming in while SFDC is less than 10 years old and is at $400 M revenue. But the Marketing Consigliere was told that SFDC is a “failure.”  He thought to myself, in the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, “What a maroon…” To this day they are flying blind with regards to marketing and sales automation which complicates the fact that they are shriveling on the vine in an industry going through cataclysmic changes due to the Internet and failing business models.

Bottom line: C-level execs, make sure your marketing, sales, and IT folks evolve out of their mental fiefdoms. IT is there to serve the needs of the revenue generators. And Marketing needs to be aware of the tools that are out there and fight for the best ones, using IT as an advisor, not a driver. Make them all realize that in a C4ISR Marketing world, where information superiority is a competitive advantage, there is no room for silos or shrill, whiny salespeople.

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