A Beginner’s Guide to IT Marketing

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“IT marketing” sounds like a very unusual discipline. Historically, the best-equipped CIOs had analytical backgrounds, and many were natural introverts. Self-promotion may not have come naturally, and where it did it may still have been ineffective.

But (as I often claim) the IT function is in a slow fight for survival. Winning means adapting to many unusual things. There’s been the flip from waterfall to agile, the associated adjustment to “digital” IT delivered by the business, and latterly the drive to secure data assets at source, rather than with boundary walls at the edge of the enterprise.

I’m arguing that another adaptation CIOs should make is in learning to market the IT function. Recognise that you’re no longer the single source of technology “truth” and are competing with other “suppliers” (in various guises) many of whom will have far more immediate appeal than you can muster.

This means reacting to the pressures on traditional IT by recognising the need to re-position the IT function in a marketplace, a little like a business would reposition itself for more sustained competitive differentiation. Work-out what you can and should offer, which of the offerings are uniquely yours, and what value the business sees in them. Don’t assume any elements of your monopoly are sustainable.

Codify those offerings and make them compelling. Think of them as “products”, with Product Owners”, and strive to improve them all the time. Be open about your roadmap for each, and demonstrate its alignment to business value.

Recognise the value of “co-opetition” by accepting that some IT suppliers just do it better than you. Exploit your unique position to make it easier (not harder) for the business to consume from others, without inadvertently introducing unpalatable risk or cost.

Finally, be sure to shout about your successes, and to do so in language that makes sense to the business. Too many IT departments still embarrass themselves by publicly expounding the virtues of new service management tooling, the latest operating system upgrade, or applications rationalisation, when the more powerful messages should be “faster fixes to your problems”, “a million user-minutes saved” and “new investment in innovative technology”.

Thinking this way won’t just help your reputation with the business. There’s a bonus side-effect too: Identifying marketing messages which resonate in the business will help you actually to achieve better outcomes. Focus on applications rationalisation and that may be all you get (“so what?”) But focus instead on releasing funds for investment, and a really tangible business benefit is far more likely to result.

As always, any feedback on this topic is extremely welcome. IT marketing is still an emerging area of thinking for us.

Associate Partner, Digital Strategy

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