September 15, 2007

Is Your Information Technology Team An "Equal Partner"?

In the glory days of cataloging (i.e. pre-internet, 1994), if you wanted to try a new strategy, you might put together a team to develop the new strategy, with representatives from the following departments:
  • Merchandising
  • Creative
  • Circulation
  • Marketing
  • Finance
In the glory days of multichannel cataloging (i.e. September 2007), if you want to try a new strategy, your team is likely to be different.
  • Merchandising
  • Creative
  • Circulation Marketing
  • Database Marketing (measurement)
  • Web Analytics (measurement)
  • E-Mail Marketing
  • Online Marketing (search, affiliates, portals, shopping comparison, social media).
  • Finance
  • Web Production
  • Information Technology
All of these folks have to work together to execute any new strategy.

In your company, is this a "functional team" that works well together, rapidly making joint decisions?

Or do you find that a portion of this team makes decisions, and then delegates elements of strategic decisions to certain areas for execution?

Most multichannel catalogers have found that they can't execute a multichannel catalog strategy without the folks in the "information technology" department.

In some businesses, the "IT" folks are not seen as "equal partners". The "IT" folks are just folks who write code to make things work.

Similarly, "IT" folks feel stepped-on. When this happens, you frequently hear about the "huge book of work we have to tackle", you hear about "prioritization of projects". These terms can be code for the real issue ... "since we're not equal partners, we're not working on what is important to you".

In so many ways, technology is ruining direct marketing. The business cannot execute true multichannel cataloging without the technology folks. The technology folks cannot feel like they are part of the business if they aren't involved up-front in the development of the strategy. The business cannot afford to have too many "cooks in the kitchen", or gridlock and group-think occurs.

In the future, we'll have even more parties demanding a "seat at the table". We'll need to figure out new organizational structures that allow rapid decision making, while still allowing everybody be an "equal partner"

Most important, the information technology folks will have to be "equal partners" in the business, in order for multichannel cataloging to succeed.

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