The case for shadow marketing to build the “digital brand called IT”

Hundreds of articles, blogs and seminars have focused on the extreme anxiety caused by the persistence of shadow IT within the businesses. The root causes range from the perception of an absence of the dynamic skills sets required for the now-trendy SMAC-ronym (social, mobile, analytics and cloud); to a persisting sense of the stereotypical “slow and NO” lethargy that many enterprise IT shops have been painted with for years.

Compounding this problem is that the word “digital” has be come an organizational “discourse marker” with a frequency comparable to a 15-year old’s use of “like” after like every other word in like a sentence.

The irony is that shadow IT is no longer hiding behind the potted palm. In most cases it is in your face and in many, it’s staffed by expatriates from the central IT organizations. Since marketing and technology have become inseparable, there are no apologies from the CMO for embedding technology talent within that organization. This is a small consolation to CIOs who find themselves grasping for digital relevance in the eyes of HQ and the businesses yet fearful of poaching marketing/social talent.

As I’ve written in a previous piece on the commonalities of obscenity and “digital”, CIOs need all the help they can get in simply defining digital strategy no less deploying one.

So it seems a blinding glimpse of the obvious that enterprise IT must take a lesson from the businesses and develop a formal “shadow or embedded marketing” staffing strategy within their organization. At minimum there should be an open requisition for such positions even if there is no budget or formal openings if perhaps only as an intelligence gathering mechanism leading to digital leadership skills.

This exercise serves a number of purposes:

  • A chance to observe the extreme granularity with which marketers view “digital” strategy versus their IT counterparts.
  • The opportunity to gather buzzwords related to current marketing and social media trends for future use with the businesses.
  • A realization of the overarching importance of content marketing techniques as a key element in contemporary structured and unstructured data strategy.
  • Identify hot marketing and social technologies, and the vendors that probably no longer call on generationally-challenged enterprise IT units.
  • Compare where marketers see the center of gravity for enterprise data ownership versus where IT sees it.
  • An opportunity to study how to enhance IT’s internal social enterprise skills as a means to extending those skills into other external marketing and social platforms.

I wholeheartedly agree with many reading this blog who may be saying that bringing marketing talent into the IT organization is not revolutionary. What is different is a strategy of embedding marketing talent within the IT organization rather than a more casual hiring approach. This talent acquisition strategy is the key element in building a digital brand called IT in the eyes of the businesses.

What experience do you have with a formal embedded marketing/social media strategy within your IT organization? Or is a more proactive strategy of strategically embedding your IT team into the business more effective?


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