Can Marketing and IT Execs Overcome Their Disconnect for Better Customer Experiences?

Hal Conick
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways

​What? Marketing and IT functions report a disconnect over ownership of the customer experience, goals and beliefs around business outcomes.

So what? Different success measures for each team are likely to make companies more siloed, giving competitors with superior cross-functionality an edge.  

Now what? Jason Wadler, executive vice president at Leapfrog, says leadership must endorse shared goals and metrics tied directly to business outcomes. 

​Dec. 15, 2016

A new survey finds marketing and IT departments are clashing on customer service, among other business outcomes. How can they come together for a better customer experience?

Marketing and technology executives have been focused on different goals, according to Leapfrog Marketing Institute’s 2016 CMO Digital Benchmark Study. This can and should change, the company’s executive vice president says. 

Marketing and technology executives suffer from a disconnect in goals, mapping and beliefs when it comes to business outcomes, the study found.

The biggest gap between executives is customer experience goals. While 56% of marketing executives have goals aligned toward improving business outcomes, only 13% of technology executives align goals toward this outcome. Conversely, 34% of technology executives say their goals are aligned to build a better data infrastructure versus 4% of marketing executives who say the same. 

Additionally, 11% of technology executives say their customer experience has made significant progressin mapping their customer experience, versus 5% of marketing executives, the report finds. 

Technology executives also have a higher view of who owns customer experience, as 45% believe it’s a dedicated group, compared to 24% of marketers who think a dedicated group owns the customer experience process.

This year, Leapfrog surveyed 198 U.S. executives at the director level or higher. Approximately 65% were marketers and 35% were in technology roles.

Source: Leapfrog 2016 CMO Digital Benchmark Study

Why is there a divide between these groups? Fred Ehle, one of the researchers for the study and former vice president of customer strategy at McDonald’s USA, says the disconnect between IT and marketing leaders initially surprised him, but he realized it was because “IT just finished the build out but the initiatives have yet to hit the marketplace.” Thus, IT leaders have done their job while CMOs wait for the impact. 

The relationship between these two teams can be improved through shared goals and metrics tied to business outcomes, according to Jason Wadler, executive vice president at Leapfrog.

“What stands in the way are two things: an inward view that is functional versus an outward view that is enterprise-based," and “an executive team that does not actively support and incent cross-functional alignment," he says. "The downside if they don’t improve is that competitors who do work in a more aligned way will take their customers, the enterprise will lose top talent and they will not be in a position to leverage new approaches [such as] digital assistants and [artificial intelligence] to drive engagement and sales.”

Marketing and technology executives have improved at working together, the report notes, as more than 90% of both groups report improvement in alignment since 2015. This is especially true when it comes to shared incentives and metrics. In 2016, 61% of technology executives and 50% of marketing executives report strong lifts in shared incentives and metrics compared with both at 37% in 2015.



“[The lift] can continue to rise if the C-suite is actively engaged and aligning shared incentives on business outcomes,” Wadler says. “That was a clear learning from this year’s benchmark study.”

Jim Carey, a researcher on the report and an adjunct professor at Northwestern University, says both marketing and IT clearly see progress has been made, so there is no longer a question of if marketing and IT can play together. "They can and do," he says.

“But the organizational transformation to become truly customer-centric has a long way to go,” Carey says. “Now, it’s an issue of organizational vision, C-suite leadership and shared incentives.”

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Author Bio:
Hal Conick
Hal Conick is a staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @HalConick.
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