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Mon 3 Dec 2007 12:36 PM

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Marketing IT

Todd McGregor says IT leaders should not underestimate the value of internal marketing to promote IT projects - and looks at how they can integrate it into their overall strategy.

IT's inability to market effectively cements its cost centre role in the enterprise: communicating status but not value, fulfilling requests but not solving problems and partially deploying technologies but not delivering expected results. IT organisations need to embrace the concepts, terminology, and process of marketing - creating marketing plans, executing campaigns, and boosting brand equity. The result is delivery of the right projects for the right audience, accelerated time to benefit, and increased trust of the IT organisation. Firms that embrace IT marketing first will be those with customer-facing technology, shared services and strong process discipline.

While project management, finance, and strategy have a role within IT organisations, marketing is one business discipline that has yet to truly penetrate IT. This marketing blind spot contributes to some costly missteps like:

Invisible contribution

It is impossible to run any company or organisation without IT. Yet IT organisations fail to communicate their reliability, scope, and breadth of support or to ensure that constituents understand the improvements made and the savings delivered through their IT work.

Regrettable projects

IT execs recite a litany of clichés about well-intentioned but misapplied application initiatives, including: "We gave them what they asked for but not what they wanted." Instead, ensure that IT is a source of innovation and improvement - making specific contributions to revenue, cost reduction, and profitability and then communicate these improvements.

Interminable rollout cycles.

New technology is announced by IT but not aggressively deployed. The implementation uptake is often so slow that actual savings from these capabilities are far lower or later than original RoI projections.

Underused applications

IT buys it, builds it, obtains executive mandates to use it, but then waits for users to accept and adopt it. Software licences that are bought but never implemented remain one of the most expensive - and rarely discussed - failures in many firms.

CIOs want to run IT like a business - so they pay close attention to finances, governance, and process. But what business brings its products or services to its customers without marketing? With effective marketing, IT can achieve its potential to have a seat at the strategy table, be a source of innovation, and guarantee that it is the supplier of choice.

Forrester defines IT marketing as: "the business activity of presenting IT's products, services, and capabilities to constituents in such a way that makes them eager to fund and utilise."

The key for IT is to overhaul its stereotypical thinking about marketing and take a disciplined approach, incorporating three elements. IT must:

1 - Create the marketing plan.IT must treat its current and future projects, service levels, and capabilities as products and must plan for how these meet the needs of, and are communicated to, its constituents.

2 - Execute value and rollout marketing campaigns.IT should plan two types of marketing campaigns: value and rollout. Value campaigns focus on key IT messaging, benefits, updates, and contribution to the firm, incorporating approaches to keeping the enterprise informed of IT's actions. Rollout campaigns are time-based, focused on projects and technology deployments.

3 - Boost IT brand equity.IT should form an overarching identity over time that can transcend individual projects, services, and deployments within the organisation.

Todd McGregor is managing director of Forrester Middle East

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