How Adobe’s CIO blends IT and marketing

How Adobe’s CIO blends IT and marketing

Adobe CIO Cynthia Stoddard doesn’t think about marketing and IT as separate functions. “We don’t have an artificial wall between these organizations,” she tells CIO.com. IT and marketing have distinct priorities within the business, but aligning their respective responsibilities around company goals leads to greater outcomes, according to Stoddard.

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“We tend to place ourselves in the other person’s role and situation,” she says. “Try to put yourself in the shoes of the CMO or the CIO so you can jointly feel what the other person is going through and what their priorities are.”

Technology’s reach knows no bounds

stoddard cynthia 159 small Adobe

Adobe CIO Cynthia Stoddard.

Technology is so widespread that any wall -- virtual or physical -- between IT and another aspect of the business would be a drag on the entire organization, according to Stoddard. Marketing is a particularly important area of Adobe’s business that overlaps with IT at the highest levels, she says. Marketers are also among the most sophisticated users of IT because they rely so heavily on analytics and data to measure campaign initiatives.

“We have a lot of information within IT, we’re kind of the keepers of big data,” she says. “We can bring that knowledge forward to the marketing organization and actually work with the marketing organization so they can understand better how they can use big data and different trends within their day-to-day operation.”

[ Related: How Intel’s CMO revitalized a ‘weak brand’ ]

Adobe’s IT shop has a group dedicated to managing data insights in constant collaboration with colleagues in marketing. Another IT group works with marketing systems and has developed core marketing business expertise to understand challenges and deliver more effective marketing programs and lead analysis, according to Stoddard.

“We’ve aligned the IT organizations around capabilities and services, and then we have different people in the business that we focus on different subject matter expertise,” she says. “We work very closely with the marketing organization and we definitely have a role.”

Analytics is also a key point of overlap for IT throughout Adobe’s business, according to Stoddard. “You want to make sure that the IT analytics are pretty self-service so that people within the marketing group and other groups can do their own analysis,” she says.

The prevailing goal for Stoddard and her colleagues is to take IT and its unnecessary complexities out of the organization. “Whatever we do within IT is to really eliminate IT,” she says. Her group is responsible for implementing self-service tools and making them readily available on any device. While these objectives are most noticeably blurred in the marketing analytics and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions space, the mission continues throughout Adobe.

“In order to enable people to do their jobs you have to plan to take that wall down between IT and the business units, and really self-service and enable people to do things on their own,” Stoddard says. Adobe has adopted a model that entrusts marketing leaders to work directly with vendors when the need arises. The framework includes governance and other controls to make sure it adheres to Adobe’s IT requirements without impeding progress, scale or agility.

The company also takes a more holistic approach to SaaS so that it doesn’t use one solution for one department and something else for another unless special circumstances apply. Redunancy and increased maintenance of technology is something that Stoddard and her team tries to avoid.

How B2B marketing and IT collide

Adobe’s long history in the consumer and enterprise space has developed into a blended model that benefits from many of the same tools for business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketing, according to Stoddard. “We work together a lot in that regard,” she says.

Adam Kleinberg, CEO of advertising agency Traction, says the consumerization of IT and B2B marketing is being driven by a growing consumer-minded workforce and the elevation of marketing as a core business process. “The plumbing has become an important minimum standard of marketing,” he says. “Once brands have put marketing infrastructure into place and become data-driven organizations, they really need to then impact the numbers… We all have access to the same data, the same toolset, so creative is the thing that stands out and makes a difference.”

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Within B2B marketing there is a proclivity to see customers as businesses when they should be targeting the people responsible for making purchase decisions inside the organization. “There is a trend in the industry that’s about quantity over quality, but I think that’s going to shift,” Kleinberg says. “Once everyone has the marketing infrastructure in place, it’s no longer a competitive advantage, and if you don’t have a competitive advantage you’re going to achieve average results.”

Stoddard says she tries to maintain competitive advantages that come from a flattened, universally accessible IT organization by focusing on two core principles: deep intelligence that comes from understanding its customers and enriching design. “When you engage with your customer you have to have the right aesthetics, the right experience so that it meets their needs and they actually get excited by the design that you have and it compels them to want to do more,” she says.

IT professionals who are working at organizations that put barriers between IT and other departments need to get immersed in the entire business, according to Stoddard. “Get to know the CMO, get to know their pain, get to know what they’re trying to do -- the goals and objectives that they have,” she says. “People tend to get a little scared about opening up that wall. It actually can lead to better and richer experiences for both sides of the fence when people get so ingrained and immersed in the business.”

Empathy, compassion and genuine interest in colleagues’ unique challenges can go a long way, according to Stoddard. “I think it helps people understand why you need to take bricks out of the wall and open it up,” she says. “Get to know the other side of the wall and put yourself in those shoes and understand those complex steps that sometimes exist.”

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