Profiting from internal partnerships

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Profiting from internal partnerships

Marketing and IT security: odd bedfellows?

What do marketing and IT security have in common. Nothing? Think again.

Think on it a bit. If your IT security is breached, it can do real damage to your company’s brand. Just look at the recent Target case in the US, where millions upon millions of customer cards had their data exposed.

Target is now offering all affected customers a year of free credit monitoring, which will cost the company real money, on top of a major reduction in brand equity.

A lack of investment in IT security can thus have a direct impact on the bottom line. IT, as we’ve often lamented, is usually a cost centre - a target for constant budget reductions while being excoriated to “do more with less”.

Getting funding for investment in new systems is difficult, and requires IT people to sell themselves and their idea. This is a huge challenge for traditional IT departments with no training or background in sales, as I have written about extensively.

It’s thus vitally important to expand your influence outside of IT. When you partner with another part of the organisation, you can benefit from their skills and influence.

Let’s look at an example.

Jonathan Ma was until very recently the technology manager at the NSW Chamber of Commerce (he recently joined Avnet Technology Solutions).

Ma was looking at ways to drive more adoption of the Chamber’s IT security policy, which wasn’t widely communicated let alone adhered to.

Ma formed a relationship with Mei Ching Koon, senior manager of marketing and communications for NSW Business Chamber, effectively the organisation’s CMO. The two worked with the marketing department to come up with a full blown marketing plan, complete with promotions and advertising, to sell the IT security policy to staff. 

And like any marketing initiative, they worked on ways to measure the results. In essence, they treated their internal staff like customers who need to be educated about a new product, and used all the standard marketing tools to do so.

The costs and benefits were clearly spelled out in what Ma calls his “three pager business case”, which highlighted that the marketing expenses were tiny compared to the cost of responding to even one security incident.

Ma is a firm believer in the power of marketing to internal staff.

“IT isn’t just about keeping the lights on any more,” he said. “That’s a fast way to get outsourced. You need to be out there selling the value of IT.”

It all comes back to the discussions we’ve been having on iTnews about the pressure on IT staff to obtain new skills, such as marketing and selling, that aren’t a traditional part of the IT toolbox.

You don’t necessarily have to pick them up overnight. By partnering with movers and shakers outside of IT, you can gain valuable insight into the reality of marketing or sales (or finance, or HR, etc.) that you won’t read in a book.

Find people in other departments and buy them a coffee. Talk to them about their problems, their vision, and look for common ground. There’s bound to be something that you’ve been dying to do, but couldn’t get funded, that is also a source of pain for them. Figure out a way you can work together, and pool your talents.

Justin Warren
Justin Warren is a 20 year veteran of the IT industry.
He has consulted to many of the biggest brands in Australia, including ANZ, Australia Post, IBM, Telstra, and Suncorp.
Warren specialises in bridging the gap between business and IT, helping executives to use IT to improve revenues, rather than focus solely on costs.
His marketing and strategy expertise helps organisations to look beyond the next quarter to develop a sustainable competitive advantage.
Warren holds an MBA from Melbourne Business School and is a graduate member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Read more from this blog: The Ignorance of Experts

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