The IT department used to be a cloistered realm.
It was a place of mystery, where secretive wizards intoned the mystical enchantments that would keep the payroll system online. Arcane knowledge of sendmail configuration files was passed from master to apprentice, and the rites of Deep Magic were maintained.
And then, in 2007, Apple released the iPhone, and everything changed.
Not only was it functional, it was beautiful. Sleek lines, glossy finish. Apps on their phone were easy to buy, easy to install, and easy to use. End users very quickly got used to the idea.
Suddenly computers weren’t the private domain of the wizards and their secret knowledge.
Computers were for everyone, everywhere. Familiar with the ease of computing at home and at play, people started to wonder why they couldn’t have this sort of experience at work.
The reason was that corporate IT had become a hygiene factor, like working lights and toilets; necessary to run a company, but not exactly fun. And like any merely necessary function, IT was seen as a cost centre. A place to be squeezed to free up capital for investment in other, more important areas.
IT resisted, but without much success. They would grumble about the longer-term consequences, but couldn’t sell the story and couldn't get the required budget. And when things did deteriorate – slow email, old software – IT was blamed, and resented it. Mutual dislike developed between IT and the business, and became the status quo in most companies you see today.
Meanwhile, business units had no option but to get their IT from the internal group. Some business units would break out on their own, building parallel IT departments when the pain became too great, only to spawn consolidation projects, accompanied with a decree from on high that Thou Shalt Have No Other IT But This.
Not any more.
Now, business users are spoiled for choice, and are abandoning centralised IT in droves. The success of Salesforce.com and Amazon Web Services are symptoms of the disease of corporate IT: Given the choice, why would your customers buy from you?
The answer is clear: they won’t.
IT desperately needs the help of experienced marketers and salespeople to help them figure out what their customers value, and how to sell it to them at a reasonable price. The knowledge exists, and the experience exists. It just isn’t in IT.
Long derided by technical folk, sales and marketing are vital functions for any business. Without marketing, you don’t know what to make, and no one will have heard of you. Without sales, you make no money and go out of business. It doesn’t matter how low your costs are if your revenue is zero.
The time has come for progressive IT leaders to hire marketing talent to help them sell themselves.
Figuring out what customers really want, and what they’re willing to pay for it, takes real skill.
Expecting existing technical staff (DBAs, sysadmins, and the like) to do it when they have no training or experience in marketing is as ludicrous as giving salespeople Administrator access to the Exchange cluster.