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How Marketing-IT Collaboration Drives Opportunity in the Age of SaaS

Amy Condle // September 10, 2019

Marketers are well known for their ability to spend large amounts of money quickly. From events to media and more, marketing can account for up to 24 percent of the average company’s budget.

And in the digital age, the rapid adoption of cloud-based subscription software, also known as SaaS (software-as-a-service), frequently makes an outsized contribution to this marketing-led tech spending.

Yet, when marketers buy and implement new technology or tools, a key player is often overlooked: the IT team. When marketing undertakes the process of researching, purchasing, and implementing a tool, it frequently does so without IT’s knowledge or involvement.

But because these tech investments greatly influence the company’s overall productivity, budget, and security, marketing leaders and teams should prioritize aligning their strategic technology objectives with consultative feedback from IT.

Collaborative alignment between marketing and IT is critical to the success of optimized business value from technology and the ability to maintain a healthy, secure tech stack.

Taking Steps Toward a More Collaborative Relationship

From the viewpoint of marketing innovation and agility, IT can be seen as a potential blocker. When approached with a new marketing tech investment, many IT teams have earned a reputation for slowing down progress or attempting to control all tech-related decisions.

As a result, it’s not uncommon for marketing teams to avoid including IT in tech acquisition decision-making. Instead, they turn to easy-to-acquire and easy-to-adopt tools such as SaaS.

But the role of IT is changing in many organizations—for the better.

Many IT teams no longer seek to play the role of a “traffic cop” and to control all tech acquisitions from start to finish. Many progressive companies now foster business-led IT strategies that distribute ownership and management of technology to business units like marketing, creating a more collaborative and engaging relationship.

With this new dynamic in mind, the first step towards a healthy marketing-IT collaboration is establishing a shared vision that achieving business goals is the purpose, and technology is the means.

With this approach, the ultimate goal of the collaboration is not to spend less on technology or purchase less frequently, but to create maximum value for the business.

When IT and marketing find a balance between marketing goals (such as acquiring new leads) and IT goals (such as ensuring data security and interoperability between mission-critical systems), the whole organization becomes more effective and productive.

Embracing Shadow IT

For its part, IT must also accept a new dynamic. As tech stacks tower beyond the finite resources of most IT teams, IT leaders must adapt to the growth of shadow IT by learning to distribute management and responsibility.

That is, they must give teams like marketing the business power to research, purchase, and manage their own SaaS solutions.

According to recent Zylo benchmarking data, about one-third of all employees contribute to software acquisition via direct employee purchases. These purchases create more than 50 percent of the average SaaS application inventory in the organization.

Without a clear plan for identifying and tracking rogue software purchases, these employee-led acquisition trends indicate a potential risk to both marketing budgets and enterprise IT security.

Discovering New Avenues to Stack Visibility

To properly distribute management and responsibility, IT teams need a way to discover the current tech stack inventory.

Often, this SaaS discovery process begins with a spreadsheet. Teams manually track the spend, function, owner, and renewal date for each application. However, this exercise is frequently imperfect. At Zylo, we find that enterprises underestimate their SaaS quantity by two to three times on average.

Therefore, IT must follow the money and analyze records from expense and purchase transactions to ensure that business units have captured all SaaS subscriptions purchased throughout the year. Then, IT and marketing can audit the current solutions and build strategies to optimize the tech stack.

Pruning the Tech Stack

The high quantity of options and the continued growth of marketing tech stacks too often increase “death by data” rather than increasing value. But pruning back tech sprawl and reducing the quantity of SaaS applications within the tech stack can help the organization derive more value from each investment.

Here’s what Zylo recommends to its customers to increase value by decreasing application quantity:

  • Audit your current applications. Assess whether your existing tools can meet your needs before adopting new solutions.
  • Consolidate applications with overlapping functions. Select the tool that most effectively meets business goals.
  • Sunset underutilized applications. Build utilization expectations for each application. Whether users require additional training or an alternate solution, underutilization signals that a specific tool failed.
  • Ladder up to enterprise solutions. Inform IT of your needs to investigate if an enterprise solution could be a better fit than numerous disparate solutions.

While marketing and IT may not always see eye-to-eye, taking the steps toward collaboration—with an emphasis on mutual goals—can provide new value opportunities in the age of SaaS.

Amy Condle Zylo

Amy Condle is Vice President of Marketing at Zylo, where she helps enterprise organizations discover the value of SaaS management. She has more than 10 years’ experience creating marketing programs for B2B SaaS companies, including positions at ExactTarget, Salesforce, and Geofeedia. A Butler University alumna, Amy and her family call Fishers, Indiana home.

About Zylo
The largest independent SaaS management platform, Zylo transforms how businesses manage their SaaS application portfolios. Zylo’s SaaS management platform creates transparency and provides a centralized system of record that empowers business leaders to discover, manage, and measure their SaaS investment. Zylo was named a Rising Star in Forbes’ Cloud 100 list, the definitive list for private cloud companies.