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Marketing and IT Fitness Tips from Interop’s CIO Bootcamp

When was the last time you had an opportunity to sit face to face with your digital audience – the folks you communicate with through your marketing emails and other media vehicles?

Last month, I had such an opportunity and met in person a portion of my digital audience at Interop, the world’s leading technology event, in New York City.

I came back with a better understanding of my audience, and I am sure as marketers yourself, you are also looking to constantly refine your messaging so it makes a connection with your respective audiences.  Word to the wise: you can only know so much from open rates and click-throughs.  The experience of being in front of them, and learning from them first hand, can never be gained completely from marketing metrics alone.

So there I was, seated amongst an elite group of Chief Information Officers at billion dollar companies talking about technology solutions of the future, the challenges they face today, and where they could use some help.

Interop 3 ISThe panelists at Interop’s CIO bootcamp included CIOs from a variety of industries, including financial services (Nationwide), media publication (Forbes Media), government (Commonwealth of Massachusetts), manufacturing (Praxair), and education (Florida State – Jacksonville) among others.   You can find detailed bios of the panelists here: http://tinyurl.com/yc3259z

Below are some of the tips I came back with.  I felt it was important to keep these things top-of-mind as we do our jobs as marketers, especially when we speak to a technology audience:

Money:
The vast amount of discussion was around dollars: budgeting, forecasting, charge-backs, fiduciary responsibilities.  Some claimed it was ok for IT to get a slice when an IT initiative was successful, but some in the audience took strong objection and said that it was absolutely wrong for IT to make any percentage of project success. It was IT’s job to make the company efficient, productive, and profitable, but to accept a percentage of success didn’t feel right to some.

Blockers, Politics, Culture:
There was a lot of talk on dealing with blockers – those who are the naysayers, who come in the way of your initiatives and projects. This seemed to be a problem in pretty much every company, and one audience member said the biggest naysayers are actually in finance.  At least one CFO had revealed to the Interop attendee that as a habit he will always say no to a project no matter what.  But he would give in, if he sees persistence (and business value of course). 

The CEO Vernacular:
CEO’s, the board, and everyone outside of your IT team do not care about esoteric (esotertic to CEOs, that is) terms like “Enterprise Architecture.” As marketers, it is essential we watch our communication, and choice of words specifically, with people outside of our team. Talk about business value and benefit, and forget the geek-speak when speaking with members of the board or the CEO, was the clear advice. This is an important thing that I try to keep in mind when communicating with the audience - Is this acronym in my email going to make sense to the audience I am trying to communicate with? Does it propose the value effectively?

Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and Web Services:
No surprises here, but Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and Web Services are a favorite with this audience, and hold a great deal of promise for the future of business technology.

Radical Transparency Initiatives:
In the spirit of building an open and transparent community, Florida State College is putting all IT investments on the wiki for all to view. The university is also allowing running commentary on what people think.  I thought this was a nice amalgamation of social media with finance/accounting, and engaging an internal audience of users.

The Secret to Getting and IT Project Approved:
CEOs operate on “outcome based thinking,” said a couple of the panelists.  The internal audit team of a company has a lot of influence and credibility in front of the board and the CEO.  A smart CIO strategy would be to be friends with internal audit, and if you are able to convince an internal auditor about the value of a project, you can have them do the selling for you when they present to the board, and the selling happens on its own.  This can be quite an organic process. 

The Future of Device Ownership:
Is your device purely a company asset? If it is a company asset, should employees be walking around with two laptops, two cell phones?  Is that an efficient lifestyle? What does the future hold for us in terms of consolidation, mobile computing?  The panelists did not have a clear response to this.  There is no real standard, and the answer to this is context driven, argued many. Is the company flexible? Is it less regulated? The answer to such questions should decide ownership or co-ownership of such assets.  Florida U., for instance, is in the process of eliminating computer labs, and students and faculty bring their tools to work. This requires a hardening of infrastructure, expanding wireless, increasing security and eventually making all resources digitally accessible.  As we become increasingly mobile, increasingly social, increasingly digital, how can we reduce the complexity of our lives especially when there seems to be such a significant overlap between modes of communication in the personal realm, as well as the professional sphere?

These are just some of the nuggets I came back with. As difficult as it may be, I would urge you all to make the time and attend Interop or any event that allows you to be face to face with your audience. Personally speaking, it opened me up to an entirely new perspective and got me directly in front of the audience that I communicate with, in order for me to better communicate with them. I am sure your experience and interactions will be equally valuable, relevant, and fitting.