Look around your company and observe: What functional areas are more or less "automated" by software? Almost all functional areas—manufacturing, finance, customer service, human resources, sales and many others—have benefited by years or decades of functional applications availability.
Has marketing been left behind?
Marketing is the last major functional organization to receive the benefit of automation. One reason for this is that it has been difficult for the development community to "capture" the mechanics of marketing activity and turn that into software code. Compared to other functions, marketing is more capricious in its activities. Work gets done, but much of the activity does not follow a predictable cycle or rhythm to execution. Compare the activity of the CMO to that of the CFO. The CFO needs to close the financial books on the same day and in the same way, every quarter. This basic process, keystroke by keystroke, is much the same in virtually every company. No surprise that the development of financial applications began decades ago.
Today, marketing automation software is the fastest growing of the functional CRM applications categories, which include marketing automation, sales automation, customer service and contact center, projected to grow at a projected 8.2% CAGR over the next five years (compare this with the market for all software applications, expected to grow at 6.2% over the same period). The market is characterized by pent-up demand and a need for automation, particularly in the newly evolving areas of analytics and social marketing.
Why the sudden rush? What has been the catalyst for the rise of the marketing automation software suite?
The main catalyst is the customer. Or what we at IDC like to call the "New Buyer". Our customers and prospects today are crafting their own routes to learning about products and services. They are motivated and skilled at educating themselves and learning from peers. They travel through numerous digital pathways in their exploration process. And, they leave a flood of new "big data" wakes in the trail of these activities.
Marketers' unilateral actions to attain automation in the pursuit of this New Buyer have involved combining internal data with the incredibly vast range of new external data sources. From an IT professional's point of view, both scenarios are not particularly pleasant. Inter-mixing the company's internal IT environment with a continuous stream of external data from a seemingly endless source of new
suppliers raises issues of data security and organizational data integrity.
The sheer challenge and complexity of this challenge requires that CIOs now actively participate in the marketing automation decision process.
In IDC's view, this is the real opportunity for CIOs—working with their CMO counterparts and guiding them through the "governance" process. IDC believes that to the extent the CIOs are able to facilitate and enable the marketing automation process through the organization's governance process, they will have done their jobs.
It is no longer a question of whether or not a marketing function will embrace these new tools and technologies— it is a question of how and when. The answers to these questions could directly impact the overall organization's success. It is incumbent upon CIOs to bring their (sometimes) avant-garde, entrepreneurial marketing colleagues into the fold by helping them navigate the labyrinth of new issues they will be confronting, including IT security, data management and data-privacy compliance issues.