How Marketers Can Learn to Speak “IT”

Modern Marketing


One of my first jobs was as an IT administrator at a tech company. I thought of myself as the technology sheriff. I policed the policies. I secured the security. But more importantly, I made life hard for people like you.

And by “people like you,” I mean people who weren’t in IT. People in sales, people in marketing. You snuck in unauthorized smartphones. You stored files on thumb-drives and somehow misplaced them. You asked me to open firewall ports because you had “important stuff” to do online. You asked if you could use your Mac because “PCs are hard”.

data security comic

Take a look at this cartoon. On one side of the ring, we’ve got our impenetrable security infrastructure. On the other side of the ring, we have a guy named Dave. Dave, with nothing stronger than human error, has the power to completely topple that infrastructure.

In short, this cartoon illustrates why I hated non-IT people (and possibly why I have anger issues today). I said always no, but people like Dave did it anyway. But soon I got an entirely different perspective when I quit IT…and went into marketing.

Shortly after, I had my first epiphany: I didn’t hate non-IT people. I hated myself. I was bad IT.

The Marketing/IT Divide

Now that I’m on the other side, I realize that people in sales and marketing don’t do all those things to spite IT. We do them because IT doesn’t give us the right tools. Back in my IT job, I wasn’t a sheriff — I was a bully who made everyone avoid me. It became a game of cat and mouse. Departments kept bringing in their own tools, but I kept adding roadblocks to make it harder for them to use those tools.

Next, I had my second epiphany: Why the heck didn’t sales and marketing just tell me what they wanted?

On the marketing team, we deal with IT for one of two reasons: 1) something doesn’t work, or 2) we need to update our technology. When it comes to situation number #1, we’re pretty much at IT’s mercy. But for #2, it’s all too easy to bypass IT altogether – especially if there’s a communication problem between the two teams. But implementing tech that hasn’t been approved by IT leads to huge problems down the line.

So here’s my advice for dealing with bad IT: Communicate. But if you’re like Dave in the cartoon, you might not know how to “speak IT.”

Learning to Speak IT

Here are three easy steps to get IT on your side.

  1. Explain objectives. Tell IT what you’re trying to accomplish to help them understand application requirements. IT will map your objectives to theirs and create a two-way checklist. During the selection process IT will send that checklist in the form of a “Request for Information or Proposal” to your preferred vendors.
  2. Handling objections. This step is tricky. Your automatic reaction when IT says “no” is to ignore them. Resist the urge — this will save you headache down the road when you need technical help because “something broke”. Understand why IT is pushing back. Usually it’s an integration or security concern. Sometimes the objective can be handled with a workaround. But other times, the solution is just a horrible fit and you need to find an alternative.
  3. Bribery. But not with cash — with respect. IT are people too. They have the most thankless job of the company. When everything goes right, IT goes unnoticed. When something goes wrong, IT gets the blame. Go thank them with a beer for creating solutions that DO make your lives easier, and maybe next time they’ll be much more inclined to help you look for that next solution.
  4. Speak their language. When IT is evaluating new technology, they want to first understand how it aligns with their existing architecture in place. How does it scale? Does it pass the security standards and practices that have been established? How is data privacy handled? Demo sizzle aside, how much development effort will it take to implement the technology? Ensure that your technology provider is able to answer these questions in a clear, succinct, and proactive manner.  This will go a long way to getting IT’s buy-in on and support with new technologies.

So whether you’re looking for design tools, online file sharing, or marketing automation, don’t bypass IT. Instead, explain your objectives, listen to their feedback, treat them with respect, and speak their language. Believe it or not, IT’s job is to help you be more productive. If they don’t understand what you’re looking for, they’ll implement what’s familiar to them, which you probably won’t end up using, which will then become shelfware, which breeds bad, angry IT like me.