IT versus marketing: Why blame culture is causing retailers’ budgets to go down the drain

IT versus marketing: Why blame culture is causing retailers’ budgets to go down the drain
Kevin Murray is managing director of Greenlight Commerce and has over 15 years' experience of running projects in the technology, eCommerce and omnichannel retail space.

To thrive in the fast-paced, cut-throat environment that is eCommerce, retailers must be agile and able to adapt and transform quickly when technological advances or customer trends demand it. The market is filled with stiff competition, and as we continue to shift into an increasingly customer-centric landscape, where personalised experiences have quickly become the bread and butter of today’s eCommerce sites, retailers are investing in projects that help them to meet customer demands and remain competitive.

Without a doubt, digital has completely revolutionised the way we shop. However, one quick glance at the daily headlines, and it’s clear to see that apart from a few exceptions, the British retail sector is struggling to keep pace. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by Greenlight Commerce, British retailers are wasting on average £178,000 in failed eCommerce budget because projects are not being properly planned or implemented correctly, with some retailers (3%) revealing they had wasted up to £3m.

Retailers are right to invest in projects which strengthen their competitive position, however the path to success is rarely straightforward, and it’s unrealistic to assume that projects won’t have a few unforeseen bumps along the way. But when failure does creep in, it’s easy to point the finger.

No one wants the responsibility of huge financial losses that arise from failed projects hanging over their heads. However, it seems this lack of accountability is having a detrimental effect on the efficiency of UK retail businesses.

The internal blame game costing thousands

So, who’s to blame when problems arise? According to the study of 100 UK based eCommerce decision-makers within the retail sector, there’s a lack of internal honesty and responsibility as to who, precisely, should own up to poor project delivery.

Put bluntly, IT blames marketing (30%), and marketing believe it’s the IT department who’s at fault (26%). Intriguingly, respondents said that 14% of their wasted project budget will be down to ‘poor project planning’ yet, 13% because of ‘poor project execution’ – suggesting that both sides may need to take responsibility here.

Despite the internal war waging within retail businesses between IT teams and marketing departments, ultimately this is a problem for the C-suite, the overall leadership of the company. Yet, the study revealed that only 15% blamed senior management for project failure.

The C-suite should encourage a culture where eCommerce is viewed as everyone’s problem, and therefore everyone’s opportunity. With so much competition outside of the business, it’s crucial that interdepartmental teams work in collaboration and shift away from this toxic silo mentality that’s clearly hindering business success. 

The study further revealed that when it comes to hitting key objectives, 18% of marketing and 11% of IT teams expect to miss all key objectives in 2019. With more than three quarters of all retailers (76%) planning to increase the number of eCommerce projects in 2019, there is a need to look at how retailers can bridge the disjoint within the organisation and ensure that both departments address and rectify these problems before any more money ultimately goes down the drain.

Success starts with a clear business case

Another startling insight from the data is that retailers expect 30% of all their eCommerce efforts to give them back no value whatsoever. It’s hard to see how this is acceptable in any other part of a retail business, let alone in a project management context.

The long and short of it is before beginning any project, there should be a convincing, comprehensive and transparent business case attached to it. If there isn’t a concrete reason as to why and how the project will positively impact the business, then it’s perhaps not the right time to proceed until there is.

The business case should clearly define what the transformed state of the business will look like and include key metrics to benchmark success. If this isn’t properly captured, and a clear finish line is never really drawn, it’s near impossible to measure if the project has achieved what it was initially set out to accomplish for the business.

Such a business case should also be signed off by all relevant stakeholders, who agree to work together to deliver the work in the appropriate timeframe set out in the plan. Timelines can often be unrealistic and unattainable, however with smart and diligent planning, retailers can ensure they have the necessary resourcing needed to deliver the project on time, on budget and to the standard required. By minimising risk, retailers can focus on maximising results to ensure that all their eCommerce effort is truly adding value to the business.

Resolving the rift between departments

The harsh reality is that retailers have become so demotivated about their eCommerce work that only 20% of respondents in IT roles believe that projects were excellently executed. It’s time for senior management to step up and ensure the rift between IT and marketing is resolved and resources properly allocated between different departments to drive business success.

Maybe then, we can end the shocking situation where an average of £178,000 in eCommerce budget is essentially being thrown away and begin to have faith in the eCommerce initiatives retailers are investing in.

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Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.  

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