Martech and the marketer/developer relationship: Why collaboration can be possible

Martech and the marketer/developer relationship: Why collaboration can be possible Dominik Angerer is CEO and co-founder of headless CMS platform Storyblok.

Lennon and McCartney, Gates and Allen, Watson and Crick. History is replete with fantastic partnerships. Unfortunately, if you were to believe some of the discourse around the marketing industry, this list will never include the dynamic duo of ‘marketing and developers’. Apparently, the two professions are just too different in outlook, culture and objectives to work well together.

I recently read how headless CMS adoption has apparently been inhibited due to a ‘battle for control’ between developers and marketers. Allegedly, headless CMS made things better for developers at the expense of marketers. The article’s conclusion is that if you want agile CMS, you can’t use headless CMS. The more you read, the more you learn that many of the ills in martech come down to the animosity between these two teams.

Of course, we all know that is a gross exaggeration. There is no huge global rivalry. Indeed, I created Storyblok with the goal of developing a solution that would enable marketers and developers to collaborate together. This is why I know there does not need to be a trade off between using agile CMS or adopting any particular technology. In fact, headless CMS works best with the support of agile capabilities. The root of the problem is one of legacy systems, processes and policies that have created siloed marketing departments and outdated thinking. 

A marketing department can often suffer from being isolated from the rest of a business. Content is created, pushed out on the right channels, its impact analysed and knowledge gained used to refine the approach. Marketing channel owners create, and orchestrate their own content for their own purposes. Usually, the only insights shared with the wider business is the impact of specific campaigns. This silioing is also a two way street. In many instances the wider business uses completely different technology platforms that are not integrated into the marketing department, knowledge and content is only shared on an ad hoc basis and marketers have little visibility on what other departments are working on.

Having a siloed marketing department breeds a lot of problems. There is often duplication of content, the creation of single points of failure (for example in website management), compartmentalisation of data and a lack of transparency. This adds up to unnecessary expenditure, inefficiencies and, yes, the failure to make the most of new martech. 

The poor communication between marketing and the wider business can also be the genesis of cultural issues which perpetuate the ‘marketing vs developer’ myth. It’s easy to see how this happens when managing new technology. If you have a structurally isolated marketing department where its aims, objectives and working practices are obscured from other business functions – such as development – there will naturally be friction.

The developers will not understand the ‘why’ behind a lot of what the marketers are asking them to do. Nor will the marketers appreciate the ‘how’ of what will be involved in their requests to the developers. There can be questions over ownership, bottlenecks and wildly differing priorities. The result is that the tech solution does not run efficiently or, because of a lack of cross-departmental skills, it isn’t used to its full capability. 

So what’s the answer to this problem? Well, as we’ve discussed, one school of thought is that any technology that requires a high degree of collaboration between marketing and development is doomed to fail, so a business should avoid it at all costs. Not only is that a defeatist attitude, it also doesn’t solve the range of other issues I have outlined. Technology needs to work for every team, whether that’s creating, editing and managing content or building scalable, fast performing experiences.

The only real answer therefore is to tear down the silo walls. This means enacting cultural, structural and skills based change. Decision making on tech use within a marketing department has to be shared with the wider business, particularly the data, development and IT teams, and, vice versa. Knowledge and data needs to be integrated so that information sharing is not reliant on meetings, emails and Excel spreadsheets. This also means having a unified and consistent approach to data governance to make information both accessible and usable across a business. 

Ideally, a marketing department evolves into a truly multidisciplinary function. With data scientists, architects, developers and IT specialists all working hand-in-hand with the various marketing specialists. This doesn’t just mean having them sit around the same part of the office and attend the same meetings, it means training or hiring so that skills are shared. Marketers gain a working knowledge of data science and IT issues, and those specialists learn how different marketers work. The result is the needs, expectations and aims of different functions of a business are better understood by the people within them. 

In short, if you want to avoid the ‘battle for control’ between marketers and developers, ensure they are both playing on the same team. As with any great partnership, the individuals become greater than the sum of their parts.

Read the alternative viewpoint: Forget headless: Why agile CMS delivers the goods for marketing teams

Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash

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