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Digital transformation strategy: The role of marketing and IT

Are you looking to jump-start your organization's digital transformation strategy? It usually begins with the marketing team, according to Don Schuerman, CTO at Pegasystems. Schuerman talked to SearchCIO at the Gartner Symposium in Orlando, Fla., about how marketing is frequently at the forefront of technology and digital transformation initiatives, and why collaboration between IT and marketing is key to a customer-focused approach. He also gave advice on advancing an organization's digital transformation strategy: Start small, get results and convince business leaders to invest in more transformative projects.

Where should IT executives start when thinking about their organization's digital transformation strategy?  

Don Schuerman: I think the first place to start is by getting an understanding of where you want to make an initial business impact to your organization. That may be improving the way that you engage customers, it may be in a particular channel, it may be in a particular aspect of the customer journey, [such as] retaining customers more effectively or selling better to the customers you actually have. Maybe it's more on the operational side, or the particular processes or particular areas of the business where you can drive efficiencies. Starting with that business impact and achieving some immediate success will help to build the appetite inside the organization to do the more transformative things that you need to do in terms of moving towards digital transformation. [That means] getting everybody across the organization not only thinking in a digital mindset and understanding the technologies, but also understanding the new pace of innovation that you need to have in order to keep up.    

How do marketing and IT collaborate on digital transformation?

Marketing is often the driving force that starts bringing these silos of data together.

Schuerman: I think the interesting thing is that, in many organizations that I work with and inside of Pega specifically, marketing is really out on the cutting edge of a lot of the digital transformation projects. There are lots of reports you can read that say the CMO's technology budget is starting to exceed the CIO's technology budget, depending on the organization. If you look at these new channels, whether it's digital advertising, whether it's mobility, whether it's new things like virtual systems and Chatbots; marketing often tends to be first on the field. There's a lot of appetite inside the marketing organization to jump and take advantage of these technologies. Marketing also has an appetite to drive a lot of the data consolidation and the data understanding that's necessary in order to start applying technologies like artificial intelligence, predictive analytics or real-time decision making.

So marketing, as I've seen inside of our organization and within other organizations we work with, is often the driving force that starts bringing these silos of data together into something that helps an organization better understand their end-to-end customer journey and an and-to-end view of their customers' perspective.  

How is Pega taking advantage of AI and machine learning?

Schuerman: In two ways. As a software vendor, we've been leveraging predictive analytics and machine-learning technology inside a product that we call the Customer Decision Hub for a number of years. We have organizations like Sprint, for example, that use Pega's technology to make real-time decisions at every customer interaction, and they're using that to have immediate business impact. [That includes] greatly reducing their customer churn -- the rate of customers that leave them -- and increasing their ability to retain customers and sell additional products to customers. We're using that exact same technology inside of our own business to help our salespeople better understand how to reach out to our customers. [We're also using that same technology] to help our marketing organizations that are running campaigns and demand generation to better understand the touch points and the aspects of the customer journey, and to have a real-time impact at every step of that customer journey. 

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