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It’s over 11 years since Coolpink popped into existence back in the heady days of the birth of the ‘web design’ industry and there’s been a lot of water under the bridge in that time. Today the sector feels as vibrant and new as it did back then. Today the news isn’t about websites, flash and HTML but about social, mobile, earned media, apps, gaming, Blippar, Pintrest, etc, etc. the list goes on and on and there is absolutely no sign of a slow down. Young, ambitions upstarts are diving in headlong, starting exciting new businesses springing into life to support all of these emerging markets.

With all of that in mind, now seems a good time to take the broad view of the last ten years or so and see if there is anything that we can learn that may give is some pointers as to the how all of this is going to pan out.

When we started out pre-2000 the worlds of marketing and technology were pretty well divided, with both parties eyeing each other with deep-seated skepticism and distrust. On the one hand you had the IT guys; stereotypically somewhat geeky types who you’d occasionally see shuffling about under a desk, plugging wires into things and generally avoiding social interaction wherever possible. It’s ok, I can say that; I sort of was one of them once upon a time; a long time ago.  Then we had our ‘fluffy’ marketing types; the creative team; all haircuts, trendy clothes and magic markers. The chances of this lot deciding of their own accord to get together in a room to create something useful to the business were pretty much non-existent.

And let’s get something straight. Those of us finding ourselves – presumably by accident – residing on the less glamorous, cool and trendy side of that fence were always jealous of those creative guys! What fun! Wearing jeans and a sweater to work? If you’ve ever wondered why some – not all – (ok most), IT guys are surly and miserable most of the time, don’t get angry, rather pity them and try to remember; it’s usually just some combination of self loathing, crushing boredom and jealousy causing them to behave in such a manner.

So, the stage is now set for the biggest coming together of the two most unlikely sets of business bedfellows since the Romans decided to put the lions and the Christians on the same bill.

Maybe I’m being overly facetious, but I think you see my point. IT despises marketing – particularly creative; meanwhile, marketing folks giggle at the geeks in IT with their 12-year-old-boy basin haircuts, super-hero ties and badly fitting grey trousers. Bingo. Enter the ‘world wide web’ and let the greatest bun-fight in corporate strategic history begin!

And therein lies the nub of the issue that, over the last 12 years, I’ve seen bring project after project crashing to a mangled, bloody, half-assed, badly-implemented, non-conclusion. Or in some cases never get out of the blocks at all.

One client’s internal teams spent 8 years arguing about how best to implement what they referred to as ‘eTrading’. So long in fact that our main point of contact eventually died – possibly on purpose, through sheer disillusionment – and we too eventually ended up resigning the account. I note – with just a hint of vitriol – that they still don’t appear to have ‘eTrading’ up and running today: approximately a further four years later.

How did this happen? Essentially the IT boys terrified the old school, conservative senior management team so badly about the possible security risks of trading online that the plan never got off the ground. And why? Because marketing were looking to outsource the project to a specialist ‘web development company’ (yes, us!) and IT wanted to keep it in house and build it themselves; presumably because it’s a lot more exiting (and better for the CV) to do that than crawling under desks plugging wires into things.

This is far from being the only example that I could discuss of internal IT/Marketing teams practically coming to fisticuffs over web related projects.

Sadly it hasn’t been much better when it comes to looking at the way that agencies have handled their approach to integrating web and digital into their client offerings either; time and time again its offline fighting online for share of the budget. Creative runs off with the brief and tries to do all the ‘fun stuff’ without consulting anyone from the digital side of the conversation until, at some late stage of the game, someone remembers to ask for a quote for ‘someone to build a website’.

Ok, I seem to have ended up getting my pants in a bit of a twist there – BUT – I guess I’ll I’m really saying is, isn’t it time that all of this stopped?

Fortunately I do believe that there is a new age about to dawn. Even my dear old mum, a committed technophobe at 67, is now online. So that’s pretty much ended any discussion about online penetration and demographics.

She watches TV to find out about things she may be interested in, has a poke about on line to do a bit of research and then maybe gets distracted and looks at a few photos of her grandson, or chats with one of her sisters on Facebook for a bit. Just yesterday she bid for – and won – a disability scooter on eBay! Yes, I’ll have to go pick it up in my car, so I guess that’s a true multichannel experience.

Conclusion:

Businesses – and agencies – have absolutely no choice but to rapidly remodel their entire communications strategy to become 100% customer centric and integrated. This means that we – agencies AND businesses – have to eliminate once and for all the petty inter-departmental rivalries of the past; commit to understanding our consumers real behavior patterns in this diverse, complex, multi channel world and get our thinking properly joined up from the outset if we are to stand any chance of keeping pace.

Top management challenge for 2012 and beyond: properly integrate the internal business structure in order to integrate your external communications strategy.

You cannot compete in today’s marketplace with one arm tied behind your back.

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