Accenture has just issued a study that makes the case for closer cooperation between the IT and marketing departments within insurance companies.

If only they could speak the same language, we could get somewhere. Marketers are typically creative, right-brained types that pride themselves on thinking outside of the box. IT people, on the other hand, like to spend their time thinking about the boxes – the server boxes, that is.

The ability of people from these two key areas of the business to work together may make or break their company's fortunes in this era of heightened competition.

The study's author, Michael Costonis, executive director of Accenture’s insurance practice for North America, says the convergence point between IT and marketing is seen in the emerging digital marketing scene – a key driver of insurance industry growth going forward. “As much as digital channels have revolutionized insurance distribution, it has also had a profound effect on advertising and marketing,” he observes. “Traditional advertising channels and tactics, from radio and television advertising to direct mail, struggle against the new opportunities available with digital channels.”

Digital marketing needs IT's involvement, Costonis says. It's all about the ability to manage and process all the data that is flowing through carriers' organizations. “IT can deliver tools for data aggregation, customer segmentation and advanced analytics to support marketing’s strategies, tactics and campaigns. For marketing to improve customer relevance and drive profitability, they need to be able to extract customer and market data, and translate it into insight about business opportunities, customer segments and long-term strategy,” he says. To accomplish this, “marketers must have a more prominent role during discussions about data and how it is used,” he advocates.

Accenture interviewed more than 300 marketing and 300 IT executives for the study. Marketing and IT executives do agree on a couple of things: that “technology now underpins and shapes the entire customer experience” (65 percent of CIOs, 50 percent of CMOs), and “access to customer insight and intelligence is critical to competitive advantage” (55 percent of CMOs, 53 percent of CIOs). So there is some common ground to start from.

Both see challenges ahead as well. For example, both marketing and IT executives agree that their organizations suffer from “insufficient funding for digital marketing” (59 percent of CMOs, 62 percent of CIOs). And many on both sides seem to agree that there is a “lack of understanding of [digital marketing] opportunities from senior management” – cite by 46 percent of both CMOs and CIOs.

However, they don't agree on how much support IT is [providing right now to marketing. At least 46 percent of CMOs complained about “insufficient support from internal IT' as an issue, versus only 18 percent of CIOs. However, the survey reports, IT has a different view of the situation as 39 percent of IT executives believe that solution complexity adds to the pain. “There is resistance from marketing—they are not technology knowledgeable,” said one IT respondent.

Accenture's Costonis recommends five steps to develop a greater alignment and understanding between the two groups:

Develop a tolerance for ambiguity

Move decisions from the conference room to the boardroom

Rethink investment approaches

Don’t mine customer data—engineer it

Rethink talent management models

A long journey remains ahead to bring these two sides together, but it's a start.

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Joe using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at joe@mckendrickresearch.com.

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

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