Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

IT Matters?

There appears to be some debate about the role of IT in business.

It's something of a moot point in these fast-changing times, but the key phrase is sustainable competitive advantage. It is this which is the strategic goal of any business and one on which marketing has a central impact because it is essentially only achievable via lower cost or differentiation. The latter is sometimes seen as a product of marketing in its misunderstood sense, (i.e promotion/advertising) but it is also very much to do with the product itself and here I agree with the geeks that IT can be a source of sustainable competitive advantage. Ironically, however, it is dependent on exactly the type of patent protection over which many peer to peer inovations have ridden roughshod.

If you have unique IT processes or products that are protected by patent, then you have estabished definite barriers to entry for your potential competition. But this is not the product of IT per se, it's just IT as a product or facilitating infrastructure - customers use your product or service because of the efficiency of the IT involved. It is a defining product/service attribute.

But if it's not patent protected (and it was interesting to hear Nathan Myhrvold recently remind us that most Silicon Valley firms implicitly, if not explicitly, forbid their technologists from checking whether their work is infringing anyone's IP rights) then IT is just a vital business lubricant. If you dont have it in place, you may be at a competitive disadvantage but the converse does not apply.

Many geeks, as I have written before, mistrust marketing and I sometimes wonder if this lies behind the attempts to improve the status of IT. We do all the work but these huckstering marketing types misrepresent us. But the fact remains, marketing will always be crucial to business because it is the way you connect your product/service to your customers and ultimately it's all about the customers.

Rather than rail against marketing, IT people have to engage in some marketing of their own in order to demsytify what they do and highlight the significant contribution they make to success in tech and non-tech ventures.

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