Do you really want your CMO in charge of IT?

Every time I hear that more IT spending will flow through the marketing department than through CIOs in the future, I get visions of expensive PowerPoint-toting suits designating their server of choice. It’s an odd picture.

On Tuesday, the Gartner(s it) projection that in five years, the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO, cropped up several times at’s(s crm) Dreamforce show. No wonder,  the company launched its new Social Marketing Cloud based on its Buddy and Radian6 acquisitions. But those mentions prompted an impromptu Twitter poll about whether it’s a good idea to have CMOs buying IT. The results were mixed.

Several respondents pushed a collaborative approach.  A better — and harder — way to attack overall corporate IT is to get all the departments working together, said GigaOM Pro analyst Jo Maitland. Clearly an optimist.

Others said situation will vary by company. Dana Gardner, principal analyst at InterArbor Solutions, expects that IT buying power will still be somewhat centralized but in some cases the IT person will learn more about marketing to help drive those decisions. In others, the marketing guys will get more IT-savvy. “It all depends who’s in the driver’s seat,” he said.

Marketing IT is not CIO IT

As always, a lot depends on definitions. If “IT” means the servers, storage, routers and databases that sit in a company’s data center, then no CMO makes that call. But the truth is, more spending is devoted to off-premises “cloud” services, including software as a service (SaaS). And in that case, it makes sense for the manager of a given department to help choose which services are used. And that, clearly, is what SaaS vendors like are banking on.

“I see many CMOs using cloud-based services for marketing automation, response analytics, reputation management, content management, social media marketing and even application development,” said Andi Mann, a former analyst who is now VP of strategic solutions for CA(s ca).

The thought is, marketing departments should use the tools that help them market and not bog IT down in those decisions.

BYOD raises its head. Again.

But that decentralization of IT spending by departments can lead to problems and perhaps an over-proliferation of SaaS services bought by different departments that should be consolidated to save money.

The whole BYOD wave is also making itself felt as sales and marketing departments allocate money for iPads or other tablet and smartphones of the employee’s choice.

The problem, as has been widely reported, is providing secure  network  and data access to those myriad devices. That’s where old-school, unsung central IT comes in.  It’s fine that marketing organizations want to give their people the best tools — what gets complicated is when those tools impact the overall company infrastructure.

At that point, it still seems to me that one central authority –the CIO? CFO? CEO? — needs to rationalize all that.

As Mann points out:

Bottom line – for most orgs, marketing is just another business unit, and like all business units it is spending its own budget in part on directly acquiring technology. Just like finance, production, executive, operations, and others are. Gartner and IDC numbers both show technology spending outpacing IT departmental budgets, so that ‘extra’ technology budget must be going somewhere. I think it is going into ‘rogue IT’ spend by these business units — marketing included.

And that thought should give everyone pause.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock user Helder Almeida