Have the Webmasters moved into marketing?

Those of us who survived the boom and bust of the original Dot-com bubble will recall how the term ‘Webmaster’ was bandied about on job adverts. Webmaster job adverts usually had a single unifying feature; they all contained a huge variety of skills that the Webmaster had to have.

If you knew HTML, PHP, ASP, Java, SQL Server, MySQL, IIS, Apache, Oracle, Dreamweaver, Javascript, Flash, Photoshop, SEO, and other assorted technologies and techniques, then you could claim to be a fully-fledged Webmaster. You were part of a brave new world in which the geek shall inherit the earth, and your place was very definitely chained (metaphorically speaking, of course) to a cubicle somewhere deep in the bowels of the IT Department.

You don’t see many adverts for Webmasters anymore. But as a species, they are still out there. And they’ve changed job title. And departments. Now, those generalist Webmasters who used to be working in IT, are likely now working in Marketing.

As the Internet matured, so did the tools for creating and managing a corporate digital marketing footprint. It’s become much easier for marketing teams to draw together for themselves a set of tools with minimal help from a dedicated IT team.

Marketing executives are – rightly, in my opinion – increasingly gaining the confidence to initiate and lead projects that in the past would have fallen to IT. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) projects, content managed web sites, social and mobile campaigns, mass emailing platforms, are all examples that come to mind here.

Indications are that advertising spend will pick up in 2013 and that a large part of increased marketing budgets will be invested into digital marketing technology. Recent Gartner analysis has predicted that by2017 the CMO will be spending more on IT than the CIO.

Whilst corporate IT teams, in general, aspire to be creative in the solutions to the problems that their business throws up, it’s actually those cool cats over in Marketing that are expected to generate and deliver the initial spark of creativity. It has always been the role of IT to support business needs, to enable all other business functions to, well, function.

Corporate IT focus may have shifted recently towards managing cloud-based services, Big Data, and figuring out how to replace all those legacy BlackBerries. But sales and marketing teams don’t want to sit around waiting for the website to be updated by the IT team. They want to do it themselves. And they know that the tools exist to specifically deliver what they need.

This is not to say that marketing teams are going rampant with software design and development, or that they are seeking to undercut or undermine the IT team. There should always be consultation and collaboration between Marketing and IT teams, not to mention the wider business, although the driving force behind that collaboration has changed in some organisations, and will change in many more over the coming few years.

IT professionals need to come to terms with the fact that technology has matured to the point where a marketing team could, in theory at least, commission and maintain a great deal of IT-related services and products , sidestepping the traditional enterprise IT role altogether. Never mind Bring Your Own (BYO) laptops, what about BYO CRM? BYO mobile apps? BYO CMS?

The flip side of the coin is that the budget for all these projects will have to be justified by the marketing department. In a downturn, the IT budget is traditionally one of the first to feel the pinch. If marketing professionals are recognising the value of investing in technology solutions and are allocating budget towards them, this can only be a Good Thing.

Webmasters are still around. They’ve evolved a broad set of skills that aren’t so focused anymore on underlying technologies, but on making the most out of the right software tools and techniques that enable sales and marketing operations. And now, it seems they live in the Marketing Department. Some of them don’t even know they are Webmasters. But they are. And they are part of a brave new world.

This post was originally published on icreon.co.uk

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