Meet the Chief Markitecht at Symantec

Bala KudaravalliWith always-on, empowered customers and the rapid pace of business, understanding and strategically using technology across your marketing and communications efforts is more essential than ever. To make this strategy a reality, marketing and tech teams need to collaborate (Don’t worry, not another goofy article about the CMO vs. the CIO!). Out of this new world a critical role is emerging to help bridge the gap and bring these disciplines together. Whether you label the role as “marketing technologist” or some such title, it requires a focus on business and marketing process, a passion for data and marketing, a player-coach mindset, and a solid understanding of technology architecture.
Recently, Harvard Business Review featured a spotlight article titled “The Rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist”, co-authored by Scott Brinker and Laura McLellan. As a CMO, I first hired this position in 2010 to add both high level, transformational thinking and to help execute the vision. I like to call it the “Chief Markitecht”.

To get the scoop on this role, I sat down and bantered with Bala Kudaravalli, Symantec’s IT Marketing Architect/Technologist, around 3 BIG questions. Bala is working with his colleagues on global marketing transformation around how marketing gets created, delivered and measured at Symantec. I wanted to know just what a “Markitecht” does and other interesting tidbits about how this emerging post helps marketers and catapults them on the road to data-driven marketing.

Q: You’re out to dinner with a good friend whom you haven’t seen for a while. How do you describe your “marketing meets IT” role to your pal?

Bala: I own the creation and execution of the Marketing Technology vision that will enable our customer journeys across multiple channels for the global B2B, Small Business & B2C customers - in collaboration with a fantastic cross-functional team of stakeholders from Marketing, Sales & Mktg Operations and IT.

Additionally, I see myself as an evangelist, an influencer and a negotiator. An evangelist because I’m trying to introduce marketers to what is possible with new tech, have them try out new innovations and get them to buy-in to the overall vision of leveraging technology as a competitive differentiator. I’m an influencer because I need to gain trust of the marketers, exhibit a high degree of subject matter expertise and share experiences on how adopting new technologies can shape marketers’ roles and help them be more effective. I’m a negotiator because I have to come up with a viable solution that works for all stakeholders – whose priorities & interests might not be aligned. Typical tradeoff ‘s are around standardization of processes, sequencing of what to do when and span of control on technologies.

Q: How did the IT architect role come about at Symantec?

Bala: There were three factors that influenced creation of this role.

1) External/Industry – The fundamental shift in consumer behavior where people are in more control of the information they want to receive. The rise of inbound marketing where there is greater emphasis on creating interest, gaining trust and building relationships with prospective customers compared to pushing products and services. The increased role of marketing in the sales cycle due to technological innovations – according to Sirius Decisions, in today’s world sales does not get involved until more than halfway through the buying cycle and according to the Pedowitz group sales still generates over 50% of leads when they could be working on qualified opportunities.

2) Internal – Since two years, operational efficiency has been an area of focus at Symantec. Within Marketing we operate multiple technology stacks to support our business and they were put in place quite some time back or inherited through acquisitions. There was recognition that the technologies available to our marketers were rudimentary and quite complex, they were limiting the ways in which we reach our prospects and customers. This was a perfect opportunity for us to simplify the tech landscape.

3) Personally - Around the same time I had just finished my MBA with a focus on hi-tech marketing & go-to market strategies. Coming out of graduate school and in career conversations with my manager I expressed interest to work on marketing technologies.

The three factors came together and that’s how this role evolved.

Q: Could you break down your typical day as a Chief Markitecht? What are the things you focus on?

Bala: It can appear chaotic but it is fun and rewarding if you enjoy working on diverse technical, business focused or operations topics. A typical day could start with working on the social strategy and its fit into the overall tech vision, followed by a technical working session on the customer data center (data platform) and the role of predictive analytics, followed by a review of the nurture campaign flow of an upcoming campaign, followed by a trial ware solution design session which in turn could be followed by checking-in and providing guidance to the implementation teams and or meeting with stakeholders across geographies on sales & marketing alignment. I end up wearing multiple hats – strategist, solution designer, architect, manager etc.; these roles will change depending on where we are in the technology maturity cycle. Six months from now my answer could be very different. I also spend time researching industry trends, evaluating new technologies and vendors and I expect that these are core activities that will be on going.

At the end of the day, my job is to develop a common vision, gain alignment across all stakeholders and deliver data and technology-driven solutions that have a material contribution to the business.

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