It seems as marketing technology recruiters that not a week goes by that we don’t hear about some major data breach, hack, or leak of sensitive data by a large business or organization. And that doesn’t include the thousands of similar, unreported smaller-scale disasters that happen on a constant basis.
There are any number of potential weak points in your business’s data security, and that number will only grow.
As Michael Dell, CEO of Dell recently said of his own business:
Thanks to new data gathering and analytics capabilities, many organizations now have more data than they know what to do with. Securing that data must be as big of a priority as finding ways to analyze and interpret it. Any kind of breach or abuse could lead to:
- A lost competitive edge
- A damaged brand and lost customer trust
- Lawsuits for negligence and potential damages
- Punishments for failure to comply with relevant regulations
The Conflicting Nature of Marketing and IT
Marketers often lack the advanced technical skills or practical know-how to safely make changes themselves or adopt best security practices. They perceive IT requirements as tedious or as burdensome inhibition of creativity.
Few marketing departments lack at least some members that fail to align to even the most basic security practices. Odds are good you’ve seen someone with a password scrawled on a post-it note, or leave their computer open an unlocked while away from their desk. Perhaps you yourself are guilty of using a predictable password, or using the same password on all of your accounts. It happens all the time–these procedures just don’t come naturally to professionals who have spent their careers focused on creativity, strategy, or analytics.
When marketing needs to move fast, IT processes slow things down. Marketing’s needs are rarely prioritized by IT departments with a long list of pressing demands from across the business. And when they’re finally addressed, most IT professionals aren’t trained to make changes and updates like a marketer would–with extreme consideration of user intent and experience.
That creates a relationship of resentment at best and outright contention at worst. It leads to fighting over resources, conflicts of jurisdiction, and finger-pointing when things go wrong.
Today’s marketers have access to unprecedented data: corporate records, sensitive customer information, internal strategy documents, proprietary documents, and more. That empowers them to make good decisions that drive ROI–but it also means any one of them could be the cause of a major security breakdown.
If it hasn’t already, your organization should take immediate action to plug up any holes in your marketing and protect the future of your business.
Starting at the Top
Data security is yet another responsibility falling in the CMO’s lap. Yes, IT should generally be leading big-picture security matters. And yes, the CMO should be collaborating closely with the head of IT. But it’s still ultimately up to the marketing chief to ensure their team is protecting their business’s and customers’ information.
A CMO needs to keep data security top of mind at all times, especially considering the amount of resources that need careful allocation and direction by a leader that understands where the money is going. With over 3,500 pieces of marketing technology available, and technology budgets coming to surpass those of CIOs this year, it’s all too easy to make a poor investment that increases security risks or wastes money.
CMO executive searches need to target individuals who have at least a basic understanding of security risks and data threats in marketing. Executives don’t need to be IT geniuses–they can always recruit a marketing technologist to help with the technical details. But they should at least have fundamental awareness of best practices and a priority on information safety. As CMO tenure trends downward, replacement hires need to be increasingly tech and security-savvy.
Take Responsibility In-House
Marketing operations are frequently scattered among various external agencies. You might have your website managed by one agency, your email marketing and database by another, and so on. All these third parties–and your connections with them–are potential points of exposure. And even in scenarios where you’re sure your own organization is operating under IT best practices, it’s difficult to guarantee your vendors and partners are operating under the same rigor.
Many businesses are already looking at ways to bring their fragmented marketing back in-house or insourcing their marketing agencies. Doing so offers a variety of advantages, but most importantly for this situation it centralizes control of security matters and leaves fewer loose threads that could lead to a breach.
Establishing marketing recruitment policies that focus on professionals that understand and appreciate the importance of data security is a good place to start reinforcing your organization. Periodic training and updates on best practices can be invaluable because security risks grow and evolve along with marketing technology. You may even want to consider bringing in IT marketing staffing resources so that your marketing doesn’t have to rely on IT to operate fully.
Expectation and Priority Management
Acting fast in marketing is increasingly important. But moving quickly while disregarding security protocols is like going over the speed limit with your seatbelt unbuckled. It’s only a matter of time before you get pulled over–or worse.
Make sure project managers, team leaders and key stakeholders are incorporating time for proper security best practices and protocols to be enacted into their plans and deadlines.
It’s ok for your marketing team to feel pressure and work with a sense of urgency. It’s NOT fine for them to be cutting corners on information safety because a manager is pushing them to act hastily.