Everyone's probably heard of the prisoner's dilemma, but not everyone understands it. 

The very abbreviated version — and what is relevant for this post — is that two individuals make choices about whether to take an action that best serves their individual interest (confess) or that of the collective (stay silent). 

Allow me to illustrate the marketing and digital experience version of the prisoner’s dilemma (apologies in advance to any theorists or mathematicians who might read this):

  • A digital marketer and a digital experience professional (typically in IT or web group) both have separate meetings with the executive team about the state of the brand’s online web presence, which isn’t as good as it could be
  • If they both claim the digital experience is just fine as it is, both of their budgets stay put
  • If the marketer blames the the DX pro for the shortcomings while DX says nothing, some of the DX budget will move to marketing. The opposite is true as well
  • If they both admit that things could be better, the CEO will increase their budgets equally, predicated on the delivery of a better experience which requires working together.

What Would Happen in Your Company?

I’ve seen first-hand the combat between marketing and DX that has heated up over the last couple of years, as traditional IT-led functions grapple with a transformation geared towards serving customers and delivering a best-in-class brand experience. 

All the while marketers have spent the last five to 10 years amassing a roster of built-for-purpose solutions that reduce IT involvement and let marketing do its thing faster and more independently. The fact that firms like Forrester have essentially renamed web content management and similar tools “digital experience delivery” to elevate these functions illustrates the tension that exists today.

Case for Collaboration

The Case for Collaboration

So what to do? Common sense probably points everyone to scenario three, where, by virtue of collaborating, everyone gets more budget to do things that help the business by serving the end-customer. 

But both sides of this battle have some pretty entrenched points-of-view (and pricey existing investments), so my reasonably informed hunch is that most would go in and make a case for why their department is better suited to leading this initiative. 

Here’s my case for collaboration:

Both perspectives are hugely valuable

Let’s not pretend that one department can claim to have the wealth of institutional knowledge necessary for a massive endeavor like your brand’s entire digital presence. So many pieces factor into this: site architecture, data collection, content and message delivery, analytics, etc. 

By bringing — at the very least — marketing and DX groups together to plan for how to design, implement and maintain an initiative of this scale, you’re far more likely to identify and address issues earlier on in the process, saving the hassle of time, resources and budget.

Business and technology requirements have to be addressed equally 

If we’re being fair, marketers tend to prioritize usability and functionality over other priorities that a technologist would throw into the mix: redundancy, security and implementation requirements to name a few. By putting all of these topics on the table from the get-go and building an RFP accordingly, everyone will have contributed and compromised, thus setting the stage for a more productive decision-making process.

The more budget, the better 

Am I right or am I right? If both departments get additional funds for working on this, it’s hard to see the downside (unless people get greedy) to a collaborative approach here. More dollars spent wisely will help bring to life the single best digital experience out there — rather than competing visions trying to co-habitate on your .com or fractured ownership by channel.

Break down the prisoner’s dilemma and get to work!

Title image Siobhan Fagan