Welcome to the land of digital disruption, where the C-Suite isn't occupied by company brass anymore -- it's the customers calling the shots.

And these customers could be making decisions without ever laying an eye on a single piece of content that marketers produce. Instead they’ll discover products and services and learn about their features and benefits from trusted friends on social networks, internet search and review services like Yelp, and crowdsourcing on sites like Twitter, where all you have to do is search for an item to discover how people are experiencingit right now.

This could be every CIO’s, CMO’s and CEO’snightmare because their companies don’t have a voice in their own game; in other words, they’ve not only lost control, but also the ability to convey information and influence.

Customers are (now) firmly in charge of your brand,” says Darryl McDonald, President of Teradata Applications. “They’re using technology to take ownership of the crucial spot where your brand meets the marketplace,” he adds.

It’s worth noting, there’s no fear in McDonald's voice as he speaks.

Do We Really Want Customers Managing Brands?

There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle, so the answer to this question had better be yes.

Besides, yesterday’s marketing concepts don’t work in today’s world, points out McDonald, “Customers don’t want to be 'Targets' at whom we 'Launch' 'Campaigns.'“

He argues that instead they might like to be listened to, delighted and engaged.

Marketing and IT Must Work Together to Have a Voice in Customer Conversations

And for this to happen companies need to be social, “We’ve got to strike up conversations, solicit and act on real time feedback, and build emotional relationships,” says McDonald.

Marketing can’t do this without technology and data. As things stand now, Gartner predicts that Marketing will spend more on technology than IT.

This could sound like danger for IT, but McDonald sees it as a huge opportunity: IT’srole can become more vital to the company than it is today. But for that to happen it has to focus less on protecting its turf and more on partnering with Marketing by providing integrated data warehouses, big data analytics and integrated marketing solutions. McDonald says that these are the pillars of something Teradata calls "Data Driven Marketing."

The building blocks (integrated data warehouses, big data analytics and integrated marketing solutions) are finally in place for a golden bridge linking Marketing and IT in ways that will benefit their companies, customer and careers,” says McDonald.

And, dear reader, you might note the last C-word in that statement. The success of the IT and Marketing relationship is going to impact you on a very personal level; the role you play in making it work (or fail) can present you with stellar opportunities andhelp you soar to new professional heights.

Reaping the Rewards of Marketing Integration

Gartner projects that companies that integrate people, processes and technology with Data Driven Marketing will deliver 50 percent higher returns on marketing investment than companies that don’t.

Imagine being part of a team that makes that happen. There are people who already are.

McDonald says that that Intel integrated all ofits marketing across 25 countries and, as a result, generated an extra $50 million in sales; that Halfords, a top retailer in the U.K., generated weekly sales at 120 percent of the cost of Marketing Investment; and that the International Speedway Corporation, which runs 12 NASCARor Stock Car racing tracks around the U.S., cut its time to market by 50 percent while growing successful email campaigns 400 percent.

Learning Opportunities

Imagine being a part of the team that makes that happen.

The Pivotal Moment Is Right Here, Right Now

Now imagine being part of a team that misses this boat.

Think about the music industry, the record industry, book stores, magazines and Kodak. Think about stores like Best Buy, who suffer from showrooming, where customers come into stores to look at products and then use their phones to find the best price.

Or how 3-D printers are impacting manufacturing: “3-D printers now make designer sunglasses, electric guitars and even human body parts,” says McDonald.

No matter who you are, or where you work, the digital revolution will impact you.

If you’re in IT or Marketing, you’re in a hot spot that can be sweet or bitter -- it’s your call.

"Smart people in Marketing and IT are creating their own disruption using customers as catalysts and beneficiaries,” saysMcDonald.

The digital revolution is here, there’s no doubt about it. The question is, will it disrupt your industry, your company and your life, or will you disrupt yourself first … so that you can take advantage of, rather than fall victim to, the changes that are happening?

Want to know how to get started in self-disruption? (Or have you already? If so, our ears are open.)

McDonald gave us some great ideas and step-by-step instructions on how companies and individuals can disrupt themselves.We’re going to share them with you ... but you’ll have to wait until later this week to see what they are.