Why Your Creative Team Should Join Forces with IT: An Interview with Techdept's CEO Dan Kirby

Tech reaches far beyond web design. Dan Kirby, CEO of Techdept, told us why it's essential for creative and marketing teams to collaborate with IT.

There's probably no one better suited to talk about the intersection of creativity and technology than Dan Kirby, CEO of Techdept. The marriage of these two skill sets has driven his company from the start: Kirby originally studied art and history, and his business partner trained as an engineer.

Today the UK-based firm helps brands like American Express and British Gas make the most of web, social and mobile tech. Just one noteworthy project: Techdept created a virtual reality ski jump game to help Monarch airlines promote new routes to ski destinations.


We chatted with Kirby as part of our Creative Team of the Future project to find out why forward-thinking creatives need to join forces with their tech counterparts.

Why is it more important now for creative and IT teams to work together?

This is important because the modern world is being built on a digital platform. It's a third industrial revolution of cloud computing and connected objects, so you need people who can imagine the future working in harmony with those who can build it. Without that mix, you are simply going to miss the full opportunity of this global change.

Are you seeing creative, marketing and tech teams restructure to adapt to these technology changes?

No single person or company can possibly know everything they need to survive in this dynamic, disruptive world. Corporate silos have to be broken down. Knowledge needs to flow across organizations and from outside partners.

I think that people have to rethink where ideas come from (creatives aren't the only people who can create), how they implement ideas (using lean and iterative methodology) and how they survive (based on data).

How important is it for CMOs and CIOs to work closely together? Have you seen successful examples?

Facebook. The product is the marketing. Mark Zuckerberg studied both computer science and psychology at Harvard, and that mix of soft and hard skills makes Facebook such an addictive part of our lives.

We've heard some people say CIOs may eventually report to CMOs? Do you think that's likely? Or wise?

I'm not sure that this shift will happen. IT will be about operational infrastructure, marketing about creating platforms and managing data plus creative innovation.

The skill set of the modern marketer will have to get more technical because this is the way that the world now works. So, what used to be a CIO task will become a CMO task, but you don't want the marketing team supporting desktop computers or figuring out the warehouse management systems.

We've been hearing more people talk about marketing technologists. What is that role? Does everyone need one?

It's a blend of the marketing and technology skills. Because the world is getting more technical, it creates great potential for modern marketers, but this is combined with many pitfalls. I think most sophisticated marketers have commissioned a technical project and then found themselves in a black hole of stress. They don't quite know what they have signed up for and it never seems to get completed.

So the marketing technologist must have a deep understanding of the current and emerging technology landscape, business strategy, creative ideas and the available marketing channels. They don't necessarily need to code, but they shouldn't just see it all as "white noise" taken care of by some back room tech guys.

All marketing must be measured, with activity tracked against actionable metrics to fine-tune future activity and investment. This again is more of a Silicon Valley than Madison Avenue view of marketing.

Are there other ways you've seen creative and marketing teams restructuring around technology?

There's been a lot of talk about open collaboration, and I think the explosion of startup accelerators around the world has proven to many industries and disciplines that a methodical way of approaching a creative process, such as setting up a new company, is a repeatable process that can work at scale.

To learn more about the Creative Team of the Future, download The Creative Group's new report, Innovation in the House: Creativity Lessons From Five Top In-House Creative Teams.