Marketing hated IT, and IT hated marketing — and that wasn’t right

Rohit Prabhakar: MarTech Speaker

The following is another guest Q&A conducted by Claire Schoen, an interview with Rohit Prabhakar of McKesson, who will be one of our featured speakers at MarTech next month.

Rohit Prabhakar is the Head of Digital Marketing Strategy and Marketing Technologies at McKesson. His LinkedIn profile succinctly sums up his experience and outlook as “sales & marketing guy at heart and technologist by training.” We sat down with him recently to discuss his background and his current role in transforming the digital marketing environment at one of the world’s largest healthcare corporations.

Keep reading for an up close and personal interview with Rohit. Then secure your place to meet him at MarTech.

How do you get to where you are now in your career?

You might say that mine is a “story of association” — that my career has been influenced by the people I’ve associated with. There are so many family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and unknowns who helped me along the way. For example, I graduated with a degree in medical science, but I had a friend — a mentor of sorts — who was really into computers. He was so enthusiastic about them I thought I had to give it a try as well. So I took a course in Java and found out I was good at it — and really, really liked it. I thought, “I’ve found the right place.”

So I started working in software engineering and eventually rose to software architect and then became a project manager. I love technology, but I also love business. And I love networking with people. One day, my manager pulled me aside and said they were going to move me over to sales. Just like that, I was in charge of sales for a financial company!

After about two years in sales, I went to Copart where I was part of the technology team, but because of my sales background I was also working on marketing. That’s where I first I saw a big gap between IT and marketing. Marketing hated us (IT) and we hated marketing. I thought, “That’s not right, I want to fix this.” So I spent the next year working to bring the two teams closer together.

A year later I was recruited to join McKesson, and I found a similar gap between marketing and technology, and once again, I thought “I want to fix this.” So I set out to build a business case to integrate marketing and technology on a global scale within McKesson, with help and guidance from my SVP. It took me three and a half years, and a lot of people told me it couldn’t be done, but in December 2014 it was approved. That was our Christmas present, an approval of a three-year road map for McKesson Marketing.

How did you get the 3-year plan approved?

I spent a year and a half on the road, travelling across the McKesson organizations. It wasn’t easy, and I had to convince people of something that required a transformation of marketing within this large global organization. Some people thought I was crazy, and told me it wasn’t going to work. “We tried already and it didn’t work,” they said.

But we had a data-focused presentation. This wasn’t just a sales road show to convince people. We had the data to support our proposal. Once the business case got traction, with help of my VP and his directs, we got heavily engaged with each BU to get their backing for the executive approval. In the end, we got everyone on board, and we now have a Digital Marketing Center of Excellence within McKesson.

The Digital Marketing Center of Excellence is responsible for innovation, setting up the best practices, providing marketing technology infrastructure, implementing and improving marketing processes and governance across all business units and marketing functions at McKesson.

What does the plan entail?

The plan involved four key areas:

  1. Building the marketing technology stack for the entire global organization.
  2. Implementing specific projects associated with marketing technology.
  3. Building out resources, hiring people and building the right team.
  4. Building a learning center, which we are calling the Digital Marketing Academy.

The plan did not involve any significant re-organization within McKesson, but we have added resources to build expertise in like customer experience, SEO, marketing automation, analytics, and content marketing. We’ve made great progress in all areas, and have just hired some rockstars, so now that I have this team in place I can focus more on strategy.

Where do you sit within the McKesson organization?

The Digital Center of Excellence is part of Corporate Marketing. Marketing and IT are two separate departments, but we are joined at the hip, and the departments work very closely together. Because of my background, I am a big proponent of the IT department as a separate department. Some marketing organizations create “shadow IT” teams — IT groups that actually sit within marketing — but I don’t think that’s as effective.

Your presentation at the MarTech conference is “Marketing Technology to Enable Customer Obsession.” Why that topic?

For me, the two most important things in marketing are customer obsession and demand generation. As marketers, really, these are the two things we focus on: getting more eyeballs to our websites and getting more qualified leads, right? So in my presentation I want to focus on the first, which I call customer obsession, and which has to do with how marketing technology can enable the customer experience and our overall obsession with delivering what the customer truly wants.

Most of us in marketing technology have reached the point where we understand the “marketing stack,” and have enough of the technology in place that it’s time to focus on how we can best us this to enable our customer obsession.

What would you tell someone who is just getting started in marketing technology?

Everyone’s different, so I don’t really like to give general advice, but here are some suggestions:

  • Admit that you don’t know everything.
  • Be hungry to learn. Go to conferences, ask your peers, talk to everyone you work with — at your company and at others. Learn. Learn. Learn.
  • Be ready to fail more times than you want to.
  • Accept change and be ready to run at the speed of it.
  • It’s all about influence.

Can you share one thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your LinkedIn profile?

I’m never afraid to reach out to someone I don’t know, especially if I can learn from them.
I love to read. And, I love to cook.

Thank you Claire and Rohit!

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