CMOs and CIOs: Will It Ever Be Happily Ever After?

To make the right technology purchasing decisions marketing and IT must collaborate

CMOs and CIOs

Not so long ago the term marketing meant; promotion, branding, and communication. Nowadays the Chief Marketing Officer’s (CMO’s) role is one of strategy. The rise of internet based solutions has seen them become responsible for overseeing the company’s key driver for growth: digital marketing. As a result senior marketing executives have suddenly found themselves at the very heart of important IT issues.

CMOs are taking control of IT budgets

Last year Laura McLellan at Gartner predicted that soon CMOs will be spending more on IT than CIOs, a conjecture that was taken with a large pinch of salt by many. But when you consider that marketing already purchases a fair proportion (30%) of its own technology and services perhaps it isn’t such a far-fetched proposition. In fact, CMOs have been buying technology from outside providers for some time – tools for lead generation, tracking, content management and more.

CMOs are under pressure to make fast IT purchasing decisions

Organizations that have managed to get up to speed with CRM, database marketing, and social media are now rapidly turning their attention to customer analytics and big data issues. Finding ways to tame and utilize the steady stream of information coming in from all directions is top of the agenda for CMOs keen to gain a competitive advantage. In response, a host of new technology enablers, including cloud service providers, have appeared on the scene, giving senior marketing executives ever-more perplexing IT purchasing decisions to make.

The value proposition that is being increasingly thrown at CMOs by such providers is that they can ‘tech enable’ their marketing projects without having to involve IT. As such the opportunity to circumvent IT is no doubt an enticing prospect for some CMOs, given the pressure on them to act fast in a market which is changing at lightning speed.

Does marketing need its CIO when buying technology?

Marketing executives are tempted to leave IT out of the equation because they fear their CIO will slow down or even halt their plans. Marketing is all about innovation, speed, and agility with market impact and customer experience top of the agenda while IT is more concerned with stability, security and functionality. It’s not that IT doesn’t understand marketing’s objectives, but rather IT executives value their own priorities more.

While marketers have the vision and the drive, they often lack the technical depth. IT on the other hand has the technical depth, but different incentives and priorities. At first glance it is clear that both parties have something valuable to bring to the table. IT is likely to be able to provide valuable insights about how to best achieve marketing goals faster and less expensively. In particular they may have had experience with prospective vendors that will help in making the right buying decision.

Marketing need to ‘own’ their technology

While CMOs may lack the required skillset to make big decisions about IT purchases they feel passionate about being able to ‘own’ their new technology. Since it’s their heads on the block when the CEO looks at the results they need to be the market drivers of marketing technology, the creators of their own destiny, rather than just interested passengers.

But buying in new marketing technologies is not just about making decisions about individual components. It’s about the effects and interactions the new technologies will have on other components, both internal and external. This makes leaving CIOs out of the picture a risky venture. The buck will stop with CMOs alone if they are later found to have implemented rogue projects which could potentially harm critical IT infrastructure.

The rise of cross-functional marketing/IT teams

Forward thinking companies have already brought these two essential functions closer together. In an IBM Survey in 2012 a reported 51% of high performing companies reported a close working relationship between their CIOs and their CMOs (10% higher than other companies).

They achieved this by initiating job swaps, appointing technical people to senior marketing positions and vice versa. The result: A shared customer view, more efficient workflows and clear benefits to workers, the brand, and consumers.

Image source Jeff Sandquist via Flickr

About the Author: Thora Fitzpatrick

Thora is a professional business and academic writer, and has written extensively on new technology and marketing related issues.
  • http://robscottinsyd.com/ Rob Scott

    As I was reading the article, I couldn’t help but substitute CMO with CHRO ( chief HR officer ) – to a large extent, but particularly over the last 2 years HR has been going through a steep learning curve regarding owning their own software as we have seen the emergence of SaaS / cloud HR tools. In the long run I see IT having to build new relationships with all internal functions as they each take ownership of their technologies. The future role of IT will be advisory and guiding and less about hardware and security

    • http://peter.evans-greenwood.com/ Peter Evans-Greenwood

      It’s interesting that you mention the HR department, since HR seems to be going through a similar period of reflection as the IT department. Both also (and similarly to Finance) work across all other departments to help them get the most from the resources at their disposal. IT and HR, but not Finance however, are being forced to reinvent themselves in a world driven by social media and the consumerisation of IT.

      Perhaps, as you point out, IT’s best ally in these turbulent times might be the HR department as we are both working to reinvent our functions.