How the CIO can forge a good relationship with the CMO

The digital explosion has forced CMOs and CIOs to work more closely together, but that doesn’t mean they work together well. Most CMOs see marketing as the natural leader of digital technology efforts, while most CIOs see IT in that role, and this is where tensions arise.

Just as the CMO needs to change to adapt to the needs of the digital era, the CIO must also evolve to be an equal partner in this CMO/CIO equation. According to the principal of Deloitte Digital, Suzanne Kounkel, the CIO-CMO relationship is the most important C-suite relationship in driving the potential of big data, so it’s worth the CIO’s time. Looking at the partnership from the CIO’s perspective, what can IT leaders do to overcome this friction and create a strong relationship with the CMO?

Relax the rules

Stringent IT processes are typically viewed a roadblock to marketing’s fast paced needs, and this is why CMOs tend to ignore them altogether and take technology purchase decisions into their own hands. To avoid being seen as a hindrance to marketing projects, CIOs should consider how standard processes can be changed to accelerate business needs for CMOs.

CIOs can start by creating a sandbox innovation environment for the CMO to experiment and quickly move projects along. This starts with an understanding of marketing’s time constraints for digital projects, and accepting that the infrastructure needs may be transient. That’s not to say marketing won’t invest in longer lead technology solutions, but if IT gives marketing some space to complete the most critical and short term projects, this partnership has a greater ability to thrive. Adapting IT processes to each marketing situation can go a long way to building rapport with the CMO.

A helping hand

According to our research, many IT departments are adopting an internal service provider model, whereby they act as a service broker to the rest of the business. For IT, part of this transition involves listening to what the line of business wants, partnering with them to develop solutions, and monitoring the efficacy of these solutions. One approach many companies are getting on board with is ‘distributed IT’. 83% of the CIOs we interviewed as part of our recent Global CIO Survey said that line of business departments are going as far as to employ their own IT people whose role is to support business function-specific software, applications and cloud services.

With marketing, CIOs have a critical role in helping CMOs understand software development trade-off decisions and opportunity costs. Helpful CIOs don’t just tell marketing teams which data analysis tools they should use, they demonstrate how they should be used. In this way, it makes sense to have an IT employee working within the marketing department to encourage even further collaboration.

At the very least, CIOs should hire technical people with a strong grounding in marketing campaigns and the business side. Business solution architects, for example, put all the captured data together and organise it so that it’s ready to analyse. They structure the data so they can be queried in meaningful ways and appropriate timeframes by all relevant users.

On this note, it’s important that data is viewed as an enterprise asset rather than a departmental asset, as is too often the case. This broader view of data can help both leaders develop insights that deliver greater value to the business. CMOs, who are responsible for generating business and driving growth, need the CIO’s help to turn the huge amount of customer data they’re accumulating into increased revenue.

A joint effort

When the expectations and metrics of the CIO and CMO are aligned, they are more likely to work together to bridge their differences and figure out how to get things done. CMOs must cooperate as well of course, but as outlined in this blog, there are several things IT leaders can do to get the ball rolling. After all, both IT and marketing are working toward a common goal, a common architecture, and a jointly defined roadmap. A good working relationship is in the best interests of both parties.

Tags business success, CIO, CMO, collaboration, Digital Transformation, CIO Leadership


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