CMOs and CIOs: The New Power Team

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After IBM released its Chief Marketing Officer Study, those of us who worked on the study went on the speaker circuit. Invariably, the audience questions focused on the CMO and CIO relationship. How, CMOs lamented, could they work better with their CIOs?

Their angst was no surprise. One of the study's key findings was that 80 percent of CMOs planned to increase their use of technology in four primary areas: social media, customer analytics, CRM, and mobile apps. But despite their enthusiasm, the vast majority did not feel prepared to deal with the complexity and change these technologies represented.

This impasse between marketing and IT also surfaced when we asked CMOs about their barriers to technology adoption. Cost was their top issue. But when we looked at the answers CMOs gave us, we saw an interesting pattern. For many, the relationship between marketing and IT was the root of their problem. It was the lack of marketing's alignment with IT or lack of IT skills related to marketing or tool implementation issues or all of the above.

Meanwhile, my colleagues who published our Chief Information Officer Study were hearing similar inquiries from CIOs. CIOs were well aware that marketing's technology requirements were growing exponentially, but CMOs' need for speed and innovation was, at times, in conflict with the CIOs' responsibility to ensure the integrity and security of enterprise systems, technologies, and data.

It's understandable that marketing and IT could be at cross purposes. But we also heard from CMOs who said they wouldn't be enjoying their success today if it weren't for their CIO—and vice versa. What made these pairs different? It was a fundamental recognition that they were in the same boat. CMOs and CIOs share a lot of common ground.

They are equally stretched as each is asked to do more, be more accountable, and adapt to change. CMOs and CIOs are aligned in terms of what they need to accomplish, and both are convinced that technology is critical to the success of their business—93 percent of CMOs believe this. That CMOs don't understand or embrace technology is clearly not reality.

Likewise, the majority of CIOs have projects under way to improve customer interactions, such as customer analytics and mobility solutions. So the idea that the CIO doesn't appreciate the imperative of a superior customer experience is also untrue.

We did see areas where CMOs and CIOs could improve. CMOs were not especially interested in data management and security. However, if there is a breach of customer trust, it will land right at the CMO's feet. CMOs don't have to become data security experts, but they do need to work with IT to better understand the implications of their policies.

On the CIO side, we found that CIOs could better support social media. Marketing has owned the lion's share of these programs, and since many of these programs live on third-party platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, or marketing has used external vendors that access the cloud, some CMOs have bypassed IT altogether.

But, as social business evolves, having IT oversight will be increasingly important. If CIOs are not working with marketing, they could inherit social solutions that don't integrate nicely or aren't easy to support.

What about companies where the CMO/CIO pairs are working well? The ones we've talked to have one thing in common: a fierce commitment to collaborate and share responsibility for success. They align their strategic business priorities and budget decisions. They build integrated project teams. They create new roles, such as the marketing technologist, who acts as a liaison between the groups. They meet, talk, plan, and experiment. A lot.

The rise of the CMO does not spell the demise of the CIO. In fact, as pressure grows for exquisite execution of digital marketing and analytics solutions, CMOs and CIOs need each other more than ever. Our findings sound a clear call to action for those executives who need to make better collaboration a priority for 2013.

Carolyn Baird (cbaird@us.ibm.com) is the communications strategy lead for North America, IBM Global Business Services, and the global director for the IBM Chief Marketing Officer Study, published by IBM's Institute for Business Value. She specializes in the development of digital transformation strategies with a focus on communications, marketing, and branding.

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