• October 28, 2019
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Forrester Advocates for CMO-CIO Alignment

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Amid growing customer expectations and the accelerating pace of technology innovation, chief marketing officers will need to work a lot more closely with their chief information officer counterparts, Forrester Research urges in a new report.

But while it is common knowledge that a strong partnership between marketing and technology teams is key to achieving customer success, examples of great collaboration between those teams are scarce, according to Thomas Husson, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester and author of the report.

“Effective CMO and CIO collaboration is challenging. Only 14 percent of global marketing decision makers see CMOs and CIOs as strategic partners in developing technology-driven solutions for the business,” he says.

Worse still, “the relationship between CMO and CIO teeters between common sense and lunacy,” he elaborates. “Situations exist where the CMO and CIO have little to no interaction at all. This is a paradox, indeed, considering that success in the state of markets today requires marketing, data, and technologies to all be synchronized.”

A big reason for the disconnect, Husson says, is that CMOs and CIOs frequently have misaligned goals. CIOs focus on optimizing costs to securely implement technology while rarely considering customer experience impacts. CMOs focus on how customers perceive the brand experience across channels without considering financial constraints or how the technology will be deployed over time, he explains.

But it goes even further than that: CMOs and CIOs have different backgrounds, view the business differently, and don’t speak the same language, Husson adds, noting that for a marketer “DR” means “direct response,” but for a CIO it means “disaster recovery.” Similarly, the word “agile” to a marketer means the ability to respond, react, or change quickly, but to the CIO it is more likely to bring to mind the software development methodology.

Another flaw is that CMOs often are not very involved in their companies’ digital transformations. In a related Forrester survey, only 23 percent of CMOs were found to be directly responsible for leading their firms’ digital transformation strategies, and just 16 percent for leading their executions.

In the same way, CIOs usually have limited influence on the business, but Husson says this can change. To elevate their role within the organization, he urges CIOs to systematically translate their technology approaches into larger business and innovation plans.

The report also cites goal alignment, contemporary governance, and multidisciplinary technical and creative talent as critical success factors.

“A governance model is especially critical,” Husson says, “to be explicit about when decisions are needed, who makes them, and who is responsible for implementing them. It is paramount to accelerate decision making, allocate funds optimally, and implement speed.”

Then, “instead of fighting for ownership, you need to take the time to define what technology innovation means for your own team. Such an approach is critical to overcoming the [organizational] chart barriers,” he says.

But what is most important for both CIOs and CMOs is to be customer-centric. “Clarifying the respective roles in the success of the business and its future should always be centered on the customer. When decisions rest on what the customer needs and not the roles of individuals, the company wins, and every leader benefits,” Husson says.

Finally, CIOs and CMOs need to trust one another. “Informal meetings, one-to-one discussions, a shared vocabulary, team building, and collocation are all prerequisites to establishing empathy and trust. Trust is the ingredient to any success,” Husson adds.

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