The Dangerous Tension Between CMOs and CIOs
September 1, 2013 Editor 0
Business is largely about competition and, even within organizations, a healthy dose of rivalry between colleagues can be a good thing. However, a survey just conducted by Accenture Interactive (see The CMO-CIO Disconnect) points to a downright unhealthy relationship in many C-Suites which can do nothing but damage to firms.
At a time when many executives say that improving digital reach will be a significant differentiator for their companies, our research shows that two of the most important digital leaders — the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and the Chief Information Officer (CIO) — do not trust each other, understand each other, or collaborate with each other. Thus, even though both marketing and IT professionals say they want to be more collaborative, meaningful collaboration is unlikely to occur.
That is very bad news for their businesses and, not incidentally, for their own careers. When IT and marketing departments work at cross-purposes, the results are inefficiencies and mishaps and it is customers who suffer. Potential buyers simply don’t have the time or energy to do business with a company that makes things harder for them.
To begin to mend the CMO-CIO relationship, it’s important to understand the source of each side’s frustrations. CMOs’ answers to our survey questions make it clear that they view IT as an “execution and delivery” provider, instead of as a strategic partner. CMOs do not believe they are getting fast enough turnaround on projects and adequate quality from the IT departments. Because many CMOs do not believe they are getting the service they want from their IT departments, many bypass the IT department and work with outside vendors. Forty-five percent of marketing executives say they would prefer to enable marketing employees to operate data and content without IT intervention.
For their part, IT executives believe marketers make promises they can’t keep and do not provide them with adequate information on business requirements. The CIOs believe the marketing teams often do not understand — or appreciate — data integration or IT standards. Nearly half (49 percent) of CIOs say marketing pulls in technologies without consideration for IT standards. Forty-seven percent say the marketing team lacks understanding of data integration.
Surely there is truth to both sides’ complaints. But why is it that two leaders focused on the same ultimate goal cannot make better progress in working together? For context, consider how the jobs of the two departments have changed over the past few years. Traditionally, marketers were focused mostly on creative and brand strategies, but now they are tasked with turning Big Data into relevant customer experiences via multiple channels and throughout the new decision lifecycle. On the IT side, the teams are being asked to manipulate vast reams of data to analyze every product, customer, or transaction and to adopt new technologies for mobile, social media, etc. But the IT department must also maintain strict privacy and security of data and technology, as well as follow internal protocols. IT focuses on cost takeout, increasing efficiencies, and scale, while marketers strive for ways to respond (or stay ahead) of the ever-changing demands of consumers, who are hungry for more relevant and dynamic experiences, Although both IT professionals and marketers play their parts in driving business growth and innovation, their approaches are very different.
Worse, each side suspects that the difference is even greater than it is. CMOs assume that CIOs’ approaches are not only deep-rooted but contradictory to their own, and that their own perspective is undervalued by their counterpart.
CEOs and others in the C-suite should not turn a blind eye to this tension, hoping for it to resolve itself. It is crucial for companies to instill more collaboration and understanding across the functions. Here are five suggestions for supporting a CMO-CIO relationship that will ultimately benefit customer experience and drive sales.
Identify the CMO as the “Chief Experience Officer.” This is more than simply a change in nomenclature It is a constant reminder to the CMO that the job doesn’t end with branding and advertising. The CMO must design and drive a customer experience that is consistently first-rate, at every touch point within the company — a goal that lays more emphasis on the role of IT and the need to reach a deeper understanding.
Signal that IT is the strategic partner to marketing. The CIO cannot be viewed as only the chief technology platform provider; the role must be elevated to a strategic member of the C-suite.
Get the two leaders working from the same playbook. Already, CIOs and CMOs spend more than 30 percent of their respective budgets on technology. It is time for them to agree on key business levers for marketing and IT integration, such as access to customer data and speed to market along with security, privacy, and standardization.
Change the skill mixes. Make sure the marketing department becomes more tech savvy and the IT department better understands marketing. Again, coming together around the consumer and customers will help to breakdown internal silos and align agendas. Upgrading their skills will help both departments make better decisions about technology and understand its impact on business outcomes.
Develop trust by trusting. It is time for leaders in organizations to extend their trust to — and accept it from — business units beyond their own.
You may never turn your CIO and CMO into the best of friends, but you should be able to convince them they are natural allies. If a little competitive rivalry gets them both to bring their best games to work, so be it. But everyone needs to realize they are part of a team, their job is to make it stronger, and the real competition is out there in the marketplace.
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