Why you should bother with the CIO

Gartner's Andy Roswell-Jones underlines the reasons why stronger CMO/CIO relationships can be mutually beneficial

Gartner’s report on the decline of the CIO and rise of the marketer as the key technology buyer made plenty of waves last year. According to the analyst group, 35 per cent of enterprise IT expenditure by 2015 will be out of the CIO’s hands, with CMOs responsible for the majority of technology purchasing by 2017.

The reasons are there for all to see: digitisation of content and interaction, social media and mobility proliferation, the need to better understand and individualise the customer, and the rise of affordable cloud-based solutions for data processing and management are just a few.

What’s less obvious is how CMOs and CIOs deal with such a paradigm shift in their own organisation. Not only does this change raise questions about the role and skillsets required by CIOs and CMOs, it also highlights a need for the two sides to collaborate to ensure technology spending and adoption truly benefits their business. But given marketing and IT people are as distinct as chalk and cheese, forming long-lasting relationships across the two functions is easier said than done.

In an effort to help, Gartner CIO research analyst Andy Rowsell-Jones and his colleagues co-authored a report entitled: Unlocking the power of a great marketing/IT relationship. Their aim was to investigate the current status of the CMO and CIO relationship, identify reasons why both should seek out a relationship with each other, and then figure out how to find common ground.

Even though the IT organisation is viewed by most as a haven of conservative, risk-adverse number crunchers, the good news is more and more marketers recognise they aren’t just a necessary evil, Rowsell-Jones told CMO. The problem is those very traits that make IT good at what they do are at odds with the real-time pressures and customer complexities a CMO faces today. You have, in fact, a clash of culture.

One of the biggest drivers for marketers to purchase technology externally is the important quest for social analytics and engaging customers in conversation, Rowsell-Jones said.

“Things like user experience in app and website design is also recognised as critical and that’s all well and good, but once we start looking at product innovation, competitive information and so on, the supply chain becomes more complicated,” he claimed.

“IT service providers are selling directly to marketers at a time when they need to conduct more strategic business and are accessing data processing services such as social analytics, communications advice and disaster management. But marketers are not strong in vendor management or integration and this leads to gaps and broader company issues.”

Roswell-Jones pointed to an example where one Australian retailer’s brand manager chose to run a weekend promotional competition but failed to account for the impact it would have on the company’s IT infrastructure. By 9am Friday night, the retailer’s website had collapsed and the CMO was faced with the daunting task of explaining to the CEO why such a highly publicised competition backfired.

“This is a typical problem for CMOs – brand managers come up with a good idea and execute it, but no one is stress-testing the IT infrastructure or looking at the fulfilment of prospective orders. They’re just focused on the brand promotion,” he said. “In this situation, it’s helpful to use the internal IT [team] as a sounding board or as a risk mitigation component.”

Mutually beneficial

Like every executive relationship, there are mutual benefits and a need for reciprocation on either side of the CMO/CIO divide, Rowsell-Jones said. To help, Gartner identified five key areas where a powerful CMO/CIO relationship creates economic and strategic value.

The first is customer engagement. “Marketers are increasingly relying on achieving a view of the customer through social media channels, but by working closely with IT you also get a view of your actual customers through internal departments such as the contact centre,” Rowsell-Jones explained. “This gives marketers a broader engagement model that covers the entire value chain and customer streams. You gain much wider reach and can look both externally and internally to get a true customer view.”

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