Why you should bother with the CIO

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

Product innovation is another area which can be fuelled by stronger marketing and IT alignment. “If you only have an external view, you miss opportunities and ideas for product development,” Rowsell-Jones claimed. “Gaining a more business processed-based position adds to your product innovation strengths.”

The combination of IT and marketing knowledge also leads to more integrated business processes, which can only better how companies sell, promote, and fulfil customer requirements. “Linking these aspects together tends to be managed by the process-based IT department and is a resource marketers can get a lot more out of,” he said.

A powerful CMO/CIO relationship also leads to stronger market/customer/competitive intelligence. Finally, where you have integrated control of marketing channels, you have general purpose communication platforms that the entire business can use to its advantage, whatever the timescale.

“For example when Westfield’s car park partially collapsed last July in Eastgardens, NSW, the company was able to use social media channels to communicate to customers in real-time,” Rowsell-Jones said. “This was possible because IT and marketing worked hand-in-hand.”

Ultimately, a successful relationship with your CIO comes down to recognition of mutual value. The challenge is getting past the obvious difference to find common ground.

“Many CMOs are not particularly strategic when it comes to timescales as they have to work quickly and creatively on a specific opportunity or result. On the other hand, IT by its very nature is focused on big infrastructure and is slow to change with more protracted timescales,” Rowsell-Jones pointed out. “The value system instituted in company culture today and across these different functions rewards these behaviours all the way up the tree, as well as the traits that go with these values, and you have different metrics of performance on both sides. It’s not surprising the barriers to collaborating are so high.

“What I’d advise both sides to do is seek out and identify mutual value and recognise things can’t be done without the other side, whether it’s information processing requirements [CMOs] or losing budget [CIO].”

The good news is the shift is starting to happen. CIOs are recognising they can’t ignore the need to improve their relationship with marketing, Roswell-Jones said, and are driven by prioritisation, privacy, security and maximising the use of IT resources. With marketing, it’s a question of sourcing the best and most cost-effective IT services to meet their needs. He predicted marketers will continue using external agencies to gain some customer insights, but stressed the importance of in-house IT for data analytics, fulfilment and end-to-end intelligence.

“Marketers should recognise IT is where the resources lie to achieve the next stage of engagement with the consumer,” he added. “You have to have something to prioritise marketing’s demands and that’s IT.”

Whatever mark you give your own relationship with your IT department, what’s clear is that keeping customers happy and your company’s brand message consistent are going to inevitably increase marketing’s reliance on technology processes and platforms.

“Online has gone from being a billboard to a fulfilment vehicle and that raises the complexity for both IT and marketing,” Rowsell-Jones concluded. “For CMOs and CIOs to work together, it will come down to understanding that one team doesn’t have all the answers.

“As one wise man said, none of us are as smart as all of us.”

Five stages towards true CMO/CIO partnership
Gartner has identified five classifications of CMO/CIO relationship maintained across Australian businesses today. Which one matches your company best?

Conflicting: Both sides detest each other and the engineering versus ‘artsy’ culture is highly apparent. There’s no leadership to force the two sides together. Unfortunately, this relationship type exists in lots of different companies and both sides play off against each other to the detriment of the business.

Coping: A step up from conflict, where IT and marketing are beginning to recognise mutual dependency and have stopped being destructive to each other. They are working together in carefully proscribed areas such as reporting, infrastructure for the website or development of an app.

Co-mingling: Marketing and IT are starting to co-create initiatives and pool ideas. Often, however, no structural changes have occurred in IT to better its relationship with the marketing department.

Collaboration: Mixed teams where you have both IT-savvy marketers and marketing-savvy IT personnel. There’s a high degree of consultation and the importance of one side to the other is baked into the culture of the organisation. Both are equally involved in all planning meetings.

Co-creating: Marketing and IT are interchangeable. You have marketing-oriented IT workers and vice versa, and there’s consistent co-creation around plans and ideas. This is where the CIO and CMO functions are entwined. Ultimately, the success of this model comes down to who the CIO is.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia.

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