CMO-CIO partnership key in digital customer engagement

New Forrester report highlights the ongoing struggle between marketing and IT around digital ownership, and makes plan why the two sides must work better together

CMOs are increasingly setting the digital vision of their organisation, but will fail to introduce the real and holistic transformation needed to retain and serve customers without the CIO as a core partner.

The new Forrester report The State of Digital Business 2014, based on the recent Digital Business Online Survey undertaken by Forrester and Russell Reynolds, found 30 per cent of organisations have a digital vision and strategy set by the CEO, while 27 per cent say it is the responsibility of the chief marketing officer or senior VP of marketing. Just 13 per cent said the CIO sets the digital vision and strategy.

Against this mix of ownership, only 21 per cent of respondents to the survey believed their company had the right people defining digital strategy. For firms with more than 1000 and less than 10,000 employees, this number dropped to 15 per cent.

Overall, 74 per cent of today’s business executives claimed to have a digital strategy, but only 15 per cent of respondents had faith in their company’s digital skillsets and capabilities.

Related: Related: Businesses adopt a digital strategy but most are skeptical of success

Forrester also found marketing is responsible for a host of digital capabilities such as social media marketing (80 per cent), digital marketing strategy (72 per cent), social CRM (65 per cent), customer experience strategy (64 per cent), customer analytics (57 per cent), digital media selection (53 per cent), CRM (51 per cent), Web strategy (43 per cent), and Web design (29 per cent).

But according to report author and Forrester senior analyst, Nigel Fenwick, leaving marketing solely in charge of digital results in a bolt-on customer engagement approach. Instead, organisations must adopt a comprehensive strategy that touches senior leadership right through to employees, if they’re to secure sustainable and valuable relationships with digitally savvy customers.

“Marketing constrains many of today’s digital responsibilities,” Fenwick stated in the report. “Marketing pays scant attention to how digital can transform business operations, resulting in suboptimal digital business strategy. Firms that invest all digital responsibilities in the CIO are also no nearer solving this challenge.

“To succeed in the future, marketing must combine its strengths with those of the tech management team to establish both world-class digital customer experience [DCX] and digital operational excellence [DOX].”

Read more: UK digital marketing tech company opens in Australia

Although marketing appeared to have technology ownership in several areas, the survey makes plain the strong role CIOs and technology teams still have in their organisation’s digital make-up. For example, 53 per cent of respondents said IT was responsible for digital vendor selection against 16 per cent of marketers. In addition, 41 per cent said tech management is responsible for customer mobile app development.

Other significant areas of responsibility for IT include employee digital engagement (36 per cent), Web designed (29 per cent), CRM (26 per cent) and Web strategy (22 per cent).

One strategy helping to bridge the gap between marketing and IT is establishing a dedicated digital team, often with reporting lines into both the CMO and CIO. Forrester found 86 per cent of firms report having a dedicated digital group, with key responsibilities including employee digital engagement, digital media selection, customer mobile app development, and Web strategy and design.

Despite this, only 25 per cent of executives in the survey saw their digital business units and IT working well together, and only 30 per cent believed marketing and digital business units had a good relationship.

Related: CMOs and CIOs still don't trust each other: Accenture report

“Only 17 per cent of executives in companies that don’t have a digital revenue team report IT and marketing working well together, with 26 per cent reporting that the two teams don’t work together at all,” the report continued.

“As firms move toward a transformation digital strategy, they must marry DCX with DOX, requiring marketing and IT to operate as a seamless unit – the results from this survey suggest this to be one of the biggest barriers to success in the digital age.”

Ultimately, however, CEOs must also step up to lead digital transformation in their organisation, the report stated.

“There will likely be a lot of churn at the CEO level before the decade is out. Welcome to the new executive digital reality,” Fenwick concluded.

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