10 tips for achieving CMO-CIO alignment

CMO has collated a raft of marketing, IT, analyst and expert insights and come up with a list of 10 things you can do to foster better relations with your IT counterpart

6. Collaborate – a lot

Communication and collaboration, whether it be around digital initiatives, product development, back-end marketing technology rollouts or customer-fuelled innovation, is another must-have.

At Macquarie University, conversations around Web development and initiatives are constantly going on between IT and marketing.

“When there are projects, they have to be co-located, and from that cross-skilling starts to happen,” the university’s director of strategic planning and information, Neil Fraser, said. “When you have to deliver an edge or change, bringing that structure together is vital.”

HCF has done lots of business-wide workshops, involving its IT teams, as the business determines what it’s doing digitally and why, Williams said.

“Once IT understands what’s happening at the front line and the customer, and the decision relating to the back-end technology, it changes the meaning and helps IT think more creatively about what the solutions might be,” she said.

Creating a team responsible for the user layer between back-end systems and front-end services has been another step forward towards bridging the gap between internal capability and customer experience, Williams said. In addition, HCF has implemented a more structured approach, with frequent communications across stakeholders, and has a sponsor actively engaged at each stage of the transformation agenda.

At Sydney Opera House, the CIO and CMO have brought their teams together and introduced several new roles to build digital and data capabilities that will help drive a more customer-first focus. Another aid has been assigning a marketing representative to communicate with IT, director of marketing, Anna Reid, said.

7. Bridge the speed gap

The distinct differences between each side’s expected or desired speed to market is a major hurdle that has seen many a marketer circumvent IT and acquire specific technology capabilities to do their jobs. The problem is, such decisions can cause major security issues, create disparate data sets in the long-term, and leave you without a strategic approach to customer engagement and marketing.

“I have used technology without the approval of the IT team because I have disguised it as a service,” admitted Akamai’s Moraillon. “But the workaround won’t be integrated with my other systems so at the end of the day, the company loses because it’s one step behind. It’s good for meeting a need in Q1, but not long-term.

“Whether the marketer likes it or not, tech will either be an enabler or limiting factor in what they’re trying to do.”

The “degrees of definition” each side expects in procuring technology haven’t helped, Williams admitted.

“As marketers, we want everything fast as we’re trying to respond immediately to things,” she commented. “I’ve taken on-board the fact that some things do take time; the most important thing in developing the collaboration between marketing and IT is about figuring out how to give marketing the tools to be responsive within their own ecosystem.”

Defining an actual process for work to be done is a must. Rather than deciding on either a waterfall or agile approach, Williams said HCF has adopted a “wagile” way of working.

“But what really has to change to done anything with agility, is that the mindset has to change,” she added.

8. Work out where tech and staff resources should sit

Marketing automation, digitisation of customer engagement and connectivity and customer experience management are all raising questions about where resources and technology capabilities actually need to sit – physically and operationally - inside organisations in order to gain the most effectiveness.

The Australian Museum’s Wong said one solution is to have customer-led project ownership, such as CRM, sitting with line-of-business.

“I’m pushing hard back on the business because they’re the stakeholders and sponsors,” he said. “It would have been scary if we’d got technology in straight away and we were making decisions based on what fits our IT environment better, as opposed to what meets our business requirements.”

Read more: CMO50 #16: Trisca Scott-Branagan, Deakin University

It is then IT’s responsibility to make sure the platform is scalable, flexible and allows the business to grow. “But it’s the business that are going to be using it,” Wong said. “We’ve suffered from looking internally too much, or looking for something that fits our internal process, as opposed to stepping into the shoes of our education audiences and trying to understand what are they trying to do here and will the system meet that need.”

At Citibank, meanwhile, a multi-channel technology management platform rollout to help the marketing and digital teams better recognise customers and personalise content through data insights and automation saw headcount shift from IT to marketing.

According to MD of marketing, digital banking and customer experience, Linda Duncombe, this was because there had previously been a duplication of effort between digital and technology as something said or prioritised by marketing got lost in translation.

“Our CIO had to be the person to say she’d forego that headcount and lose that control so it can sit somewhere else,” she said. “But it made sense – as they’re building something, those staff need to understand how that interfaces with the customer.”

The project also saw IT and marketing physically relocated to work side by side.

“Now there is a great camaraderie,” Duncombe said. “The digital team has an appreciation for just how complex it is to change something in code. They know they now need to understand what that means to someone in technology, and technology understands that if we want to go live, we need to have the right customer experience. That give-and-take is important.”

9. Hire a chief customer officer

Sometimes a third-party or executive who can cut across both functions is the best answer. For example, a quarter of IT and marketing respondents to a 2014 Accenture Interactive survey said the appointment of a ‘chief customer or experience officer’ was a priority for improving collaboration across IT and marketing functions in their organisations.

The Cutting Across the CMO-CIO Divide: Digital drives a new wave of collaboration report found core benefits from creating such as role included delivering better products and services, improving customer service, driving brand value, loyalty and advocacy, and increasing revenue growth and cost and performance transparency.

The position was described as potentially a board-level role that owned the customer, with responsibility for a combined team spanning customer-facing IT, marketing, product development, sales and customer service.

Chief digital officers are another conduit to collaboration, particularly when you’re also getting the rest of the organisation to buy into digital transformation.

10. Build good old-fashioned trust

At Tourism Australia, strong CMO-CIO collaboration has been “built on good old-fashioned trust”, its CIO, David Rumsey said. And that ultimately comes down to proving you’re good at what you do best.

“It’s about building trust and an understanding around the problems we need to solve,” he said. “With our previous CMO [Nick Baker], that came down to delivery around our ‘Best Jobs in the World’ campaign and proving either through a campaign that we could deliver a scalable solution and the functionality he demanded to deal with all the people entering our competition.

“Through that, we developed a great level of trust, he left tech to me, and we’d have joint conversations and steering committees. I was invited me to be involved right in the ideas and early stages, and even if I’m just listening, at least I’m there.”

With Tourism Australia’s new CMO, Lisa Ronson, Rumsey said he’s also worked to establish trust through one-on-one meetings, attending events together, jointly owning projects and discussing the changes in mindset and customer focus needed for success.

“We work really hard to say yes – no is the last resort – because we’re an enabler to the business,” he added. “That’s a key message so then when you talk to your marketing and digital friends, and they’re dreaming about things that may or may not be possible, or practical or impractical, there’s no IT there straight away saying not. That allows an open environment for discussion.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

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