Why CMOs and CIOs Need to Work on Their Relationship

November 13, 2013 Sanjay Patel

As technology continues to infiltrate every aspect of a business’ daily operations, more emphasis is placed on the role of the chief information officer (CIO). More often than not, however, the chief marketing officer (CMO) and the marketing arm of that organization do not see the IT department as the fix.

Improved alignment and collaboration with IT, however, is the most efficient way to advance the business while giving customers exactly what they want. Unfortunately, while most marketing and technology executives recognize this fact, in general, alignment is nowhere close to being achieved.

According to “The CMO-CIO Disconnect” report recently released by Accenture, only one in 10 marketing and IT executives believe that collaboration is at the stage it needs to be. So while research shows that most CIOs and CMOs recognize the necessity to strengthen this relationship, they seem to have no drive to actually accomplish this.

Some research points to marketers and CMOs being the guiltier party than their technology counterparts. According to Accenture, “77% of CIOs consider a marketing and technology alignment important” while only 56% of CMOs feel the same. Those results may stem from a CMO’s perceived desire for professional independence, shown by the fact that 45% of CMOs want to enable marketers to leverage data and contact without consulting IT. CIOs seem to agree with this, as “49% of IT executives agree that marketers often introduce technologies without considering IT’s standards.” Meanwhile, only 45% of CIOs responded that marketing and IT alignment is at the top of their to-do list.

The study by Accenture is revealing. Its purpose, as I see it, is not to point fingers but, rather, to point out the incongruity between the two sides. This incongruity is nothing to roll one’s eyes at, as it both causes frustration and halts the collaboration process.

Luckily, CIOs and CMOs do realize that by working together, instead of as separate entities, they can develop platforms and solutions to grow business, differentiate their company in the marketplace, and increase profitability. Someone needs to operate the technology to expedite the outcomes while another person needs to control the customer experience. The CIO and CMO cannot do both of these things separately, but they can be achieved when the two parties work together.

To go about joining the CIO and CMO arms together and finding a happy middle ground, there are a few things a business needs to do.

For starters, IT should be looked at as a strategic partner, not as an external solution provider. Sure, the CIO and IT department provide the rest of the company with the technology needed to keep the office modernized and humming, but that is certainly not its only function.

Additionally, both sides need to smarten up. The Marketing department needs to become more tech-smart to understand and fully use the CIO and IT department’s capabilities. Simultaneously, the CIO and IT department need to become more aware and responsive to market demands.

Have both teams brainstorm together to agree on key business strategies and embrace tools, processes, and platforms. Make it a mission to come to a mutual understanding of the goals and vision that each team has separately. Once the two sides understand each other, and hopefully develop a forward-looking game plan, it will be simpler to move forward.

Finally, both sides need to create a positive, creative co-existence. Remember, just because you come from two different worlds (that of technology and that of marketing) that does not mean you are on different sides. You both work for the same company. Working together in an effective manner benefits both sides and works towards improving the company as a whole.

Luckily, there is a silver lining. The Accenture study reveals that both CMOs and CIOs alike acknowledge that they need to change their ways:  “45% of marketing executives and 47% of IT executives believe that their relationship with one another has improved the most” compared to other C-suite roles. That is a positive development that must be fostered and grown.

Ultimately, collaboration between marketing and technology is a positive step that every company should take. While the guidelines above may not have marketing and technology professionals holding hands and skipping down the street, recognizing the need for co-existence is the first step towards changing the status quo. Once CIOs and CMOs can finally achieve this coexistence and work together, both will reap the benefits.

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