Saturday 24 January 2015

CMO-CIO relationship in Digital world !!

In today’s digital age, organizations expend a lot of effort to reach out to their customers digitally and enhance every touch point. 

Mobile technology, social media, cloud computing, embedded devices, big data, and analytics have radically changed the nature of work and competition.

As mentioned in my previous post, “Digital Consumer – A True Superman,” consumers have so much information at their fingertips anytime, anywhere, and with any device that it puts a lot of pressure on organizations to become digital in the here and now.

There is a huge debate as to who should lead this digital transformation: the CMO or the CIO?
In general, CIOs are concerned with technology and costs, while CMOs are focused on creating a unique and engaging customer experience. In order to be successful, the two need to come together and understand each other's world.

Today’s CMOs are expected to leverage disruptive technologies, and thus may receive more technology funding than their IT counterparts. CMOs understand the real power of digital channels because the marketing department has historically taken the lead for most of the online activities that have been developed over the last few decades. They own the customer-facing touch points of the company, which are increasingly becoming digital.

They also know how to engage customers whenever and wherever they interact with a company — in the store, on the phone, or responding to an e-mail, blog post, or online review.

The CMO understands the need for transformation, but may not have a firm grasp on the risks involved as they pertain to the support and security to do it properly.

On the other hand, CIOs understand technology better than anyone and own the IT strategy and platforms. Moreover, their responsibilities come with budget constraints, strict policies, and processes which require a traditional type of management. This can be challenging to align with the attitude required for digital transformation.

Hence, CMOs and CIOs must work together to deliver a compelling digital transformation and enhance the customer experience. 

Here are some of the ways that the CMO and CIO can and should work together:
  • Both the CMO and CIO should be present for day-to-day campaign creation and idea generation
  • The CIO should ensure that they are minimizing mundane cost-center activities that keep them behind closed doors and away from the CMO
  • CIOs should ensure there is time to engage and mix with the marketing team.  Ideally, IT and marketing should occupy the same floor of the building
  • If face-to-face meetings are not possible, leverage digital communication channels like video chats, online meetings, etc.
  • Both the CMO and CIO should be committed to building strong analytics capabilities in order to achieve a 360-degree view of their customers and implement predictive, prescriptive analytics and sentiment analysis for customer insights
The “iceberg” analogy holds true here.  The 10% of the iceberg that the customer sees above the water is the CMO and the Marketing team. In reality, the CIO and their team are the other 90% of that iceberg — floating below the surface and holding the other 10% above water so it can be seen.

In terms of best practices, below are some great examples of true collaboration and teamwork between CMOs and CIOs.
  •  At Nationwide Insurance, the CMO and CIO host a dinner for their leaders each quarter, for the explicit purpose of building friendship and trust within their teams.
  • Dell Vice President and CIO Adriana Karaboutis and Senior Vice President and CMO Karen Quintos teamed up with the shared goal of creating a single view of the company's customers, giving them an edge over the completion.
  • Tony Fadell, CEO of Nest Labs brings everyone together — from user-experience, management, and algorithm teams — so that their teams know every aspect of their product, from design and marketing to user experience.
  • NetApp, a leader in data storage, builds a healthy CMO-CIO relationship by requiring members of the marketing and IT teams to do regular “tours of duty” on the other side, which helps in understanding technology with marketing.
Just as the CMO collaborates with the CEO and other leaders to strategize a shared approach for designing, building, operating, and renewing customer touch points, he or she also needs input and assistance from the CIO to help build the digital backbone.

With digital at the top of the agenda for every company, both the CMO and CIO need to work together in close collaboration to be successful. It will indeed take equal parts of understanding the market dynamics of digitally savvy consumers and practical know-how of the digital backbone to make their digital goals a reality.


  1. It really needs to be a partnership in many ways. IT should be providing marketing with the technology needed to meet customer needs. However marketing needs to feed IT with enough direction to ensure collection of the most meaningful information. The same is true with other lines of business as well. IT has the expertise but really needs the direction to make the most of its investments.

    Peter Fretty, IDG blogger working on behalf of SAS

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