Editor’s Note: Forefront is a very strong advocate of professionals learning to speak the languages of their colleagues in other functions to better interact with one another. Our friends at Oracle have put together an insightful article on how to improve the sometimes contentious relationship between Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs).
By Andrea Ward, Vice President Marketing, Oracle Marketing Cloud
Like every word in the English language the word “partnership” has many definitions. The one I think is most appropriate in this particular context is “an association of two or more persons or entities that conduct a business for profit as co-owners.”
To me that perfectly exemplifies the relationship that a CMO and CIO must have to survive in today’s world. They each, in a matter of speaking, conduct their own business yet the profit or revenue they seek benefits one single entity in the end – their organization or company.
In its sixth Annual Digital IQ Survey, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) identified a strong CIO–CMO partnership as being one of the five critical factors when it comes to businesses maximizing technology investments. As proof the PwC survey yielded the following eye-opening statistic: 70 percent of companies in the top quartile for revenue growth, profitability, and innovation had strong relationships between the CIO and the CMO.
And Now The Bad News
That same survey revealed another very telling statistic: Only 51 percent of respondents rated the CIO-CMO relationship as strong—among the lowest in the entire C-Suite.
Let that sink in for a minute, especially the last part “among the lowest in the entire C-Suite.”
With all due respect to Meghan Trainor, when it comes to marketing in today’s world It’s All About That Data. From Big Data to not-so-big data and all data in between, having a firm grasp of data, and how to activate it for marketing and customer engagement purposes, has never been more paramount for success than it is right now.
That of course is easier said than done, especially considering the sheer amount of data that is out there and in your own systems. But getting a handle on all this data is something CMOs and CIOs must do together if they want to achieve their respective goals.
Data = Measurable Results
To put the sheer volume of data that is available in perspective, consider the following. Every minute of every day, there are approximately:
- 277,000 tweets published on Twitter
- 216,000 photos sent to Instagram
- 8,333 videos are shared on Vine
- 347,222 photos sent on WhatsApp
- 3,472 images pinned on Pinterest
- 4 million Google search queries
- 46 million pieces of content shared on Facebook
- 204 million email messages sent
Clearly the potential is out there for a CMO to garner incredibly insightful and impactful data and combine it with the data that already exists in the organization’s own systems to better understand your ideal customer and to drive measurable results.
The CIO plays a critical role in defining how data is captured, stored, managed and used across the organization and should be the partner to the CMO for developing a strategy on how to deliver high-quality, actionable insights from the plethora of data. The CIO is responsible for data governance, and can help establish processes to make sure that right data that matters most can be accessed, and that the systems are set to ensure the data can be activated in real time. It’s up to the partnership between the CIO and the CMO to ensure marketers have access to the right data that can have the greatest impact on results.
Can’t We All Just Get Along?
In an article from early 2014 in the Harvard Business Review entitled CMOs and CIOs Need to Get Along to Make Big Data Work, the relationship between the CMO and CIO was described as “fractious.”
According to the piece, the reason behind this “testy” relationship stems from marketing’s “growing data demands of speed, availability, and agility in rapidly changing customer behaviors don’t align with IT’s modus operandi of developing and maintaining hard coded, legacy systems.”
In the same piece, the CMO and CIO are referred to as “natural partners,” which of course they absolutely and unequivocally are.
So how can the relationship between the CIO and CMO be strengthened?
Well the findings in the PwC survey identify several key points that can help bring the CMO and CIO together.
- Begin with shared goals and metrics. Then get explicit agreement between the CIO and CMO as to who owns each initiative, the role each function will take on, when and how they are expected to work together, and how mutual success will be measured.
- Rethink IT’s role. Look at how new technology platforms and digital operating models can foster collaboration.
- Review each of the major planned and in-flight initiatives in both marketing and IT portfolios. Look for opportunities to get each other’s perspectives and revise priorities, plans and involvement.
Here are a couple of additional ways that the CMO and CIO can strengthen their relationship.
- Get closer to each other – literally. In some companies the CMO and CIO have taken the quite literal step of having their offices adjacent to one another, and some companies are forcing the collaboration by having one report to the other.
- Learn each other’s language. The CMO and CIO at insurance company, Nationwide host quarterly dinners with their leaders as a means to build trust and camaraderie. This idea may be catching on as last year Ad Age held their first annual Marketing Technology: The Rise of CMO-CIO Alignmentevent.
A Happy Union
Like any relationship there will be pitfalls along the way to a happy union and the CMO and CIO should not be shocked by some “bumps in the road.” CMO and CIO need to understand this relationship, in many cases, is a new one for both. Any relationship, starts with listening and trying to understand the others perspective. This can help contextualize future discussions in a more productive way.
Now more than ever, CMOs and CIOs each have a significant stake in a given brand’s success. The key is to start now, see what works and – more importantly – what doesn’t work, and never stop learning and growing.