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Why your CMO and CIO must become best friends

7th Nov 2014
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Every company today is a technology company, whether you build cars or drill for petroleum. However, it is quite intriguing how little input a traditional CIO has in an organisation’s strategic direction. The CEO position invariably goes to business unit heads, operational heads, or other function heads including the CFO, and typically you find the same representation in the board of directors as well. 

The CMO too, leads differentiation, defines strategy, understands customer behaviour, has access to tons of data and he or she too does not fare much better when it comes to access to the top table.     

Today the march of technology into business is relentless. Analysts at Gartner recently commented that thanks to the digitisation of business divisions, the servicing of clients and the creation of new revenue streams from digitisation, "every budget is becoming an IT budget".

And this increase in technology spend is becoming more common place outside the technology department. What is now well understood and accepted is that all of an organisation’s technology can be put into two major buckets, as defined by Gartner, the systems of records (SoR) and systems of engagement (SoE). 

SoR are all the organisations internal systems, like payroll, accounting, etc., and SoE are the external systems which engage with customers and suppliers, for example CRM, mobile apps, etc.  Traditionally, systems of records have hogged the majority of the technology budget, however that is changing, and very quickly. As a CIO we work with recently commented that over 80% of his application portfolio requests come from marketing.    

As departments stand, no two in an organisation are more dissimilar. The IT department prides itself on providing ‘reliability’, and marketing is judged entirely on its ‘agility and creativity’. The IT organisation which over the years have been great at providing large-scale and well planned projects, often struggles to keep pace with the speed of change required by fast changing and flexible marketing programs or new consumer facing apps for smartphones.

Basically, marketing and technology roles are converging, as digital takes its rightful place in the executive hierarchy. Leading to the creation of the new c-level role of chief digital officer (CDO). There will be over 1,000 CDOs in 2014, and it is predicted that 25% of businesses will have a CDO by 2015. And CDOs are increasingly being asked to join the board.  

However, the vast majority of businesses the CMO and CIO merely coexist and must find a way of working together. This said, the CIO and CMO can collaborate and help each other on this digital journey across three key areas.  

Understanding and managing channels

Businesses today have more opportunities than ever before to engage with their customers. Be it through mobile phones, tablets, PCs, Smart TVs, advertising, PR or simply the old-fashioned way of speaking to the customer when they walk into a shop. The challenge faced by most organisations is managing these mediums and creating an omnichannel presence that delivers seamless interaction with the customer.  

From the organisation’s perspective, each of these channels present new and innovative opportunities to better engage and develop a more profitable relationship with their consumers or customers – bringing them closer to the overall business objective. Be it running an effective CRM, driving analytics, or getting insights into these channels, these new friends can help each other immensely.   

Today we are able to recognise the business opportunities and build financial models to demonstrate what revenue growth will look like and can declare what success is – even before one transaction has taken place. We know what the routes to market are, what our overheads need to be and by intelligently approaching the market you don’t need bucket loads of capital to get you off the ground.

Appreciating security and governance

This is where the CIO can help the CMO most. Time to market and speed of execution are the top reasons CMO’s try to run projects that fly under the radar of IT and get in external providers.  Fact is, security and governance are even more important today than ever before.       

Leaving your systems and data open to competition, or malicious outsiders including disgruntled employees is a huge threat. Cyber security, managing key assets and data, is the number one priority of the CIO. The CMO must appreciate that the CIO has a role to ensure the efficient and smooth running of the business – often working within the restraints of a budget set by others that does not allow much room for innovation. In fact, they are often restrained by the responsibility to maintain and update technology that already exists. If they want to do something above and beyond this he needs to fight hard for the budget rather than work together with those that have it. The fact is that the CMO’s delivery also has to be underwritten by reliable technology that does not diminish the brand.  

Understanding customers

CIOs have typically served internal customers. But with the increasing growth in marketing spend on technology, his customer is also fast becoming external, or the organisation’s customers. Customers now expect to be able to access any digital asset at any time, on any device. Be it searching through a retailer’s website whilst walking around their store or just sitting in front of the TV having a browse, it is all about customising and personalising the experience to meet the customer needs.

And technology today has helped businesses become increasingly targeted in their communications with their customers, each medium delivering benefits and interactions with different audiences. For example mobile devices and smartphones are typically used by one person, allowing businesses to target them directly and build a profile around them.

In addition, the retail space has gone through a significant digital transformation with a far greater focus on customer engagement than ever before, ensuring that customers have the best possible experience regardless of the channel. This is the joint responsibility of both the CMO and CIO to ensure that consumer has connected freedom to engage the way they want.

Once you have understood your customer’s needs, you then need to define your business’s capabilities, and again this is where the CIO starts to earn his worth. He needs to work with the CMO to understand what channels they already have and then decide what else will help facilitate revenue growth and improve customer interaction. The technology must unite with the business objectives to bridge the gap between what the customer wants and what the business can offer.

Understanding your customers is based on data collected through technology available today and the way businesses act upon it gives them their competitive advantage. Data about spending, shops or sites visited and even which channels or devices used to research versus channels or devices used to purchase. The CIO can ensure that the business has access to this data and the CMO can then decide how best to engage with and attract new customers to the business.

When this new found relationship between the CIO and CMO becomes seamless, together they can shape the decision-making and strategy behind their organisations systems of engagement, enabling that company to implement powerful and innovative omni-channel strategies, using the latest and most effective technology.

Kaushik Banerjee is senior vice president Europe and Asia, at Aditi Technologies.


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