Ignoring CIO

Marketing leaders ignoring IT counterparts despite customer consequences


New research suggests few global marketing decision-makers consider IT leaders to be strategic partners.

11th Oct 2019

Even though effective collaboration between CMOs and CIOs can boost company profit margins by more than 5%, poor communication and misaligned goals mean the relationship between the two is often fraught.

According to a report by Forrester Research entitled ‘CMO-CIO Collaboration: Resolving the Paradox’, a mere 16% of global marketing decision-makers at business-to-consumer companies consider IT leaders to be strategic partners in developing technology-based solutions. The figure drops to 12% among the business-to-business community. This despite the fact that with customers driving the pace of technology adoption by companies, the intertwining of marketing and tech is unavoidable. 

The collaboration problem boils down to four key issues:

  1. Communication gaps: The top reason why collaboration fails is lack of clear communication. Different backgrounds and views of the business mean that CMOs and CIOs do not speak the same language and, therefore, do not understand either each other or each other’s aims;
  2. Misaligned goals: CIOs focus on optimising costs and implementing technology in a secure fashion but rarely concern themselves with customer experience metrics. CMOs, on the other hand, concentrate on how customers perceive the brand experience across a range of channels but worry less about return on investment issues;
  3. Lack of investment in IT: Although global marketing budgets continue to grow, only 22% of the total is, on average, spent on tech, which is low compared with other departments. As a result, marketing tends to be given a lower priority by the IT function;
  4. Shadow IT: Because CMOs are under pressure to react quickly in order to respond to changing consumer behaviour and expectations, they often turn to external IT partners to provide cost-effective, quick-to-install cloud-based point solutions. But such technology is unlikely to integrate with the rest of the organisation’s systems or align with long-term IT plans, causing frustration at the CIO level.

While CMOs have traditionally regarded CIOs as managers of a back-office service function, in order to work effectively together, it is vital to recognise them as strategic partners instead. CIOs can help their marketing counterparts ground decisions in proven facts and data rather than assumptions. CMOs, meanwhile, can use this data to gain valuable insights, enabling them to combine their influence to get things done.

How to achieve greater CMO/CIO collaboration

While such a shift in attitude and behaviour can be challenging, getting it right does pay off. According to tech vendor Dell Technologies, 50% of CIOs who work closely with the CMO point to an improvement in the company’s competitive position. Substantial year-on-year growth is 1.3 times more likely and 72% of CIOs also report seeing a growth in profit margins of more than 5%.

As to how to achieve it, the most important thing for CMOs to do is establish a personal relationship with the CIO and work on developing mutual understanding, trust and respect.

A further option is to bring teams physically closer together to help foster informal discussion and collaboration. For global organisations that may find such an approach difficult, digital collaboration tools, such as Slack, can help to make communication easier.

Another useful approach is to create a common language to help avoid communication problems, both internally and with third party agencies. An option here is to have the marketing team create and maintain a glossary of key marketing and technology terms to ensure they are clear to everyone.

A final consideration is also to formalise a joint marketing and technology governance model. The aim is to be explicit about when decisions are required, who makes them and who is responsible for implementing them in order to speed up decision-making and ensure funds are allocated in an optimal fashion.


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