CMOs and CIOs make nice

By forging symbiotic working relationships, CMOs and CIOs may be able to transform their respective departments and redefine collaboration throughout the C-suite. Currently, a squall of overheated rhetoric proclaims that CMOs and CIOs are locked in a winner-take-all turf battle. “Marketing is capturing IT’s budget!” one narrative goes. Another suggests that CMOs are “putting the entire IT ecosystem at risk by side-stepping IT and deploying their own digital marketing tools.”

The reality of the CMO-CIO relationship is not quite so dire. Yes, it is evolving, but this evolution is driven more by mutual opportunity and unmet needs than by one role eclipsing the other.

Increasingly, CMOs and CIOs are working together to create critical platforms and systems that support customer-centric digital marketing efforts. In addition to empowering marketing, these collaborative efforts are also laying the groundwork for an entirely new, right-speed IT operating model in which IT “keeps the lights on” while simultaneously working with multiple business units to pursue strategic goals and innovate. In right-speed IT, CIOs optimize their operations for speed, creativity, and agility, while preserving the rigor needed to maintain and operate the traditional stack. High speed for innovation, balanced with high torque for enterprise IT.

A confluence of tech-fueled forces is giving rise to this approach. CMOs and CIOs are facing a new marketing landscape in which levers of the past no longer work the same way, if at all. The front office of marketing has been recast around connectivity and engagement—seamless contextual outreach tailored to specific individuals based on their preferences, behaviors, relationships, service logs, and purchase histories. At the same time, marketing’s back office has been transformed by data, analytics, and new technologies for accelerating and automating campaigns, content, and positioning. Together, these new dimensions are ushering in a new breed of marketing: Dimensional marketing.

With marketing’s expanded scope frequently including the integration of marketing applications with CRM and ERP systems in areas such as pricing, inventory, order management, and product R&D, IT increasingly finds itself an essential player in the CMO’s dimensional marketing vision. In some cases, CMOs are repatriating budget that has traditionally gone to agencies and redirecting it to CIOs to help fund collaborative initiatives. For their part, CIOs are seizing these funded opportunities to deliver platforms for digital capabilities, including analytics, mobile, and social. All the while, they are maintaining the appropriate amount of enterprise “ilities”—security, reliability, scalability, maintainability, and interoperability. Beyond enabling customer engagement, these solutions provide a foundation for the next wave of transformation around the digital enterprise—empowering employees and reimagining how work gets done.

Think of the budding symbiotic relationship between CMOs and CIOs as a canary in the coal mine of broader IT transformation. If CIOs are able to leverage collaborative opportunities with marketing to retool their own operations in a right-speed IT model, they will likely be able to reposition IT as an integral part of operations and strategies across the enterprise. In doing so, they could elevate their own roles to that of chief integration officer: The individual who serves as a critical link between business strategy and the IT agenda, while also helping identify, vet, and apply emerging technologies to the business roadmap.

Moreover, a right-speed IT operation can be structured not only as a delivery center but as a partner in the company’s new journey as well. By definition, it will have a cross-discipline, cross-functional, cross-business unit purview. It will provide the glue linking various initiatives together by advocating platforms instead of point solutions, services instead of brittle point-to-point interfaces, and discipline around design, architecture, and integration. It will also strive to consistently provide solutions that are secure, scalable, and reliable.

The danger, of course, is that CMOs and CIOs will choose to go at it alone and pursue their own narrow interests rather than collaborating and nurturing a potentially transformative relationship. In this scenario, the canary never exits the mine, opportunities are lost, and the misleading rhetoric surrounding the CMO-CIO relationship becomes reality.

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