What CEOs Are Saying to CMOs and CIOs

Historically, marketing and IT have not always had the best relationships. Marketers often want things done quickly to reap the greatest benefits from a shift in customer attitudes or a competitor’s actions. However, IT may not be able to respond as quickly as marketing would like. The IT department may be spread too thin, preoccupied with issues that affect numerous departments or lacking the “hard” resources needed to meet marketing’s demands.

Any organization interested in becoming a digital enterprise must find a way to get IT and marketing to work together in a peaceful, productive manner. This means building a partnership between the CMO and CIO — after all, a digital transformation starts at the top. Although many companies have found ways to build bridges between the CIO and CMO, the partnership is either non-existent or non-functional in many more. A recent survey conducted by the industry magazine CIO found that 43 percent of those responding reported that the relationship between the CIO and CMO had not changed over the past few years, while 49 percent stated that the relationship had become at least “somewhat closer.” Barely more than half — 51 percent — reported that the CMO and CIO worked together for the selection and deployment of marketing technologies.

How the CEO can Help

In some organizations, the CMO and CIO establish a partnership without the need for any intervention. More often than not, however, they need to be “nudged” into a working relationship that will provide the greatest benefit for the company. The CEO plays a vital part in establishing this partnership.

  • The CEO can communicate to both parties that the digital transformation is not an IT issue, a marketing issue or a sales issue. It is a company-wide business issue.
  • The CEO can coach the parties on how to share control. Historically, marketing has laid claim to all customer-related data, and IT has usually seen the area of technology as its territory. Effective coaching can show the CMO and CIO how sharing decisions and control can benefit not only the two departments but the entire organization as well.
  • The CEO can stress the importance of the customer experience for the overall success of the enterprise. Customers today are expecting consistency across all devices and touch-points; this cannot be accomplished without the right technology.
  • The CEO can help each department understand how it can contribute to the success of the other. For example, in the era of big data, marketing can glean valuable information about their customers from the data, but the CMO may need the help of IT to manage the data in a useful manner. Conversely, IT may need the CMO’s insights to select, integrate or deploy customer-facing applications.
  • The CEO can lead by example. If the CEO does not support a digital transformation, it will be more difficult to secure interdepartmental cooperation for the initiative. If the CEO does not show respect for either the CIO or the CMO, it can undermine the respect that one potential partner has for the other. If the CEO does not support the concept of teamwork, the other executives may place less importance on building relationships.
  • The CEO can make the “hard decisions,” but fairness and impartiality must be shown. In any collaborative effort, the possibility exists that differences of opinion or friction may develop. The CEO will typically be the one with the power to resolve the situation. However, the CEO must hear both sides and avoid “snap judgements” by gathering sufficient facts to make an informed decision.

As you can see, making a digital transformation sometimes requires tearing down barriers and altering the company culture. The CEO can help foster the partnership between the CMO and CIO that the organization will need to grow and remain competitive.

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