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The C-Suite of Marketing and IT: Collaboration, Collision and Calibration

December 20, 2013

What’s all this talk about a gap between marketing and IT?

The word on the street is that CMOs will likely control much of the tech spend and emerge as the “dominant IT decision maker and influencer” by 2015.  But apparently (according to this research) the CMO isn’t as interested in collaborating with the CIO as the CIO is in collaborating with him/her.


An article in Diginomica , based on research from Accenture and Gartner, highlights a presumed ongoing “collaboration challenge” between the CIO and CMO. 
My own experience — past and present — tells a different story. I’ve been in digital marketing and ecommerce since the Internet became a viable business tool back in the 90s.  I’m now a tech marketer, helping businesses find their way to the Peak 10 Cloud.

At one point in my career, a previous employer put me on a dual-track career plan to advance towards a senior marketing leader role or possibly branch into IT leadership.  As part of my development, I reported directly to the CIO of this Fortune 500 company. and it was a fantastic experience!

Overseeing multi month-long technology rollouts, managing a team of front and back-end developers, articulating requirements, utilizing a standard PMO (Program Management Office) methodology to manage major projects, owning the online customer experience and sitting on the leadership team under the CIO gave me great appreciation for how the worlds of IT and marketing should constantly collaborate, collide and calibrate.  I’ll call this the “c-suite of marketing and IT.”

Collaborate — Any marketer today without a strong emphasis on ‘digital marketing’ and a tight relationship with his/her CIO may want to pursue another career choice. In this new world of ”everything digital,” it is a necessity that the CMO and CIO can sit down and roadmap the new technology-dependent customer experience.  When researchers predict the CMO will control much of the tech spend, this is why.  New marketers are creating digital content and building online tools and functionality that drive measurable customer behavior.  And the new capabilities of the cloud can help marketers achieve unbelievable speed to market, supporting applications or online services that once took months to launch.  The CMO and CIO need each other.

Collide — The notion of a collision can imply something chaotic and haphazard, but it can also represent two elements that combine to make something even better — like peanut butter and chocolate (my personal favorite) or Fridays and 5:00 pm.  Seeing that the ‘glass is half full’ let’s you see the beneficial collision of marketing and IT.  Marketers can communicate needs.  IT needs well-articulated business requirements.  Marketers need technology to attract new customers.  IT has the skills to develop and deploy the right mix and support it.  Marketers drive revenue and do lots of market research.  IT often needs strong business cases to demonstrate business value.  Marketing historically has not had a focus on disciplined project management.  IT could not exist without a good project manager.  It’s a naturally symbiotic collision.

Calibrate — If marketing and IT maintain a strong, transparent and flexible relationship, the ability to maneuver together through business changes is so much easier.  Through formally documented process, clear roles, shared ROI and a shared passion for the customer experience, the two functions can quickly adapt to changing market conditions.   One side must appreciate the challenges of the other.  And each should look for ways to further their respective business agendas.

At the end of the day, if the customer has a fantastic experience and maintains a strong loyalty to your brand — turning engagement into revenue ─ all of the effort to align the marketing and IT capabilities is pay dirt for your shareholders.

My simple advice to fellow marketing  and IT leaders: if you haven’t taken your counterpart to lunch lately to talk about your goals, today might be just the day to set it up.

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About Peak 10

"Our values are the foundation for everything we do at Peak 10, and are ultimately what enable us to earn our customers' business and their trust."
David H. Jones,
Board Member, Peak 10 + ViaWest