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The New Tag Team: CMOs and CIOs Wrestle with Business Technology

December 11, 2014

Last spring my wife came home with a bagful of packaged vegetable seeds, proclaiming that we needed a garden. No doubt she envisioned a produce bonanza at harvest time, Earth’s bounty spilling from a cornucopia on our dining room table at holiday time.

She often sees things that way … a promising beginning and successful ending with little thought about what happens in the middle to bring both ends together. That includes things like cutting a garden into our yard, fencing it in against hungry critters, weed barriers, watering, fertilizing, insect control, periodic weeding despite the barriers … all those essential activities that bring garden to table. Results matter so much more to her than the ‘management’ effort to bring about those results.

If we were growing customer relationships instead of cucumbers, she would be the CMO and I the CIO. At the end of the day we both want the same thing … to eat by making our combined efforts successful. We just see things differently and bring different roles and skills to projects. The same is true for business technology (BT) implementations.

Shadow IT has been around a long while. No one ever talked about shadow IT management, though, because there wasn’t any. That was the problem and the annoyance, but it wasn’t organizationally debilitating at the time. No more. BT is front and center, thanks to the unquenchable thirst of consumers to engage with vendors via personal technology. Marketing leadership wants the latest and greatest solutions to attract, capture and retain today’s customers, and rightly so. But who will manage it all?

With BT spending growing much faster than IT spending, it’s well past time to bring both sides to the table along with their respective skills and interests. Much has been written about the need for CIOs to become more business savvy and to align IT operations with the strategic business interests. Well, the pendulum swings both ways.

CMOs and CIOs need each other. It’s just as incumbent upon CMOs to reach across departments to engage the skills and core competences already in the CIOs’ domain in order to extract the greatest value and benefit from BT investments.

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Consider that one-half to four-fifths of all costs occur after the first year of technology acquisition, items such as ongoing subscription fees, operation, maintenance and replacement spending.(1) Who will implement vendor updates, bug fixes, enhancements and new versions? Who can engage with the vendor when technical or integration issues arise, or when products do not perform as promised? IT organizations deal with these responsibilities every day, often with an agenda to drive out cost and improve efficiency. It’s doubtful the marketing organization is flush with such experience or has interest in acquiring it.

BT doesn’t exist in isolation from the rest of the organization. If it does, it’s doomed to underperform or, worse, increase risk to the organization at large. It’s unlikely that out-of-the-box BT will precisely fit in any given organization; will marketing drive needed modifications? Further, monitoring performance, security and reliability of BT is critical to a company, as IT knows all too well. Once prospects become customers, their journey will definitely take them to other parts of the organization; seamless integration with IT systems across the infrastructure will be critical to touching customers and retaining their loyalty.

An article from McKinsey & Company explores the many reasons why it’s time to overcome the friction that persists between the IT and business sides and the many obstacles that remain in the way. It reads in part, “The digital explosion has forced CMOs and CIOs to work more closely together. But, that hasn’t always made them work better together. As the mix of IT spending shifts from the back office and supply-chain management (for those industries that have a supply chain) to the front office and customer engagement, tensions may arise about the CMO’s and CIO’s decision rights and budget authority. These tensions are reflected in research suggesting that most CMOs today see marketing as the natural leader of big data efforts, while most CIOs see IT in that role.”

If there is any turf battle at all, it should be to win the hearts and minds of prospective customers against competitors, not between C-suite executives over technology management responsibility. In the Age of the Customer, CMOs know what needs doing – deliver rich experiences to sophisticated customers – and CIOs know how to do it – integrate BT into the core infrastructure.

In a report on the subject, Forrester Research’s Andrew Bartels and Sheryl Pattek advise, “CMOs determined to make marketing technology investments pay off should initiate a partnership with their CIO that drives the BT agenda and leverages the skills needed to manage the whole portfolio of marketing technologies.”(2)

Can’t we all just get along?

1, 2 Forrester Research, Inc.,” Managing Marketing Tech Investments Requires A New Partnership With Your CIO,” by Andrew Bartels and Sheryl Pattek, October 8, 2014 | Updated: October 10, 2014


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