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Transformative Times Call For Tighter CMO-CIO Ties

Marketing has always been a front-facing department, moving at breakneck speed to plan and implement new solutions. IT has traditionally worked behind the scenes, taking a more methodical enterprise approach.

So it’s no wonder that over the years there has been little collaboration between the two groups. But with digital transformation and adoption of so many emerging technologies and tools, it’s time for the two groups to form a tighter union that empowers a new paradigm for co-ownership of objectives, such as customer experience and revenue-generation programs.

But that is often easier said than done. CMOs I have worked with point to a shortage of technically skilled resources, insufficient funding, and a lack of support from IT as key reasons why collaboration falls short. They also say IT struggles to keep pace with marketing’s need to respond to quickly changing consumer behaviors.

CIOs, meanwhile, have lamented that project objectives and goals aren’t clearly established and agreed on by both parties. They point to unrealistic schedules, reactive and poor planning, and shifting requirements that broaden a project’s scope and complexity. Another issue, they say: Marketing has brought in external tools that IT didn’t know about (a.k.a. shadow IT).

While each group is probably spot-on with their reasons for project failure, I also have observed a few other factors at play: lack of effective governance, a dearth of relevant data, and resistance to organizational change.

The Way Forward
So how can we make this relationship work? I believe it starts with CMOs anticipating and initiating new projects as early as possible to allow proper time for planning—understanding, of course, that their needs can change on a dime and that provisions must be built into roadmaps and project timelines. In the process, it’s critical to clearly outline and articulate the business case, as well as desired outcomes.

At the same time, CIOs must factor in the unexpected and be ready to pivot as needed. More than ever, they are being asked to more closely understand lines of business within the enterprise—how they operate, what their challenges are, and how they hope to solve them. The earlier they are incorporated into marketing initiatives, the more they can become true strategic business partners and drivers.

But someone needs to lead the marketing/IT collaboration. Some IT groups are more integrated with marketing than others and can take point on managing the marketing technology function. In other cases, marketing has technical people on their team who can liaise effectively with IT. The point is, someone has to take ownership and have the authority and influence to move marketing technology projects forward.

Wrapped in this leadership is the need to understand what data is, and is not, available to glean important marketing insights. Marketing may think it’s relatively easy to combine data sources, when in reality a complex information infrastructure can make not just integration but data integrity difficult to manage. With that in mind, IT can help gauge data accessibility and find viable options for in-house and external data.

It’s also important to understand that marketers and IT professionals think about and approach projects differently. Marketing thinks in campaigns and outcomes. IT, on the other hand, approaches projects from a process standpoint.

When marketing needs data, IT has to know where it is stored, how privacy is protected, if or how it’s integrated with marketing systems, the integrity of the data, and whether it can be delivered in the right format at the right time. In other words, marketing can design a spectacular building, but IT is the one that needs to make sure it’s structurally sound.

Finally, when it comes to forming a tighter CMO-CIO bond, if opposites in this case don’t exactly attract, they at least don’t have to detract. Both CMOs and CIOs bring skills to the table that, used together, can create a large and positive impact on the goals of their respective business units and the company as a whole.

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