But a new Adobe study reveals that while large businesses appreciate this need for alignment, the dynamic between marketing and IT has yet to reflect this ideal.
Consider the top priorities for CIOs versus CMOs. Sixty-four percent of CIOs said they are most focused on pushing their digital transformation agenda, while 34% want to support the launch of new products and services, according to the study, “Key takeaways from the evolving CIO-CMO relationship.” And just 6% have made it a priority to transform sales and marketing practices to improve the customer experience.
For their part, the primary aim for CMOs is to meet revenue targets and acquire customers. New product and service launches marketers an opportunity to create buzz and engage audiences, but just 4% are focused on supporting these, the study found. Given the central role marketing plays in driving sales, it is surprising to see IT teams take the lead in this regard.
“The real issue is outdated objectives,” said John Watton, senior marketing director at Adobe. “Marketing and IT are still focused on their own department’s performance above all else, which stands in the way of innovation and better customer experiences. It’s time for both teams to think bigger and make customer-centricity a joint priority.”
Pillars For Improvement
Successful collaboration between marketing and IT begins with shared goals and accountability.
According to Adobe’s study, the modern CIO-CMO power axis revolves around three key pillars:
1. The importance of data: Large companies collect more data from more sources than challengers or disruptors, but they struggle to consolidate all this information and capitalize on their advantage. More than 40% of marketing decision-makers agreed that their data is siloed and current systems limit their digital ambitions.
To quote a team of senior leaders from McKinsey, “It’s easy to say that the CMO and CIO, and sometimes the CTO, should share leadership of the overall analytics effort … But that agreement needs to be followed quickly by the next stage: having shared accountability.”
The challenge for CMOs is that data has not typically been their domain. To further complicate matters, many have a murky view into which systems use which information and how these work together. CIOs must step in and help marketers better understand and connect data across the business.
Encouragingly, IT leaders are fully conscious of this need. Forty-seven percent said they agree that while their businesses have access to abundant data, the quality and accuracy of this information remain major issues.
They also have access to new technologies that make it easier for brands to break down data silos and move information between their internal systems. For example, through the Open Data Initiative (ODI), a collaborative effort between Adobe, Microsoft, and SAP, companies can standardize their data on a common format and create a single, central profile for each customer. To quote Microsoft UK CMO Paul Bolt, “With all the relevant information they need at their fingertips, marketing and IT leaders can better align their operations, which also translates to better alignment in customer experience management.”
2. Marketing in the age of GDPR: Now that the dust has settled around the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it is possible to paint a more accurate picture of what it means for businesses and for the relationship between CMOs and CIOs.
To begin, GDPR has brought more structure to the way marketers use data to target potential customers. This is a positive step, but it also puts pressure on CIOs, who are responsible for the IT systems behind these targeting and personalization efforts.
The good news is that CIOs feel they are up to the challenge. Only 11% of IT decision-makers said they worry about not having the people, processes, or platforms in place to remain compliant with GDPR. However, nearly half (45%) of marketing decision-makers do worry about this issue.
This negative view is partially due to the fact that CIOs have led on GDPR strategy, in most cases. At a time when the success of marketing and branding is so closely linked to customer data, both teams must work more closely together to ensure their compliance is in order, not just to respect laws like GDPR but also to guarantee they can deliver experiences that respect customers’ needs and concerns.
3. Investment in AI and emerging technology: There is a great deal of talk around new technologies and their role in enhancing the customer experience. Artificial intelligence (AI), in particular, is making waves, as brands look to automate time-heavy processes and get more creativity out of their employees.
IT will play a central role in helping marketers to sort through the hyperbole of tech-speak and find solutions that will genuinely deliver value to both them and their customers.
This is one area where CMOs and CIOs already are aligned. Forty percent of marketers said they plan to increase their spending on automation, AI, and machine learning, while half of IT decision-makers said they intend to boost their investment in workflow automation and customer experience technologies. Leaders from both departments also agree that big data and analytics, AI, and machine learning are the most important disruptive technologies on the radar.
And yet, despite this alignment in priorities, less than 25% of marketers said they see themselves working with IT to get the data they need for their analytics initiatives. Even if both departments stand to benefits from collaboration, this lack of cohesiveness could undermine their intentions and their chances of success.
If CMOs are to gain an advantage from the huge volume of data they collect, it is the CIO and their teams who will help them turn this information into value. Meanwhile, CIOs must realize that a deeper understanding of customers is pivotal to driving digital transformation and engaging audiences.
Looking ahead, 35% of CIOs said they plan to help CMOs map their companies’s technology infrastructure and procure the right applications to meet their needs. This is a step in the right direction, but alignment is no longer an option. The time has come for marketing and IT leaders to adopt common working practices that reflect their increasingly common goals.