CIOs can do a better job of collaborating with CMOs in three areas: people, process, and technology.

Sheryl Pattek, VP & Principal Analyst, Forrester

December 17, 2013

5 Min Read

A hot topic over the past year in business and technology circles has been the relationship between the CMO and CIO. And for good reason. We're in the middle of one of the most transformative evolutions of digital technology adoption of our time.

But while CMOs and CIOs know they need to find ways to work together more closely in what Forrester is calling the "Age of the Customer," many executives see it as an alliance of necessity more than a exciting relationship. Why? In a word: territory. For years, the two worlds were silos, separated by corporate boundaries.

[ The tech that matters most now is data -- what does that mean for CIOs? Read Will CDO Steal CIO's Leadership Role? ]

But as digital technology and data -- big or small -- becomes the key to unlocking customer engagement and business growth, CMOs have entered an arena that was traditionally the domain of IT heavyweights. And as a result, many CIOs have been relegated to ringside seats to watch the action. They're being eclipsed by CMOs who are leading efforts to use data and information technology to grow the company's business. But marketing shouldn't be a spectator sport. CIOs need to get in the ring.

From adversaries to compatriots
Earlier this year, Forbes and Forrester published the results from a joint survey of more than 300 senior marketing and IT professionals. The objective was to explore how the two disciplines work together and the results revealed interesting insights. The bottom line is that CMOs and CIOs can do a better job of collaborating and aligning in three areas: people, process, and technology. 

The survey results also show that progress has been made when selecting technology and implementing joint projects. However, true collaboration remains a long way off. For this partnership to get results that improve the business, CMOs and CIOs must:

Shift their focus to align on the right things: With differing organizational priorities, it's no surprise that "people" is the area that requires the most work. The two biggest gaps in marketing and IT responses in this year's survey are:

  • Lack of agreement on strategic priorities (a 20 percentage point gap)

  • Lack of IT people with marketing skills and understanding (a 30 percentage point gap)

Closing these gaps will require CMOs and CIOs to establish joint goals and metrics and hire people with expertise in using digital technology to attract and keep customers.  

Speed implementation timelines: While our survey shows that marketers and IT executives share responsibility for approving projects such as marketing automation software or social networking tools, the pace of delivery still doesn't meet marketing's more immediate needs. To resolve this disconnect and prevent marketing teams from "going rogue," the pressure is on CIOs to speed up the pace to get in sync with marketing's timeline.

Craft a joint, customer-focused tech strategy: CMOs and CIOs must work together to see marketing technology strategies through to the end. For example, the two groups should define the priorities for customer-facing technology such as marketing automation systems, email marketing, or mobile platforms. Once priority consensus is reached, figure out how to balance internal versus external resources to deliver the best results for your business.

Game plan for advancing a collaborative agenda
For CIOs, nurturing a trusted partnership with the CMO means putting the business technology (BT) agenda front and center and going beyond traditional IT thinking. How does this look in practice?

At Forrester's recent CMO/CIO Forum in Napa Valley, several companies shared with us how collaboration between the technology and marketing groups helps them play to their strengths. 

How Dell does it
Dell's Karen Quintos, CMO, and Andi Karaboutis, CIO, have built a strong relationship that provides an excellent best practice model. Their relationship is defined by mutual respect and a willingness to understand and share priorities. Karen and Andi found common ground around the customer, by creating a self-service sandbox, housed in marketing but maintained by IT, that provides quick data access for analytics reports and models to show insights into customer behavior. Jointly, they hired a data scientist who supports Dell's IT and marketing teams so that they can respond quickly to insights that are backed by data.

GE Oil and Gas team up for results
At GE Oil and Gas, CMO Ashley Haynes-Gaspar and CIO Anup Sharma align their priorities to achieve common business goals: improving customer relationships and business growth. Both teams work with a common culture that rewards team members for turning ideas into action using an agile test-and-learn approach. GE used a "hackathon," intense collaboration events popular among programmers, to get ideas flowing faster and get teams thinking outside of the normal daily routine.

As data-driven marketing continues to take center stage, CMOs and CIOs will need to cultivate a culture of teamwork and make it the centerpiece of their strategies. 

Sheryl Pattek is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research serving CMOs.

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About the Author(s)

Sheryl Pattek

VP & Principal Analyst, Forrester

Sheryl Pattek is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research serving chief marketing officers.

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