Global CIO: Building A Brand Takes IT Flexibility

There are fundamental differences in how marketing and IT see their roles, and the world. And it's bad for a company's brand when the CIO and marketing execs don't get along.
First, marketing has shifted dramatically to include the customer experience, partly due to technology, and partly as result of a cultural phenomenon. The second is the number of times and ways that IT is touching the customer today (those 81 distinct IT-supported touch points). And the third is that most enterprises don't realize that any one of those 80+ IT-supported touch points can make or break the customer's perception of the brand. It isn't about the CIO or CMO getting this new paradigm. It's about the enterprise recognizing this, changing behavior, and acting as though IT is part of the brand delivery.

While Rogow claims that the assertion in Chris Murphy's column by Andy Bateman, CEO of Interbrand New York, that, in building brands, "the CIO is as important a change agent as the CMO" is a bit of hyperbole, he agrees wholeheartedly with the concept that the CIO and IT are integral to helping define the value of the brand.

So what should CIOs do? One is to work on relationships. At companies where the IT and marketing teams are doing well at brand management, the CIO has generally, over a period of time, developed a working relationship at the senior level, executive management level, and staff level, where there is now a certain amount of both trust and distinctive competence. What's critical, says Rogow, is to force what one CIO called "trust incidents" between IT and marketing, as well as between IT and the customer. Don't assume that if you have confidence in one particular area, such as building supply chain systems, that your IT teams have the skills and working relationship to automatically succeed with another area of the business, such as creating effective mobile applets for the marketing department. Keep working at it.

It also may require another look at the enterprise architecture. Some companies will hire an IT person to work in marketing, and vice versa, and assume cross-pollination will just work. But that may only be a cosmetic solution: If you have 16 order-entry systems, Rogow says, you've still got a problem because of the confusion and complexity it can create for a marketing department. "You've got to get lean" by streamlining and cutting wasteful processes and systems, he says.

Ultimately, says Rogow, where CIOs and IT teams are great at developing order-entry and inventory systems, managing PCs, and building global supply chains, one of the next major challenges for IT is to step up to support the brand, and to ensure that the company is aware of IT's role in that.

Global CIO small globe Brian Gillooly is editor in chief of events at InformationWeek.

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