CIO-CMO Relationship: Plagued By Digital Pretenders - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // Enterprise Agility
09:06 AM
Chris Curran
Chris Curran

CIO-CMO Relationship: Plagued By Digital Pretenders

Digital strategies that focus only on customer engagement are shallow. But to go deeper, CIOs and CMOs must be partners.

For many companies these days, "digital" is almost exclusively about customer engagement, the domain of the CMO. However, the CIO is crucial in linking business processes and enterprise information to the digital channels that achieve the always-on state that customers and employees demand.

The strength of the CIO-CMO relationship has never been more vital to a company's success, yet the confusion surrounding these roles in the digital enterprise has never been stronger.

Every year PwC conducts a survey to evaluate the "digital IQ" of companies, which measures the extent to which they weave technology into everything they do, from strategy through execution. Our 6th Annual Digital IQ Survey, published in March 2014, of over 1,400 business and technology executives found that the majority (70%) of top performers -- companies in the top quartile for revenue growth, profitability, and innovation -- had strong relationships between the CIO and the CMO.

[Getting directly involved with customer engagement is necessary for your IT career. Read IT Leaders Must Assume New Role: Marketers]

However, we found that nearly half of the businesses in our study (49%) lack that strong CIO-CMO relationship. As part of our investigation, we talked directly to CIOs and CMOs about how they work together. As one retail and consumer products CMO explained it, "Our Digital IQ is low because we're not having regular digital conversations." 

Why do CIOs have strong relationships with every other executive in the C-suite except the CMO? We can speculate that budgets, historical interactions, or perceived ineffectiveness of IT are the barriers to CIOs and CMOs working together, but when you boil it down, CIOs and CMOs often don't see eye to eye because they have their backs to each other. CMOs are looking outward toward the customer while most CIOs are looking at internal business operations. It’s time they face each other or risk falling flat on the transition to digital. 

Why CIOs and CMOs are out of sync
When CIOs and CMOs collaborate it brings both IT and business teams with the right skills and knowledge to the table. Not involving IT leaders from beginning in tech decision-making will cause downstream issues when CMOs try to integrate disparate systems, services, and data sets for analytics; post M&A activity; add new information products and services; and perform other strategic moves.


There's a difference between weaving digital into everything you do versus just focusing narrowly on the front office. The trap is that we check the digital box based on market-facing digital investments, and our digital strategies wind up being too shallow to make a meaningful difference in the lives of customers and employees. I call this window-dressing approach to digital as being a "digital pretender."

I know a senior IT leader in a global consumer products company who's responsible for serving the marketing function. He is grappling with how 

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Chris Curran is a PwC principal and Chief Technologist for the US firm's Advisory practice, where he is responsible for technology strategy and innovation, and the development of thought leadership reflective of PwC's point of view on technology trends and innovations. ... View Full Bio
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User Rank: Author
7/23/2014 | 11:33:10 AM
Tech company CIOs seem to be making the leap to working as true partners with their CMOs faster than other verticals' CIOs. It is seen as not nice to have, but mandatory, by the tech CIOs I talk to about this topic. On a related note, more tech company CIOs are being taken to customer sales pitches now. The customer CIO wants to hear from the tech company CIO -- directly. They have become ambassadors for the brand. That is a purely external focus.
User Rank: Author
7/17/2014 | 10:48:24 AM
Marketing can't dominate
This data is a good antidote to the "CMO will spend more on tech than the CIO" fever that's been spreading the past year. A CMO that takes the attitude that it's a marketing tech budget to do with as she/he sees fit is missing broader opportunities to connect people more broadly in the company. I think this line nails the problem: "CMOs are looking outward toward the customer while most CIOs are looking at internal business operations". They hvaen't seen a natural need to collaborate, it's on the two leaders to wear a new track in the carpet between their offices.      
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