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Global CIO: IT & Marketing: Can't They Ever Get Along?

A fascinating new study points to why IT and marketing must work together on digital marketing, and why they have so much trouble doing so. The mobile Web will make this tension a bigger problem for companies that can't resolve it.

Vanguard, the mutual fund giant, tracks stats on darn near everything about its Web site. And this number looked bad: Only a bit over 30% of people who started opening an account finished the process.

So Vanguard in the past year threw a team of people from both the retail investor business and IT at the problem. They found investors need different starting points--some know they want a new account to buy a specific emerging market ETF, some have no clue what they need. By revising the Web interface for a new account, Vanguard got the number of finishers up around 50%.

This is the future, right? Marketing and IT, hand-in-glove, hammering out a better digital experience, all driven by analytics and the simple goal of more revenue. It's so obvious, it must be happening all over, right?


"Hah" is the very scientific conclusion I draw from a fascinating new study by Accenture and the CMO Council, an organization representing about 6,000 top marketing executives. By surveying and interviewing both chief marketing officers and CIOs, the report throws a lightning bolt of reality at any CIOs who think they have a hunky-dory relationship with their CMO. (Get the full report, "The CMO-CIO Alignment Imperative," here.)

The authors point out lots of reasons why the CMO and the CIO should get cozy with each other. Digital touchpoints, whether on a smartphone, Web site, or kiosk, are becoming increasingly important to the customer experience. Marketing efforts are under pressure to be more measurable, reach customers through more channels, and personalize messages more. It has been a slow-burning trend over the past decade that smartphones, wireless tablets, social networking, and high-powered analytics will put a rocket on in the next two years.

The marketing-IT relationship isn't blossoming, though. IT and marketing are estranged in many companies, despite the potential to drive more revenue by working together. Here are a few reasons that I took from the report:

Each thinks they're in charge:

CIOs and CMOs each think they're calling the shots in this digital revolution -- and the CMO, in particular, doesn't think IT has all that much to add. Read this blistering finding in the report:

There’s also significant disagreement about who’s actually championing and spearheading digital marketing strategies within the enterprise. The vast majority of marketers see the CMO as a primary leader (69 percent) and only rarely consider the CIO and IT department (19 percent) important to defining digital marketing strategy. IT executives, on the other hand, most often point to themselves (58 percent) as the true champions of digital marketing, although they do frequently cite the CMO (51 percent) as well.

They don't respect each other:

IT sees marketing as looking for shortcuts, shortcuts that will come back to bite the organization. Marketing, meanwhile, sees IT slowing them down, not delivering on the operational basics, and not understanding marketing needs. Some data excerpts from the report:

* 46 percent of marketing executives do not agree that their company’s CIO understands marketing objectives and requirements.

* Nearly two-thirds of marketers report challenges implementing marketing and IT solutions, citing the lack of priority given to marketing by IT as the chief reason.

* Only one-fourth of marketers consult enterprise IT, contact center, and back office groups in selecting and deploying marketing solutions.

The report also offers these anecdotes from its interviews:

From an IT leader:

"Marketing looks at digital solutions as answers to specific programs or campaigns and not as systems that will exist and be used again. This makes IT ‘disposable’ and budget for maintenance and constant improvement is never mapped."

From a marketing leader:

"The marketing team is so frustrated by a continued disregard for breakdowns and issues that we have stopped asking for support and have been engaging outside vendors."

Neither is very confident about all this:

Just 4% of marketing pros and 7% of IT say they're "very prepared to exploit digital marketing." Liz Miller, VP of the CMO Council, says executives she talked to have a sense of barely keeping up with the technology change, and just trying to at least keep up with their competition.

Technology change--such as improving analytics capability, rising quantities of data from sources such as social networks and mobile devices, and growing pressure to integrate--has been dramatic in just the past 6 to 18 months, says Brian Whipple, of Accenture Interactive, the consulting firm's digital marketing practice. It's why Accenture's pushing a notion of a "unified data backbone," one place for customer data regardless of the channels it comes from, from point-of-sale to social networks. That will let companies be more flexible in reacting to new data and opportunitities; agility to react will be more important than predicting what's ahead, says Whipple.

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