Conquer Big Data with a CMO-CIO Partnership

IT and Marketing are at opposite ends of the spectrum, if you look at them in an outdated way. The same is true of their leaders—the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and the Chief Intelligence Officer (CIO).

CMOs are, obviously, concerned with marketing efforts. This includes big picture, long-term thinking. It involves everything from creative work to revenue tracking. Most importantly, though, CMOs are thinking externally. In other words, even though they’re ultimately concerned with business growth, they must be focused on appealing to customers to make that business growth happen. This starkly contrasts from the traditionally internally focused CIO. Concerned with operational needs and technology usage across the company, CIOs are known for being more detail oriented.

Marketing technology and, ultimately, big data have changed this. CMOs are now expected to stay on top of technological advances and are being asked to integrate this technology with their marketing efforts.  Most importantly, though, they’re increasingly being required to make sense of the data that comes from technology usage. Alternatively, CIOs are finding themselves needing to look outward to business growth and strategy as well as the way that these elements fold into technology usage. They’re also being asked to assist marketing teams in technology implementation.

The roles of the CMO and the CIO are both shifting and converging.

Marketing Technology, Big Data, and the Convergence of IT & Marketing

Marketing technology falls into the lap of the C-Suite by default. After all, it is typically a massive investment of time and resources to adopt and implement a marketing technology solution. Where it falls within the C-Suite, though, can be a contentious affair. The name itself—marketing technology—shows a division of allegiance. The question goes beyond where marketing technology should be owned, though, and delves into who is responsible for gathering, interpreting, and acting on the resulting data.

The sheer amount of big data—they don’t call it big for no reason—can create operational obstacles.

Working with data seems inherently the job of the IT team. Yet, data from marketing technology concerns the customer journey, a task typically reserved for marketers to dissect. In other words, internally-used technology plus customer-centric data equals big questions about the relationship between IT and marketing.

And this question mark is best resolved by the leaders of these teams, the CIO and CMO. As stated above, though, these people are typically very different. And their relationships are known to be strained.

Budget disparities, differing goals, lack of communication, clashing personalities. The list of CMO-CIO complications goes on, as this research corroborates:

  • 43% of CMOs feel the technology development process is too slow and not aligned to the speed of digital marketing (Deloitte)
  • 48% of CIOs feel marketing makes promises to the business without agreement from IT (Deloitte)
  • 58% of tech leaders believe marketers understand marketing technology, compared with 71% of marketers who believe the same, indicating either underestimation from tech leaders or overestimation from marketers. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The CIO-CMO relationship ranked among the lowest in the C-suite (Wall Street Journal)

The ownership of technology and data programs is often designated to the CMO or CIO without rhyme or reason, adding fuel to the fire.

Assigning the CMO to set overall strategy and the CIO to handle the logistics may seem like an easy solution. Successfully maneuvering the complexities of technology and data that blur the lines between internal and external usage requires a much more symbiotic relationship, though.

Fostering CMO-CIO Unity: Put the Customer in the Middle

Everyone cares about the well-being of the business they’re employed by, right? I mean, at least for purposes of job security, I’ve got to assume that most employees are invested in keeping their organizations’ doors open. Keeping doors open requires revenue and revenue requires either attracting new customers or growing existing customers.

And there’s your shared intention, your unifying element.

Because marketing technology and big data are so intertwined with understanding the customer journey and, therefore, affects marketing efforts and consequential customer acquisition, the CMO and the CIO have a built-in incentive to mend relations and work together. With the goal of creating a seamless customer experience and crafting a compelling customer journey at the center of your IT-marketing realignment push, finding common ground will be easier than expected.

Of course, there are ways to further alignment once you’ve progressed past setting a mutual foundation.

One powerful way to show CMO and CIO dedication to alignment is to also align marketing and IT teams, especially around data and reporting standards. Below is a handful of example IT-marketing team setups to help cohesion, courtesy of Chief Martec.Blog 43 - Graphic 1IT and Marketing AlignmentIT and Marketing Alignment

Whether you draw from one of these models or create your very own is not the point. The point is that the silos between marketing and IT absolutely need to dissolve. This may start and end with CMO-CIO alliance, but their corresponding teams still play an essential role somewhere in the middle.

Of course, CMOs and their teams of marketers don’t need to become experts in IT and the same goes for CIOs and their teams. Open communication, healthy challenging, and shared ownership are the essentials needed for strengthening the IT-marketing bond. Find common metrics to measure success by. Share in wins together. If bringing in a third party or outside platform anywhere in the realm of marketing technology, split the jurisdiction—and budget—equally between departments. While a turf war between marketing and IT is possible, strong leadership, including leading by example, from CMOs and CIOs will set the tone for a flourishing relationship.

Taking the Next Step

The CMO-CIO aligned organization is, simply put, a more evolved organization. If you can get your marketing and IT teams to start speaking the same language, ultimately, you’ll gain shared accountability, quantifiable success, and an intermingling of talent and learning. Most importantly, though, you’ll gain a mutual understanding of the customer journey, verified by data and turned into action.


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Did you like this post? Let us know why (or why not) in the comments. In the meantime, check out our blog Blurred Lines: The De-Silo-Ing of Marketing to discover why breaking down organizational silos is key to staying agile and ahead of your competition.

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