Across many businesses the strongest relationship the CIO has is with the CFO. This is often for pragmatic reasons. The CFO looks after the money, and IT projects can be expensive. This is a relationship born of convenience.
It is time for a rethink though. The mindset of companies across the world is evolving to something that is naturally more customer-centric than ever before, and this is down to increased marketing orientation. For this reason it is crucial that IT teams become closer aligned with marketing teams. This cultural change should be led by the CIO.
Why Increased CIO And CMO Collaboration Makes Sense
Traditionally, the CIO and CMO could not have been further apart in terms of working practices and expectations. Marketing likes to consider itself responsive, and quick to act upon customer feedback. IT on the other hand is all too often considered unresponsive by the wider business, with slow project implementation and feedback mechanisms. It is not, on the face of it, a match made in heaven.
The truth is though that the core competencies and requirements of both the IT and marketing disciplines are changing. As such, it makes sense for IT and marketing to grow together.
CMOs are increasingly spending more of their budgets on technology, with automated digital marketing systems becoming the norm rather than the exception. However, CMO’s often lack the knowledge to make the most of these new technologies. Think of the number of times your company’s marketing people have asked IT to make the conference room technology work before a presentation, and you get the idea.
The CIO can act as an educator, increasing the understanding of technical limitations for new products. For example, if a CMO decides to use a third-party cloud-based solution without consulting the CIO first on practicalities, he or she might it difficult to extract the desired customer data and integrate it with existing systems. Constructive dialogue between the CMO and CIO can prevent such problems occurring in the first place.
Equally, the CIO working more closely with the CMO can directly benefit the CIO’s own knowledge base. For the CIO it is an opportunity to develop his or her general business knowledge by increasing their understanding of the customer base. Over the longer term, it will enable the CIO to make a more solid contribution to a customer-centric business strategy.
There is one further fundamental danger for the CIO to be aware of. If a CMO does not feel comfortable working with the existing CIO, there is an increased chance that marketing teams will seek to appoint their own marketing-focused technology officers. This would be a political disaster for CIOs and their IT teams. With the trend CMOs commanding an increased share of budgets expected to continue, it makes sense for CIOs to align themselves with CMOs in order to prevent this from happening.
Being Practical: How The CIO and CMO Can Work Together
There are several practical ways in the CIO and CMO can work more closely together. The groundwork starts on a personal level. Making an effort to be personable can go a long way as it shows the CMO that the CIO is a real person with emotions and personality, a person with the capacity to understand the CMO’s requirements. Technical knowledge is important, but ‘being real’ is an equally important, yet underrated, skill.
On a more technical level, demonstrating that the IT team is more agile in its overall approach will go a long way towards changing internal perceptions of the department. The CIO needs to show that his or teams can respond quickly to requests, and they can deliver innovative solutions. The CIO needs to make things easier for the CMO. Recommending simple solutions, such as wireless presentation technology, will earn the CIO brownie points. This is an area completely within the control of the CIO. By making efforts to move away from process cultures within IT teams, the CIO is more likely to gain the confidence and trust of his CMO.
Finally, modern marketing is a metric focused discipline. The CIO can show he or she is on the same wavelength as the CMO by developing and implementing an IT metrics programme. This will demonstrate a degree of commercial awareness that will serve to add credibility to the CIO and ultimately will enhance the CIO’s reputation.