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Three critical CMO-CIO gaps companies need to close now

Posted by Robert Davis on August 7th, 2014 at 8:19 am

“Marketing is more about digital now.” Well, yeah - it was really no surprise when recent research from Accenture identified the encroaching digitalization of every aspect of marketing as the most important reason why CMOs and CIOs think they need more alignment and interaction. Research from Forrester backs this finding up: 51% of CMOs describe their relationship with the CIO as important, vs. the 30% who said it was important in 2011. So everything’s great, right? Well...

The gaps in CMO/CIO relationships that threaten the success of marketing tech

Data from Accenture Interactive's recently released 2014 CMO-CIO Alignment Study suggests that when you get down to specifics, significant gaps still exist between CMOs and CIOs – gaps that need to close and close fast if CMOs are going to be able to show enough business value from their escalating marketing technology investments.

This new research offers a detailed view into the attitudes and behaviors that drive current CMO/CIO relationships, and in doing so uncovers some uncomfortable truths. Because Accenture has taken the unusual step of publishing the study on Tableau Public as an interactive workbook, I was able to freely slice and dice the data, comparing findings across geographies and industries, and comparing companies whose revenues had grown to those with falling revenue. (You can cut the numbers your own way too. You’re probably already using Tableau for your dashboarding, and if you’re not, full disclosure - I’m a fan.) Poking around in the data, I turned up a number of critical gaps that must be closed if companies are going to deliver on the real potential of advanced marketing technology investments. Since it’s where my agency focuses, I cut the data to focus on categories where buyers are making considered purchases. Following are three CMO/CIO gaps I found compelling.

1. The marketing channel innovation gap

When all it takes to spot the emerging multichannel consumer is a trip to your neighborhood Target or Best Buy, it’s surprising to find that in US companies with declining sales last year, just 11% of CMOs think CIOs should help pilot new ways to use mobile to engage their market - while 60% of CIOs think they should be. The gap gets better in companies that showed sales growth last year, with 44% of CMOs looking to CIOs to help with mobile. My suspicion is that a lot of CMOs are going it alone, which highlights an underlying problem – the need for CIOs to evangelize within the marketing organization and prove that they’re enablers of business innovation, not IT control freaks. (Small disclosure/plug: A client of my agency, Red Hat, partners with CIO and the Harvard Business Review on an ongoing exploration the changing role of the CIO within the C-suite. Check out the Enterprisers Project here.)

2. The marketing platform innovation gap

The inexorable trend in business is to reposition IT as business enablers. One key to success is understanding just what the business is trying to accomplish, ways that marketing can innovate to drive success, and the requirements the technology stack needs to satisfy in order to help marketing achieve these goals. Makes sense, right? However, when asked about ways to improve IT/marketing collaboration, just 31% of CMO’s in under-performing companies said they think it’s important to train marketing and IT together on emerging marketing technologies and platforms, while 50% of CIOs think cross-training would help with alignment. Why wouldn’t CMOs want IT to understand marketing technology? Good question.

3. The  going-to-market as a team gap

Buyers are exerting more control over their own purchase processes than ever, whether they’re B2B buyers conducting 70% of their research before the ever contact sales, or B2C consumers orchestrating content and opinions from a range of sources to help them make good buying decisions. The argument to closely align marketing, sales and channel efforts from awareness through purchase (and beyond) is no longer academic. In the age of the engaged buyer, it’s essential. In fact, when asked about this kind of alignment, 67% of CMOs in organizations with declining sales said they’re looking to the CIO to help them improve effectiveness by finding ways to improve links and interactions between marketing, sales and channel groups. Meanwhile, while just 20% of CIOs saw this as a priority.

With the overwhelming pace of change in marketing tech, it’s easy to see how executive teams can get out of alignment. In a follow-up discussion to a survey of CIOs and CMOs conducted by Forbes and Forrester Research in 2013, Dell CIO Andi Karaboutis highlighted the need to start with the basics, developing a shared understanding of objectives. According to Karaboutis, “We recognized that marketing and IT had to share and understand each other’s priorities,” Karaboutis said. “We have also been able to identify leaders who are committed to the task of both understanding and delivery on both sides. This common understanding has been critical to overcoming potential roadblocks that have slowed delivery in the past. We realized we needed to break away from established methodologies in both organizations to fund and deliver initiatives quickly.”

In the same conversation, Karaboutis put her finger on the forces shaping the need for successful execution, identifying them as far more important than the internal workings of the enterprise, saying "IT can no longer work at the speed of our internal processes; we need to work at the speed of the customer!” That's a good starting point for a badly-needed heart to heart between the CMO and the CIO.

2 Responses to “Three critical CMO-CIO gaps companies need to close now”

  1. Great quote--> "IT can no longer work at the speed of our internal processes; we need to work at the speed of the customer!”

    Obviously the CIO and CMO need to partner to be successful in a digital world, but I also understand the argument for marketing to actually have its own dedicated engineers. Marketing teams operate at a different speed than the rest of the organization with their constant testing and iteration. Saw a great article about this topic recently: http://firstround.com/article/The-Case-for-Why-Marketing-Should-Have-Its-Own-Engineers

  2. Great post, Robert.

    I agree that the lack of alignment between Marketing and IT represents a growing threat to the success of many large enterprises. This dynamic is familiar to anyone who has worked in or with a large company on digital efforts and the cost of failure is increasing at a rapid pace.

    We have been working with our clients to develop a unified and shareable vision of who the consumer/customer is and what motivates them. This allows better understanding and alignment between disparate parts of the organization. Customer journey work and personas can help create a working environment of common understanding across organizational functions of what goals the teams are collectively working to accomplish. It is not a cure all but we have had success driving some incremental improvements in alignment and vision.

    We do have one client who has side-stepped IT altogether and done it quite effectively. The marketing power that can be brought to bear via cloud based solutions could significantly impact the importance of the CIO in marketing efforts in the future.

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