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The power of a great marketing-IT relationship

There is a significant transformation starting to take place as digitisation continues to change the business landscape. We are seeing the control of an organisation's IT budget slowly slipping away from the CIO, with many vendors now bypassing IT departments and new disruptors presenting alternative solutions.

Gartner predicts that 35 percent of enterprise IT expenditure for most organisations will be managed outside the IT department's budget by 2015. I hear you asking, who will take control of IT budgets if the CIO isn't?

Five years from now, we at Gartner believe that an organisation's chief marketing officer (CMO) may have a bigger slice of the IT budget than the CIO. As the business landscape continues to change and digital marketing increasingly drives business growth, marketing is becoming a fundamental driver of IT purchasing.

The race to the customer has been fuelled by tough economic times and the realisation that a focused business strategy creates better results for the enterprise. Companies received a wake-up call on the importance of relentless customer focus in a buyer's market where every sale spurs fierce competition. It's simply not an option to treat the customer as a commodity.

In this environment, the relationship between marketing (the custodian of the customer) and IT (the custodian of technology) becomes more central to success. The situation also reflects the rising importance of IT as a medium for engaging, understanding, servicing and selling.

This is good timing, because technology is ready as never before. Still, full exploitation of the benefits requires a solid relationship between marketing and technology.

Clearly it is time for the head of marketing and the head of IT to build a better and more strategic partnership, so they can begin sharing ownership of goals and outcomes. A powerful CMO-CIO relationship creates economic and strategic value in four areas: customer engagement, product innovation, integrated business processes and market/customer/competitive intelligence.

By joining forces, marketing and technology can gain strength, present a clearer vision of what is achievable and produce a road map that the enterprise will readily follow.

Historically, a natural tension has existed between marketing and IT. Marketing has always had a 'need for speed', and technology has always relied on enduring systems. Until recently, just getting technical infrastructure to work properly commanded most of a CIO's attention. Most CIOs now have infrastructure under control, thanks in part to alternate delivery models such as the cloud. This not only frees CIOs from direct involvement with infrastructure; it also means IT has the core strength to help marketing generate revenue.

Today, they have more in common than ever, which underscores the importance of working together. Seeing the CMO and CIO as wanting different things is an old way of thinking. Now the enterprise benefits when CMOs and CIOs combine their strengths.

Marketing and IT are a good match on another level. IT has the systems and technology skills to deliver marketing initiatives, and marketing has customer relationships that IT can help strengthen. CIOs and CMOs can work together more effectively, adding economic and strategic value to the enterprise, if they fully understand and appreciate their mutual roles.

Three inescapable facts confront today's CMOs and CIOs:

" Enterprises that create a seamless experience for consumers and business customers will win.

" Enterprises that anticipate what consumers and business customers are going to buy next will win.

" Enterprises with a strong marketing-IT relationship will win.

Where then, should a marketing-oriented CIO focus these days? The logical choice is the front office, where the money is made. Moreover, as the pace of change in the marketplace picks up, no organisation wants to be left behind. This is also an exciting and personally rewarding place for a CIO to make a mark.

Put simply, a strong marketing-IT relationship helps bring more business results to fruition. Now is the time for enterprises to invest in this relationship. The benefits to the organisation in general, and to the CMO and CIO in particular, are too big to pass up.

Linda Price is group vice-president, executive programmes, Gartner. Email comments to

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