CIO/CMO power couples

CIO/CMO power couples

IDC recommends three initial steps to establish this partnership – but be forewarned, it won’t be easy.

New Zealand CIOs face a growing dilemma: Compete with marketing for a share of the ICT budget or collaborate to become the organisation's power couple.

More than 80 per cent of the 41 New Zealand marketing chiefs interviewed by IDC in June 2014 said that their CEO viewed collaboration between marketing and IT critical to enabling success in the marketplace.

The benefits to both parties are irrefutable, with growing empirical and anecdotal evidence showing that when CIOs and CMOs collaborate their organisation is usually more competitive than their industry peers.

The size of the problem is difficult to nail down, but the scale of the problem was apparent in a recent IDC survey: 63 per cent of marketing technology spending is already occurring independent of the IT department and over half of this is spent on Shadow IT – this is what marketing admits to. In reality, IDC suspects the number is much higher.

Why does the CIO need the CMO?

Read more: IDC’s top 10 predictions for New Zealand CIOs in 2015

New Zealand CIOs, whether they report to the CFO or CEO, have traditionally aligned and built relationships around the custodian of the purse strings – the CFO. This made perfect sense when technology's main role was increasing organisational efficiency. But with marketing becoming voracious consumers of technologies, the CIO must start thinking like a marketer.

The good news is that most marketers believe that their CIO is supportive and responsive of marketing initiatives. However, the reality is that IT is overburdened with technical support issues and usually follows rigid processes. As a result marketing – which is used to an agile approach to budgeting, planning and implementation – will bypass IT regardless of how they perceive the support provided. If CIOs rejects collaboration the results will be two-fold: more ICT funding diverted to the marketing department because the CMO has much better access to the CEO or executive board (85 per cent report to the CEO compared to about 40 per cent of CIOs) and shadow IT will be driven further underground.

Why does the CMO need the CIO?

Too often, the emphasis is on the CIO being at fault for the marketing department's high level of shadow IT and indifference to collaborating with the IT department of what it sees as marketing rather than technology initiatives.

Read more: ICT agility is out, business agility is in!

Format and spending patterns of marketing are rapidly shifting from traditional to digital media channels with over half of the media budgets now assigned to non-traditional channels. Fragmented marketing IT infrastructures and point solutions that don't mix with the rest of the company's IT infrastructure is often the result of marketing's tendency to deploy first and ask questions.

CMOs must leverage the skills, resources and experience of the CIO to unclog the arteries within the marketing IT road map and provide advice on how technology investments can be most effectively prioritised.

The unintended consequence is this will eventually inhibit the speed and responsiveness marketing to meeting the rapidly changing needs of their customers. CMOs must leverage the skills, resources and experience of the CIO to unclog the arteries within the marketing IT road map and provide advice on how technology investments can be most effectively prioritised.

Read more: Dealing with the digital enterprise land grab

Nobody said this would be easy. Thus, as a first step, IDC recommends taking these first three steps in starting the journey to establishing a CIO/CMO power couple:

CIO has the numbers and the CMO can tell the story – leverage that: The complementary personalities and knowledge will lift the CIO/CMO relationship to a 'power couple' status that will be particularly influential when pitching of ideas to investment decision makers and boards. CIOs often feel they are beating the head against a brick wall when it comes to presenting a business case to a non-technical board. Conversely the CMO is a great storyteller but often lacks the metrics and validation behind a business case. Together the gaps are filled, credibility rises and influence increases.

Recruit a marketing/IT broker: One of the biggest hurdles to bridging the CIO/CMO gap is often related to communications. One approach is to recruit a translator (with technical and marketing skills) either from within the organisation or through external partners, to decipher key business requirements in a jargon that motivate each party.

Throw out the “old rules” for IT departmental support: Through collaboration with the CMO, the CIO hastens the progress to becoming a business architect and a change agent: a resource that is able to coordinate the business outcomes with a technology slant.

Louise Francis ( is IT spending research manager at IDC New Zealand.

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