With talk of economic instability, risk-adverse leadership, elusive productivity improvements, lack of true innovation and the absurd idea you can do more with less – let’s turn our attention to the two functions in any organizations who can actually get something positive done these days. And let’s challenge them to move from the obvious to the extraordinary. I’m talking about two unlikely bedfellows – the CIO and the CMO. Why them? Because they are the closest to being able to design, build and maintain the growth machine – a fully automated mechanism to drive connected and continuous customer dialogues. But neither can do it alone.
CIOs have the power with every technological decision to enable or deep six every corporate initiative. And if ever there was a lightning rod for growth strategies, differentiated experiences, and new opportunities – it’s today’s CMO.
The airwaves and digital channels are awash in opinions and hyped headlines about the “dynamic partnership” between the CIO and CMO. Conferences and seminars and daily blasts of free information and guidebooks offer up the obvious advice about “critical imperatives” for these two very busy and highly visible people. Marketing agencies and tool vendors who have always sold to the CMO are looking over their shoulders at a growing list of visitors from other planets – high tech providers who have traditionally sold only to IT, business service providers hanging out in the clouds, and a host of hybrid types that offer to do everything from tracking leads to lighting up blood flow in the brain to test reactions to new product features.
The advice on how to close the gap between these traditionally opposed disciplines ranges from the amazingly helpful and practical idea to “have lunch”. To the painfully obvious notions that you might need your CIO to help track and analyze customer data. Seriously? Do we even know why these two leaders haven’t been playing golf or drinking beer together all these years?
Take the COSMO Quiz. I call it that because it’s that irresistible urge to know how you fit into the human experiences we all share. I use the shorthand here and name this type of self-assessment after Cosmopolitan Magazine. Yes, even men all know what women’s’ fashion magazine we’re talking about. You know why that thing flies off the newsstands? It’s not so much the glamorous, provocative, and scantily clad model on the cover. It’s the crazy quiz they feature like “Are you a Good Lover?” Now who can resist taking that quiz?
Gartner has conducted a few Cosmo Quiz-like focus groups over the last two years at our Symposium conferences in Orlando and Barcelona with both CIO s and CMOs in the room. The experiences ranged from analysts breaking up the fights and mopping up the fur that went flying, to being amazed that great innovative marketing ideas actually originated in IT.
It’s easy to figure out why these two not only dress differently, but appear to be from different planets. But pitting them against each other just isn’t helpful. And the generalizations are just that – with loads of exceptions today. Nearly half the CIOs in Gartner’s executive program don’t have technology backgrounds. They’re business people. I talked to one gentleman the other day who was a former Accenture partner, now a CIO. He still wore cufflinks by the way and my guess is he drove a Lexus. So let’s leave the differences behind and focus on what they have in common. What pain do they share? What realities do they live? Some findings from that COSMO Quiz and some suggestions for a chat over lunch:
• You both love new tech toys and like to show them around – so start a Lab project where you can self support your habit cause we know whoever retires with the most toys wins.
• You both suffer indiscriminate budget cut backs – so use the gold running through them there pipes to prove you handle assets and investments, not discretionary expense line items.
• You both rely heavily on good technology decisions to deliver value to the business – but do you have a shared definition of what makes a good technology decision? Bet you don’t.
• You are heavily outsourced and now rely on a stable of providers for your success – do not let purchasing dictate those choices or manage those relationships. These are not sticky note pads and coffee beans we’re talking about here. You’re digital marketing customer hub is not a commodity item you want at low bid.
• Everyone is a self appointed expert in your field so you have doors outfitted with huge suggestion boxes – design some common tools that help you assess and objectively evaluate all those incoming ideas, so you know if they’re just plain crazy and their time will never come – or they might be a better alternative or a great compliment to what you already have in flight.
• You probably both report to the CEO or a leadership team member high enough up in the organization that your eyebrows regularly catch on fire – well go higher for your inspiration – and do it together. Everything in business rolls down from the Board. In government, it’s complicated. But some higher power is pulling strings and they probably don’t know what the two of you know. Go dazzle them with your collective brilliance. Then ask them to champion the idea.
• Your leadership team thinks you can produce magical results within your current constraints – and that’s your big hairy problem. If there’s one thing in the way of true innovation it’s that old adage – “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Go break some rules. Get ready to fail early and often. Experiment. Just tell everyone “It’s just a pilot”. No worries. I mean who’s going to question two senior executives who back each other up with the right cover story?
Now go do something extraordinary.