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CMOs: Are You Cheating on Your CIO?

By Jennifer Beck | January 25, 2013 | 2 Comments

Many CMOs are stepping out on their CIOs. Hybrid service providers in the cloud are batting their eyes at these CMOs, the new money trail and motivated buying center for their technology and digital marketing platforms. And those CMOs, feeling ignored and under served by their IT organizations, are taking the bait.

Why not? Very few CIOs are aggressively targeting their CMO as the key stakeholder to partner with even though those CIOs want to be viewed as more business relevant. So with the absence of a good internal partner, marketing is doing what they’ve always done and outsourcing. Digital marketers already use agencies and other providers’ automation technologies and tools for lead generation, tracking, analytics, content management, campaign development, public relations, advertising, creative services, etc. Technology is just another line item to source. And the choices are abundant and the perceived risks low.

But is it just the lure of high priced agency lunches that are causing these CMOs to ignore their CIOs? Is it a mid-life crisis? Are they afraid of death? Is something missing in those executive relationships? Actually, it’s all of the above.

Digital marketing has finally come of age. It feels like social media and multichannel approaches just got here, but they’ve been around for over a decade. Upwards of 40% of marketing spend is now dedicated to digital techniques. So many CMOs are feeling the pressures of a maturing market and are putting the family van of standard business intelligence tools up on blocks and sliding into a Big Data Ferrari with an integrated cockpit.

And yes, they are very afraid of dying on slide one at the next operations review if they haven’t tied all that spending and exposure to quantified business results. While CIOs ponder the wisdom of BYOD initiatives, CMOs have put in a fast lane pumping content, conversations, and capital into smart phones, and social networks with the promise that those differentiated customer experiences will materialize and breathe life back into brands.

And yes, something’s missing. No matter how much time you spent agonizing over your Myers-Briggs personality profile, those years of living on separate planets, have done real damage to CIO/CMO relationships. Mars and Venus, meet Pluto and Uranus. One got demoted as a planet and the other is the butt of jokes. Both parties are to blame for the current state of affairs.

With CIOs and CMOs looking in opposite directions on the balance sheet, it’s no wonder they are behaving more like competitors than partners. CIOs are primarily focused on cost, because their CEOs actually think they can do more with less.  CMOs are all about profit and top line revenue growth; because their CEOs think they can perform magic.

It’s time for couple’s therapy. Start with finding some common ground because pounding on the past and harping on differences just isn’t helpful. Six things to consider…

1)      Both CIOs and CMOs know how to get things done.

2)      They both rely on making good technology decisions to help them make an impact on the business. And they become dependent on that stable of providers.

3)      They both love the next new tech toy or gadget and like showing them off.

4)      They both have huge suggestion boxes nailed to their virtual doors because everyone is a self-appointed expert in their field.

5)      The leadership team thinks they can produce magical results within their current constraints – because they often pull it off.

6)      And they both don’t sleep through the night. Their jobs are never actually done. They could always be doing something more.

This collaborative partnership isn’t a new topic. But so far the most helpful advice has been to go have lunch together. From what I’ve seen, I’d recommend a bar with copious amounts of alcohol. Maybe start there.



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  • “They both rely on making good technology decisions to help them make an impact on the business.”

    A good point. The right technology can help with a company’s marketing initiative, even if it doesn’t seem like it in the beginning. Take a call center for instance—the right technology there means your agents spend less time “figuring out” the system and more time actually helping the customer, which impacts the customer experience.

  • david clark says:

    Jen love the blog – and totally agree with the sentiment/ideas expressed. In so many companies the CMO is seeing growth in their budget and is considered the growth engine of the organisation, whilst the CIO is continuing to be trapped in a round of cost reduction and optimisation. Having worked in a .com environment prior to gartner I saw with increasing regularity the intellectual use of big data, mobility, cloud, collaboration, agile development – all becoming aspects of delivery embraced by the CMO – and it would be disingenuous of me to suggest they somehow performed in a lesser fashion than the CIO…