Blog post

How the Role of Chief Marketing Technologist is Changing.

By Richard Fouts | August 15, 2014 | 16 Comments

The role of chief marketing technologist hasn’t even reached its tenth anniversary. Yet it’s already starting to change.  Why?

In many cases, marketing executives are recalibrating the role to focus on more strategic efforts. For example, one CMO I recently interviewed told me she had inadvertently tasked her chief marketing technologist with the type of  projects that should have been managed by her IT organization. “You don’t need a CMT to oversee the automation of marketing operations, or things like SFA,” she said. “Those aren’t differentiators.”

This CMO has some good advice for her peers. “Don’t let your CMT fall into the trap of becoming a help desk for marketing. My team started tapping into the CMT to support projects that weren’t strategically aligned with our initiative to generate upside revenue. Others were actually using him to write low priority landing pages because he’s fast. But that diverted his attention away from projects designed to improve net new revenue.”

This CMO took immediate corrective action to get her CMT on the right track. You can avoid a similar situation if you:

Properly scope the role.  Remember the phrase, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”  Make sure you’ve defined the role as a strategic advisor to marketing, as one who can help you monitor, assess then implement emerging technologies that are on your critical path to compete; that are on your critical path for growth.

Align the role with business strategy. If your number one business initiative is to compete more effectively in the digital economy, to avoid losing share to more digitally-savvy competitors, you’ve got a situation any good CMT wants to tackle.

Focus the role on growth. Survey after survey reveals growth as a leading initiative in organizations across all sectors. There are many ways to grow a company, and the digital economy presents unique opportunities to increase wallet share, upsell, cross sell, and offer new products to new customer types. Your CMT can help you put definition around of these strategies, then help you set priorities.

Think customer experience. The digital economy is all about delivering a seamless, compelling customer experience across a greater set of digital channels, touchpoints and communications. But integration is key here. Your CMT, as part creative, part marketer and part technologist is the one most tasked with initiatives that aim to compete on customer experience. This is not an area where traditional IT excels. Today’s CMT however, has expertise, background and knowledge of how experience can be a competitive differentiator.

Remember, technologists have been assigned to marketing before, largely characterized by applying automation to existing business models and processes. But over the past 7-10 years, extraordinary advances in compute power (accompanied by aggressive adoption of mobile, social networks and cloud services) have initiated a string of transformative ideas from digital startups that we haven’t seen since the late-1990s. Often launched from college dorm rooms, these startups regularly reach valuations that exceed $1 billion.  CMOs, seeing this renewed innovation, have directed the chief marketing technologist’s attention to securing the organization’s place in a new digital economy.

New business models inspired by the digital economy, require the CMT collaborate with multiple business leaders to deal with economic forces that are changing how the organization fundamentally competes. For example, many companies threatened by digital disruption from more agile players realize they can’t transform their legacy business overnight. Hence, many CMO/CMTs fight back with their own digital startups, leveraging internal strengths young competitors lack: a mature shared services organization. CMTs with startup experience are in particular demand for this very reason.

Hopefully you’re seeing a pattern here. The CMT as business leader.

Check out analyst picks this week for more detailed advice about the evolving CMT.









Leave a Comment


  • Edan Puritt says:

    Nice piece. Reflective of a more significant problem that has seen IM/IT get further and further away from business. With CMTs taking on a greater leadership role with customers in their own business, its not surprising to see them taking on a greater role in IM/IT. They are seeing IM/IT as an enabler of business, not just a back office expense. This is a very good thing

  • Karsten Scherer says:

    Richard, solid post, thank you! I spoke with a journalist at Wired just yesterday about the shift from official, CIO-sanctioned IT to shadow IT coming either from marketing or lines of business because their needs re: speed and agility aren’t being met. As a vendor, we see many marketing organizations fall into a similar relationship with the business side; your advice on aligning to business needs is spot on. Buyers don’t care about how a company is (mis)aligned internally, they’re interested in whether their getting good products or services. You, Jennifer and others on your team have done a powerful job of coaching CIOs, especially those in larger organizations, that they need to essentially learn new languages – biz speak, marketing and data/BI… because the traditional IT within its own firewall approach just doesn’t work like it used to. Interesting to see marketing orgs in similar straits regarding their relationships to the business. Just as savvy IT shops often now include marketing technologist-type roles, people who report into IT but represent marketing needs, a well-scoped CMT role can slice through that Gordian knot nicely.

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