Why the CIO Needs the CMO

By Jim Nash  |  Posted 03-05-2012

The corporate bridge too far, the one needed between CIOs and chief marketing officers, is now seen as attainable and, in fact, inevitable.

Social media, which is remaking firms of all sizes in fundamental ways, is forcing 360-degree roles on the CIO and CMO for the first time. Suddenly, there's a great deal of overlap in what they do, with whom they work and tools they use.

Even after the philosophy of business integration became conventional wisdom, the CIO's focus fell within the firewall.

Organizationally,CIOs were collaborating more deeply throughout the C suite than ever before, but for the most part, CIOs kept their distance from the primarily outward-facing CMO. Then there's the fact that CMOs tend to have short tenures complicates strategic IT-supported project planning.

CMOs, almost by definition, have preoccupied themselves with life outside their firms. This has led to, among other things, legendary Dilbert comic strips about marketing execs clueless about their own companies.

CMOs have also preferred to outsource or buy tech rather than engage IT, which they have seen as doctrinaire and timid around novel problems and solutions. It didn't hurt that by going around IT, CMOs could avoid sharing control of projects.

While some aspects of this ambivalent relationship may never completely fade, social media and other collaboration trends make it impossible for CIOs and CMOs to ignore each other anymore.

CIOs must develop for, understand, manage, secure and to some extent support social media initiatives launched by marketing even though social media itself resides in the cloud and is beyond IT's direct control.

This new responsibility is vastly different from anything the department previously has undertaken. Social networks are as different from computer networks, for example, as playing a piano is from building a piano.

In other words, IT needs to understand the marketing nature of social media.

At the same time, the complexity of interactive social media is beginning to dawn on a lot of CMOs. Tools and services that track and measure campaigns are nascent and generic to the point of being useless for most companies. Then there is the little matter of monitoring and gating posts published from within the company.

Marketing needs IT experts who intimately know the company, knowledge needed to build rules (first) and tools for fostering profitable social-media campaigns.

This is the overlap of the Venn diagram of concerns facing CIOs and CMOs. It's anyone's guess how successful old-line execs will be in adapting, but some companies are looking intensely for CIOs and CMOs who have the religion. At least one company has created a CIO/CMO hybrid post, in fact.

As we'll see in future installments of this series, companies are ready to innovate, tossing old departmental assumptions in the air, in order to match their organizations with the rapidly evolving markets they face.