The CIO-CMO Partnership in Practice

To
understand the hurdles that organizations face when they want the CIO and CMO
to work almost as one, perhaps a joke will help.

Researchers
blindfold a CIO and ask her to describe a formless, unfamiliar object. The CIO
holds it for a minute. "It
won’t work with my systems, managing it will be a nightmare, and it presents an
obvious security risk," she says with dread.

A CMO performs
the same test and almost immediately shouts, "I can sell it! It feels
shiny. Is it?"

CIOs and CEOs
will always have unique perspectives, but there are increasing instances of
CIOs and CMOs doing the unthinkable — working in strategic, open-ended relationships
marked by a confluence of goals and ideas.

Take, for
instance, the relationship between CMO Dave Dahlberg and CIO John Barnes at cloud-computing
service and consulting firm Model Metrics. Barnes is employee No. 8 at Model
Metrics, and he’s been there for six years. Dahlberg joined the firm three-and-a-half
years ago, when the firm comprised 35 people. (Today, Model Metrics employs 200
people.)

"We joke
about how we could jump into each others’ roles at any time and be pretty well
off," says Dahlberg. Adds Barnes:
"It’s a natural thing. Our objectives are very closely aligned."

Closely
aligned, indeed. When Barnes identified a gap in mobile access to cloud
services in the life-sciences industry, he not only created a product to fill
the void, and also became its point person in the market.

Dahlberg
says, "John’s great at demonstrating and explaining and public speaking.
I’m completely comfortable with him recording a demo video, speaking to
reporters — all that sort of thing."

Barnes’
public-facing abilities are as unusual among his peers, says Dahlberg, as is
his own facility with numbers crunching.

While their
personal lives cross infrequently, the two have maintained their tight
partnership despite Barnes being recently stationed in India. "There’s
a lot of Skype," chuckles Barnes.

Radical Openness

How do they
do it? Each appreciates the role the other plays and pursues a philosophy of radical openness
between them.

"No
skunkworks," says Barnes. No surprises, either. Product changes, new
marketing angles — everyone relevant to a product or initiative has to know
ahead of time about changes.

Budgets have
to be structured differently, too. "I consider a lot of John’s money my
money," says Dahlberg. "We look at money holistically. Instead of
department by department, [it’s] more subject by subject."

They say they
don’t know whether Model Metrics is part of a broader trend in the
relationships between CIOs and CMOs. "Our relationship is a symptom of the
culture of our company," says Dahlberg. "We don’t even have offices.
We have cubes. There’s alignment beyond just he and I."

The firm may
have lucked into its CIO/CMO team, but the execs wouldn’t leave it up to chance
in the future. "If John were to go," says Dahlberg, "I’d have
veto power over his replacement."

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