The Power of Two: When CIOs and CMOs Work Together

By Jack Rosenberger

The sometimes-difficult working relationship between CIOs and CMOs has received a useful infusion of advice and recommendations from Avanade, a business technology solutions company, which is promoting a new view of the traditional CIO-CMO relationship. Avanade has merged the CIO and CMO titles to create a new one—Chief Information Marketing Officer—which is intended not to create a new position in the C-suite, but to suggest a way that CIOs and CMOs can develop and share “a unified digital vision,” one that combines the knowledge and skills of IT and marketing to create the best-possible digital experience for their customers.

In its new report, “Finding the CIMO Perspective: Looking at IT and Marketing Through a Shared Lens,” Avanade notes that, as the worlds of IT and marketing increasingly rely upon each other, CIOs and CMOs will need to share the responsibility of how to better serve their customers.

To help adopt a CIMO perspective, Avanade offers five recommendations:

Align CIO and CMO business outcomes.
IT and marketing need to work together on achieving the organization’s key business outcomes. Suggestions: Hire staff with knowledge of both IT and marketing, and hold regular joint meetings to define the customer experience and how to best deliver it.  

For IT and marketing, data rules.
Data plays an important role in the future of every business. And as marketing becomes increasingly data-oriented, IT must support marketing’s efforts to master analytics and use data to gain insights and make business decisions.

Practice two-speed IT.
In addition to its traditional role of supplying services, IT’s new role is to support marketing’s efforts to connect with customers in new ways. CIOs need to, Avanade says, “reaffirm IT’s control of technology and become more flexible, while managing risk when it comes to security and compliance.”

Be a great communicator.
For CIOs and CMOs to work together as partners, and for their departments to work together as teams, CIOs and CMOs need to communicate openly and honestly with each other, and establish a business relationship build on trust.

Embrace IT without boundaries.
CIOs need to recognize that technology spending is increasingly outside the control of IT, and, like CMOs, move beyond their traditional mindsets. “For CMOs, this may require rethinking their fail-first approach and their view of IT as slow and inefficient,” according to Avanade. “For CIOs, this could mean thinking more commercially and challenging their view of marketing as inconsistent and prone to taking excessive risk.”

Four Questions for Avanade’s Ashish Kumar

To learn more about the “Finding the CIMO Perspective” report, CIO Insight Managing Editor Jack Rosenberger recently interviewed Avanade Chief Growth Officer Ashish Kumar about the company’s CIMO vision, data challenges, and a unified digital vision between CIOs and CMOs.

CIO Insight: What did you learn from the CIOs and CMOs who were interviewed for the “Finding the CIMO Perspective” report?

Ashish Kumar: One of the main points is the importance of technology to CMOs. It’s fundamental. CMOs are independently controlling IT decisions, perhaps even having a greater tech budget than CIOs, according to some sources. [A recent Avanade report, “IT Without Boundaries,” found that marketing and other non-IT departments now control 37 percent of technology spending.] The CMO is in a very important business role and is leading the digital transformation.

We can all agree that data is at the heart of building a substantive competitive advantage. But when we [Avanade] look at companies’ data, especially their customer data, we still see lot of companies that don’t have a 360-degree view of their customers. And if you don’t have this, you’re at a very substantial competitive risk. And CMOs need analytics so they can understand what customers what, how customers make purchases, and more, so the company can provide a better customer experience.

CIO Insight: What are the main data challenges?

Businesses need a 360-degree view of their customers. To accomplish this, they often need to consolidate their numerous databases, such as their billing database, service database and so on. They need to create an authoritative source of their data. Many businesses have customer names, addresses and buying patterns, but they need to get a fuller picture, such as what types of customers they have. And then they can build from there.

At the most basic level, it’s a two-step process. First, build the authoritative database, then do data analytics.

How customers interact is well known in the business-to-business space. Today, however, businesses are increasingly opting for business-to-consumer habits. An account executive might have a well-documented sales process, but the customer is in control. The customer will dip in and out with interactions with the selling organization, and sometimes the selling organization gets involved with the customer late in process, but most often the customer does online research and forms their own view before the main account executive gets an opportunity to make his or her pitch.

Today, the customer is more often in control, and a business needs to be able to track customers and use digital marketing tools so they are better placed to impact their customers’ decisions before the customer comes to you.

CIO Insight: Where did you get the CIMO idea?

The chief information marketing officer title reflects the combined CIO and CMO perspective. The point we are trying to make is that the CIMO perspective is a critical one. We are not interested in seeing the CIMO role incorporated, but there is a need to recognize the lack of understanding between CIOs and CMOs.

CIO Insight: How do you imagine a unified digital vision between CIOs and CMOs?

The CMO perspective is about my brand, my marketing campaigns and what the competition is doing. It doesn’t always take IT or IT solutions into account, so marketing, with a web-based campaign, can have a proliferation of sites, with marketing creating all of these little digital islands. IT, on the other hand, is traditionally concerned about technology and costs. The CIMO perspective is take proper advantage of IT and marketing’s skills so together they can develop a platform that develops over time, so a company can, for example, create a next-generation web presence.

For the two to work well together, we need strong communication and trust between CIOs and CMOs. In general, CIOs are concerned about technology and costs, CMOs want to surprise and delight the customer. The two need to come together and understand each other’s world.

About the Author

Jack Rosenberger is the managing editor of CIO Insight. You can follow him on Twitter via @CIOInsight. To read his previous CIO Insight article, “The Enterprise Is a Target,” click here.

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