Being More Collaborative With Your CMO

Marketing is driving profound changes in the way organizations approach and consume IT resources. Savvy CIOs are taking note and adapting to a new technology order.

Arrows, connect

Glen Hartman, global managing director for Digital Consulting at Accenture Interactive says that misunderstandings and disconnects typically revolve around two key areas: motivational issues and collaboration. The former incorporates different needs, requirements and approaches, particularly surrounding issues such as security and privacy. For example, "securing customer data is a large part of the CIO's technological agenda," says Hartman. "However, CMOs might feel that protecting the data keeps them at a disadvantage."

Not surprisingly, collaboration problems frequently result from mixed signals and mistrust. While both CIOs and CMOs recognize the importance of working with each other, Hartman says, the weighting isn't necessarily equal. "CMOs put CIOs at the top of their C-Suite collaboration wish-list, but CIOs rank CMOs in fourth place," says Hartman. "Even more telling is that, overall, CMOs actually believe that CIOs will place them at the bottom of their collaboration priority list, showing a sense of wariness and misaligned priorities within the company."

Navigating this new frontier is not a simple task. Hartman believes that CIOs and CMOs must focus together on the need for data-driven experiences that meet consumer demands. The emphasis must be on "providing a superior and consistent end-to-end customer experience," he notes. What's more, "the two executives must work as strategic partners by concentrating on execution and delivery, there must be broader and deeper mix of skills, and they must establish common goals and work to build confidence and trust in one another," he points out.

All Systems Go

One company that has adopted a collaborative approach is Shop.CA, Canada's largest e-commerce marketplace. The Toronto-based firm competes with Amazon.com as well as a slew of other American and Canadian retailers. Information technology is at the center of its business. There's a need to aggregate data feeds from hundreds of merchants, handle pricing and data about products and operate online systems efficiently. "The idea is to present a seamless, single shopping cart experience," says Gary Black, the firm's CIO.

IBM's Web Sphere, a DB2 database and Smarter Commerce analytics software helps Shop.CA understand how consumers behave and interact with the website. The analytics tool tracks searches and buy histories in order to serve up contextually relevant products and engage with shoppers in a personalized way. Black says the IT infrastructure, which runs on about two dozen virtualized servers, is at the core of the business. However, there's also a desire to run the business in a marketing-centric way. As CMO Mark Deprato says, "The devil is in the details. We have to track inventory and full product availability and then leverage data to align against browsing history and different types of segmentation opportunities. We layer e-mails and promotional opportunities on top of that."

How does the pair approach the situation? For one thing, they work together to develop a strategic plan and discuss how they will mesh technology with business processes at every step of the way. For another, they conduct a brief technology meeting with key personnel every day. "Whenever we think about how we're going to approach a new product promotion, we're thinking about how the consumer fits in and what marketing opportunity exists," Deprato says. By starting with a business goal and working backward on how best to apply technology and implement the plan it's possible to maximize the results while staying entirely in sync. "Our teams work in lockstep," Black says.

While differences of opinion or approach occur, the pair strives to stay focused on business objectives, metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that benefit the organization rather than an individual department. "There's no reason for turf battles to occur because we feel as though we're constantly working toward the same objectives," Black says. Whether the company uses an on-premises IT system or SaaS-based solution in the cloud, "we ultimately have the same goals and priorities. We share all information and it flows across teams and permeates the organization," Deprato adds.

This article was originally published on 11-06-2013
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