CMOs and CIOs – The Risks of Not Partnering Up

Posted by on May 30, 2012

Chief marketing officers are overwhelmed with data and the rise of social media, IBM research shows, yet they aren’t looking to CIOs for help.

The true test of friendship is whom you turn to in time of need. Chief marketing officers are in dire need because they’re swamped with data and struggling to make sense of it all. But they’re not turning to chief information officers for help.

This disconnect between CMOs and CIOs risks impeding the hard work companies are doing to improve their digital marketing. And for IT departments, it risks pushing them to irrelevancy in digital marketing, one of the most important and fastest-growing forces in business today. It’s why one of InformationWeek’s “15 New Rules For IT To Live By” is to make the CMO the CIO’s new best friend.

Here’s some data to back up that need, from an IBM survey of 1,700 CMOs.

• 71% of CMOs feel unprepared to deal with the data explosion over the next five years.

• 68% feel unprepared to deal with social media.

• 65% feel unprepared to deal with the growing number of channel and tech device choices.

• Overall, technology is the No. 2 external force affecting their companies, CMOs say, trailing only “market factors.” That’s well ahead of macroeconomic factors (fourth) and globalization (sixth).

CIOs shouldn’t sit around waiting for the CMO to ask for help. Just 49% of the CMOs IBM surveyed rank cross-CXO collaboration as key to their success over the next three to five years. And when CMOs want technical help, they’re more inclined to turn to outside agencies than the internal IT department.

That’s a natural habit for marketing pros, says Alisa Maclin, VP of marketing for IBM‘s Smarter Commerce initiative, since they’ve long turned to agencies for creative expertise. “It’s in their DNA,” Maclin says. While 23% of the CMOs IBM surveyed rely extensively on external partnerships for IT initiatives today, 61% think they’ll rely extensively on them over the next three to five years.

Some companies are creating joint marketing-IT councils or steering committees for their digital marketing efforts. IBM cites Nissan as an example. Starbucks is navigating these waters by creating a Digital Ventures business unit that works closely with digital marketing and IT teams.

Gartner recently predicted that by 2017, the marketing organizations  at high-tech companies will spend more on IT than the IT organizations at those companies. Maclin wouldn’t touch that prediction, but IBM has made its bet on the marketing technology segment clear with acquisitions such as Unica and Coremetrics . Marketing tech budgets are growing two to three times faster than other IT budgets, Maclin says, and marketing is making IT a larger percentage of its total budget.

If IT wants to be of use to marketing, it needs to zero in on what people can do with their mountains of data. That work might include analysis of social network sentiments, the rate of abandoned shopping carts on a website, or activity on a company’s mobile app. So is there a Facebook rumor we need to counter, a promotion we can offer on the website to close more sales, or an e-commerce option on the mobile app we’re missing? “Don’t tell me I have a lot of data,” Maclin says. “I know that. How do I not only analyze it, but how do I take immediate action?”

IT organizations are in a better position to understand their companies’ customers–the people who buy their products– than any outside agency. And that’s how it can (and must) stay relevant amid the rise of digital marketing.