CMO, CIO Collaboration is All Talk, No Action

Few Execs Believe Relationship is at the Right Level

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The digital revolution, an explosion of big data and shift in power to the consumer have altered the marketing landscape and changed the C-suite as we know it. As technology becomes increasingly important and vital to all business units, a particular emphasis has been placed on the roles of the chief marketing officer and chief information officer to collaborate in order to reach business priorities and give customers what they truly want.

According to a new study by Accenture Interactive, 60% of CMOs and 73% of CIOs say that technology is essential to marketing in the evolving digital landscape. Furthermore, 77% of CMOs and 56% of CIOs rank each other's departments as part of the top five business units with which they need to collaborate. However, these figures seem to be masking an underlying disconnect -- only one of every ten executives surveyed believe the CMO-CIO relationship and collaboration is at the right level. Why is there recognition of the need to collaborate and prioritize technology, but no action to accomplish it?

It's not surprising that CMOs and CIOs are creatures of habit. When asked to name what motivates them for prioritizing technology, CMOs rank "access to customer insight and intelligence" number one, while CIOs rank it number ten. Similarly, "privacy and security for customer data" is ranked by CIOs in fourth place, while CMOs rank it in eleventh place.

In the CMO and CIO relationship, the issues revolve around mixed signals and mistrust. They know they need to collaborate with each other, yet CMOs put CIOs on top of their C-Suite collaboration list, while CIOs rank CMOs in fourth place. Truth be told, it's not surprising that CMOs overall believe CIOs will actually place them at the bottom of their priority list. And it's not just mixed signals over their relationship, both functions don't appear to whole-heartedly trust each other's work. Thirty-six percent of CMOs say IT deliverables fall short of expectations, while 46% of CIOs say marketing does not meet an adequate level of business requirements.

Companies need to develop platforms for market differentiation, business growth and profitability. Someone needs to operate the technology to drive outcomes and someone needs to control the design of the customer experience. The CMO and CIO cannot do both of these things single-handedly but working together, they can. It's a matter of the IT and marketing departments having their own agendas, but coming together to find a middle ground, in order to capture the digital consumer. So what's a savvy business to do?

  • Identify the CMO as the Chief Experience Officer. Their work needs to encompass the all-around customer experience.

  • IT should be looked at as a strategic partner, not just as a platform provider.

  • Update the skills mix and KPIs. The marketing department should become more tech-smart and the IT department should become more agile and responsive to market demands. Then these new skills -- speed, agility and responsiveness -- should be measured as new KPIs.

  • Have both teams work together to agree on key business levers and embrace tools, processes and platforms to understand consumer intent and unlock consumer value.

  • Foster an environment of trust.

Bridging the gap to seize digital opportunities, engage customers and keep them coming back, can be as simple as going back to basics, with CMOs and CIOs just saying "we need to talk" and then putting that talk into action.

Glen Hartman is global managing director of digital consulting at Accenture Interactive.
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