But with technology playing an even greater role in marketing activities and the importance of the customer experience, CMOs need to put an end to this pattern and form strategic relationships with their CIOs.
CIOs and CMOs both suffer from stereotypes applied to their roles. CMOs view their IT counterparts as the resource police who know nothing about the customer; care only about costs, processes and efficiency; and have no understanding of marketing. Likewise, CMOs are often painted as creative types with no accountability and little consideration for costs or the resources needed to address their technology whims. Judging just at the surface level of stereotypes, CIOs and CMOs seem polar opposites.
In reality, CMOs and CIOs are quite similar. They both often suffer from a lack of respect from their peers and want to prove their value, gain a seat at the executive table and increase their alignment with overall business objectives.
How can they accomplish these similar goals? By developing a strong partnership that will help them jointly meet their personal goals and specific functional goals. CIOs are important resources for CMOs, as the IT function often has the technology know-how to help marketers make better decisions that will lead to more seamless implementation of technology, resulting in better and more-efficient customer experiences. Additionally, CIOs often have the ownership over the majority of the company's customer data. However, without marketers, those data are simply data, instead of meaningful insights and knowledge used to better address customer needs and preferences.
So how do CMOs start moving past the stereotypes to build strong partnerships with CIOs? The first step involves understanding and educating. CMOs need to ask themselves: "How well do I really know my CIO? Do I understand his or her daily challenges and objectives? Do I know how the team is set up and how technology projects are prioritized and executed?"
Likewise, the CIO needs to become educated about the CMO, the marketing organization and insights about the end customer. CMOs can help increase IT's understanding of marketing's role in the organization by inviting IT to participate in regular marketing meetings or holding training sessions and town-hall meetings about the customer -- to help IT understand the necessity of various tech-driven marketing initiatives.
When the CIO and CMO have gained this solid foundation of mutual understanding of each other's roles and organizations, they and their teams can start collaborating on a wide range of projects, from website consolidation and redesigns to CRM-system implementations to improved decision making in marketing-technology implementations.
Interviews we conducted with more than two dozen chief marketing and information officers in June 2007 for the Forrester CMO Group Research Project, "Partnering for Success: The CMO-CIO Relationship," revealed four key focus areas:
1. TEAM ORGANIZATION
Creating team structures that drive marketing-IT collaboration involves activities such as co-locating the teams to work on projects; assigning cross-functional marketing-IT teams with leaders who have both marketing and IT experience; and creating liaison roles for marketing and IT to ensure that communication stays frequent and each function always has a champion in the other group.
2. PROCESS DEVELOPMENT
Developing effective processes for collaboration involves mutually discussing and agreeing upon how projects are prioritized; creating standardized processes for change requests that provide transparency to marketing for the cost and timeline implications; and jointly developing a set of guidelines for making decisions and measuring value for joint marketing-IT projects.
3. EARLY INVOLVEMENT
Marketers can increase IT teams' understanding and buy-in of marketing decisions by involving them early in the process through invitations to participate in marketing-strategy meetings; regular check-ins to seek IT opinions when making marketing-technology purchase decisions; and joint development of business cases for marketing-technology projects.
4. PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
CMOs and CIOs should set an example for their teams by hashing out disagreements behind closed doors to ensure that team members see a unified front at the top. It's important to demonstrate the trust you have in each other's expertise by not publicly second-guessing every decision the other makes.
With these elements in place, marketing and IT can drive significant organizational change and growth, just as Air Canada VP-Marketing Charles McKee and CIO Lise Fournel have done through their partnership during the past four years.
In 2003, Air Canada faced competitive pressures as well as downturns in travel due to the outbreak of the SARS illness in Toronto. Mr. McKee and Ms. Fournel recognized the urgency of improving Air Canada's customer-experience and revenue models, and they knew that neither could do it alone.
One key focus was improving their self-service-technology options, including online check-in; online itinerary changes; kiosk technology; and hand-held devices for check-in, booking and flight status.
To align their teams and enable an effective partnership between marketing and IT, Mr. McKee and Ms. Fournel did the following:
- Built a vision for the future together, sharing that vision broadly with their teams to ensure alignment around the overall objectives and how they fit into the business strategy.
- Discussed and reached agreement on core elements of the process, including time frames, accountability, team structure and roles, and the vendor-selection process at the beginning of each project.
- Gathered the marketing and IT teams, as well as outsourcing partners and vendors, each Friday morning to discuss the status of projects, issues and any complexities that may have arisen.
- Mutually created the conceptual design of new technology projects and compiled the appropriate requirements before having the technical team work on the end product.
- Built and defended business cases together to ensure shared ownership of the projects and initiatives, as well as shared incentives to achieve success.
It's an example that shows the extent of the impact that can result when marketing and IT come together to help drive company strategy. CMOs, if you're sitting down and reading this, stand up and take the first step: Walk down the hall, knock on your CIO's door and get to know that person. Building this foundation and working on the relationship with your CIO will give you a partner and an ally at the executive table that can not only help you elevate the role of marketing as well as the role of IT but also achieve personal and organizational success.
Cindy Commander is an analyst at Forrester Research. She helps marketing leaders build influence throughout their organizations and develop strong and successful relationships and teams. She works closely with Forrester's CMO Group, an executive-level peer knowledge and networking community for chief and senior marketers.