CMOs, CTOs Disagree About Collaboration in Online Strategies

Survey Finds Two Functions Lack Common Incentives and Metrics

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Chief marketing officers are from Venus, Chief technology officers are from Mars. That's a major finding from a new survey that shows marketing and technology executives don't see eye to eye when it comes to online strategies to target customers. The cause is a lack of common incentives or metrics.

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The 2015 CMO Digital Benchmark Study, commissioned by the Leapfrog Marketing Institute, interviewed 131 marketing and information technology executives with senior positions in large organizations working for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketers. It found found discrepancies in how the two departments related to one another.

In the survey, 30% of marketers said they would describe the relationship between marketing and IT in their companies as very collaborative and productive, while only 13% of IT executives said the same. When asked if working together has improved alignment between marketing and IT, 20% of marketers said that collaboration significantly improved alignment, whereas only 4% of IT executives said the same.

In one thing both group seemed to agree: 63% in both groups said their departments don't share incentives or metrics that could improve their alignment.

And there lies the root of the problem, according to one of the study's authors, Jim Carey, adjunct professor at Northwestern University. As consumers get more demanding for seamless experiences like they have at Amazon or Netflix, the stakes are higher for both departments. "Before, marketing and IT could coexist in separate floors. IT was about making the company function and marketers needed to worry only about raising awareness," he said.

But now there are financial expectations placed on marketers and IT also needs to respond with customer-facing technology, and that is forcing a relationship between both departments that still don't share the same goals. "For IT, it's enough if the tool is working, if the website is up. Marketers need to think about customer experiences and conversions," Mr. Carey said.

As for the difference in perceptions of alignment, "well, marketers like to think everybody likes them," joked Mr. Carey. This disalignment is more acute in legacy businesses, according to the author.

The solution is in the hands of CEOs and upper management and will require encouraging a culture of innovation and collaboration in the organization's DNA. "The departments can't be so task-focused anymore, because that costs them their peripheral vision. There needs to be some orientation towards innovation, because sitting still is the least safe thing you can do right now."