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Spend any amount of time with CMOs these days and you're likely to hear a lot about digital transformation and digital disruption. I know I have. As marketers, we see forces such as mobile, social and cloud computing changing everything about the way business happens, and we know that embracing digital is the only way we'll keep pace. It's the kind of thing that keeps us up at night: In a recent study, 67% of CMO respondents said they intend to reassess their strategic direction due to tech advances disrupting the marketplace.
Marketing leaders know that data and analytics will be central to their digital transformation, and they've dedicated themselves to understanding all kinds of applications to gain deeper insights into customers—from CRM, to social listening, to Web metrics. But to succeed in the future, CMOs are going to have to expand their expertise beyond those marketing tools to truly understand and leverage Big Data and analytics. To keep their organizations—and themselves—competitive, they'll need to understand the entire infrastructure that supports, processes and protects customer data through that software.
Why? Because the amount of data that marketers use now, though it has grown dramatically, is only a fraction of what we will use in the near future. CMOs are responsible for knowing everything, not just about the buyer but also about his or her experience, and for driving product and process innovation accordingly. Drawing a more complete picture of that customer will mean piecing together every bit of information possible—using, for example, granular transactional data in retail settings, security and fraud data in banking and even real-time genomic data in critical health-care situations.
Increasingly, data will come from the Internet of Things—Gartner estimates there will be 20.8 billion connected "things" worldwide by 2020, up from 6.4 billion this year—and from an ever-growing amount of unstructured data (think videos, images, GPS streams and any other data that are undefined).
Are CMOs ready for that day? Not exactly. In a recent study from the American Institute of CPAs, just 27% of C-level executives said they think their company makes "highly effective use of data," while 32% said access to all that data has made things worse for decision-making. Plus, according to the
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It's these more advanced analytics, the kind that turn information into insight and insight into action—all at a moment's notice—that will enable marketers to harness their true power. As they begin, they'll find that having the right infrastructure is critical to their efforts, improving the function they can get from their software and boosting returns across the board.
So how can marketers learn what they need to know? To be clear, CMOs won't have to be the organization's end-all authority on technology. But they'll need to better understand data center technology and innovations, and they'll have to know enough to work with the CIO to find solutions that will meet the needs of the business. The most successful companies will be the ones that effectively balance this yin and yang of the CMO's business requirements and the CIO's IT needs to achieve overarching goals.
It might sound daunting, but it doesn't have to be. CMOs can start by researching infrastructure and paying attention to trends and developments. They can seek to better understand the data that is at their fingertips and whether they're getting the most out of it.
Marketers who do this now will be better positioned to deliver the highly personalized, real-time, data-driven customer experiences that will define marketing—and business—success in the coming years. They'll be the driving force behind their organization's digital transformation. They'll be the CMOs of the future.
About the Author
Kimberly Storin is a marketing executive with a focus on re-architecting and turning around brand, go-to-market, sales and channel functions. She has deep expertise across all facets of marketing, including research, product branding, creative services, social media, demand generation, advertising and media, public relations and change management. She is currently VP-portfolio marketing for IBM Power Systems, responsible for the global Power Systems and OpenPOWER brand and marketing strategy. Kimberly was previously at AMD, Dell and Deloitte Consulting. She has an MBA from the University of Southern California and a BBA from the University of Texas at Austin.
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