Questioning the CMO-CIO Divide

Share:
Customer Relationship Management
Customer Experience
Three years ago, Gartner VP Laura McLellan boldly predicted that by 2017, CMOs would be outspending CIOs on IT. McLellan's prediction ignited a firestorm of discussion among industry executives and pundits about the role of the CMO and the marketing organization in technology spending. But the debate hasn't stopped there. As a growing percentage of enterprise IT spending is being directed at marketing, some observers have positioned this as a control issue and a catalyst that is deepening the rift between the CMO and the CIO.

Three years ago, Gartner VP Laura McLellan boldly predicted that by 2017, CMOs would be outspending CIOs on IT. McLellan's prediction ignited a firestorm of discussion among industry executives and pundits about the role of the CMO and the marketing organization in technology spending. But the debate hasn't stopped there. As a growing percentage of enterprise IT spending is being directed at marketing, some observers have positioned this as a control issue and a catalyst that is deepening the rift between the CMO and the CIO.This logic is at least partially misguided.

In many companies, the CIO doesn't "own" discretionary IT investments that are directed at business initiatives (e.g. investments in new marketing analytics tools or the deployment of mobile sales force automation software). Spending for these projects is taken from departmental (marketing) or line of business budgets.

For his or her part, the CIO is responsible for overseeing run-the-business type IT spending - infrastructure investments such as servers, storage, databases, networks, etc. The CIO is also charged with enabling the business to meet its goals. As such, the CIO is responsible for seeing to it that IT executes effectively on business-technology projects. But the CIO doesn't hold the purse strings for these projects.

The main reason I bring this up is that there has been a growing avalanche of articles and blog posts published on the deepening CMO-CIO divide where the two camps are locked in a contemptuous "us-versus-them" battle.

Nearly all of the CMOs I talk to on this subject see it differently - at least when they're asked to comment publicly on the CMO-CIO dynamic. It's more about how the nature of the relationship between the CMO and CIO has changed in recent years and that many CMOs view the CIO connection as a collegial partnership where both executives are working together to achieve shared objectives.

"The marketing guy is no longer calling IT to develop a new website - that world is gone," says Robert Tas, CMO at Pegasystems. "There is a revolution of skills transfer occurring. I now have technology and analytics people on our marketing team but I also have weekly sessions with our CIO and it's a very collaborative relationship," Tas adds.

CIOs are now increasingly focused on customer experience. Where CIOs and IT once concentrated exclusively on meeting the needs of internal customers (business users), IT is now becoming much more customer-focused, as in end customers, as customer experience now ranks high on the CIO's agenda, according to studies by Deloitte and other research firms.

Are CMOs and CIOs locking arms and singing Kumbaya? Hardly. But reports that the two camps are engaged in an all-out turf war seem overblown. Even as CMOs are keen on leveraging technology to strengthen the performance of their marketing organizations, they're not interested in becoming technology czars.

How do you see it?

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION