As businesses across industries shift more of their marketing operations into the digital space, CMOs and CIOs need to evolve away from their traditional, siloed roles and develop a more collaborative relationship, according to research firm Gartner.
Jennifer Beck, a Gartner vice president and research fellow, made the case in an online presentation yesterday that, while the discussion about the converging roles of marketing and IT is not new, companies can achieve higher growth rates and further their marketing objectives if they focus on how the two disciplines can support each other to advance business missions.
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"This conversation started back in 2008. There have been lots of debates about the CMO-CIO relationship and how does it improve, how does it get better. Why are these two functions often on different planets? And I just found that driving the wedge and talking about why they're different is just not very helpful," Beck says.
What Is Digital Marketing Anyway?
Beck acknowledges that digital marketing is a broad term and that there is a wide spectrum on which companies fall in terms of their priorities and how far along they are on marrying IT and marketing. But as a signifier of the blending of the roles, she looks to "the people side," where she sees the emergence of new titles like digital CMO, chief data officer and chief marketing technologist.
Given the increasing overlap between marketing and IT, "It's not really a meaningful distinction anymore," she says.
Gartner's own polling supports the emergence of a "hybrid" role within organizations. In 2012, 70 percent of companies surveyed by the research group reported having a chief marketing technologist. One year later, that figure had risen to 80 percent.
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From an organizational perspective, while that position remains generally the province of the marketing department, more businesses are moving it to IT. In 2012, 19 percent of chief marketing technologists reported to their organization's IT department. In 2013, IT claimed 29 percent of those roles. Conversely, from 2012 to 2013, the proportion of chief marketing technologists who reported to the marketing department dipped form 78 percent to 71 percent.
Beck explains that the people who fill those hybrid roles often have varied background and skill sets that tend to include an understanding of technical areas like data collection and analytics, as well as a familiarity with social media, marketing software and the agency model of the marketing world.
The Rush to Break Down Barriers Between IT and Marketing
Driving that convergence is what Beck describes as "a sense of urgency" among businesses to break down the historical barriers between marketing and IT, two disciplines that are sometimes said to speak different languages.
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In part, that shift can be attributed to the rise of the digital sales channel. After all, if marketing is ginning up a promotion that aims to send a crush of traffic to the website at a certain time, bringing IT into the planning process can ensure that capacity is sufficient to keep the site running. "There's all that magic behind the front end," Beck says.
She also notes the growing sense among business leaders that marketing should be data-driven and "deterministic," that digital promotions inherently can -- and should -- be measured and objectively evaluated. And IT, of course, has a role to play in performing the sophisticated analytics -- both real-time and predictive -- needed to glean meaningful insights from the swelling volume of data that businesses are collecting, much of which resides outside the companies' internal properties, scattered across call centers, affiliate marketers and social media sites.
"This is the place that marketing really needs to synch up with other talented people in your company," Beck says. "Everybody can collect data. What you do with it is what really matters."
Kenneth Corbin is a Washington, D.C.-based writer who covers government and regulatory issues for CIO.com. Follow Kenneth on Twitter @kecorb. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.