The CIO and CMO Perspective on Big Data

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CMOs now command more of the tech budget than any other executive outside of the CIO. With big data being one of the main drivers of technology spending, a strong relationship between IT and marketing is critical to business success.

The lines between IT and marketing are blurring in the age of digital marketing. For that reason, it's more important than ever that CIOs and CMO communicate consistently and effectively. To examine this evolving relationship as it pertains to big data in particular, CIO.com partnered with CMO.com (owned by Adobe) to produce this report.

It’s a sign of the times that CMOs now spend more on technology than any corporate officer outside the CIO’s office. And the biggest driver of that tech spending is big data, which accounts for 37 percent of the marketing technology budget, according to member-based advisory group CEB. Yet, as with many technology projects, CIOs and CMOs may not always see eye to eye on big data strategy and tactics. According to a recent survey of more than 1,100 senior marketing and IT executives by Accenture, 40 percent of CMOs believe their company’s IT team doesn’t understand the urgency of integrating new data sources into campaigns to address market conditions, while 43 percent of CIOs say that marketing requirements and priorities change too often for them to keep up.

Yet a strong partnership between IT and marketing is crucial if big data and analytics are to succeed. CMOs may increasingly take the lead on big data projects, but CIOs are the key to implementing, maintaining and scaling these solutions. “Marketing is the driver of the big data car,” says Todd Merry, CMO of global hospitality and food service company Delaware North, “but it doesn't go anywhere without IT.”

Even more so than with other tech projects, CIOs and CMOs need each other to deliver actionable insight with big data and emerging data collection and analytics tools. “The CIO brings the expertise in determining the quality of the data, as well as the process of acquiring and analyzing it. The CMO brings the expertise of how the data can be used to drive business decisions. The CIO brings the knowledge of what’s possible — or could soon be possible — through technology, while the CMO pushes IT further by asking the right questions, giving them the right ideas, and pushing them to find a way,” says Anne Park Hopkins, senior client partner in Korn Ferry’s CIO Practice. “This responsibility to leverage data to drive the business strategy and business decisions, however, is shared.”

We talked to a diverse group of CMOs and CIOs about how they work together to transform marketing with big data and analytics tools, how they ensure that big data is actionable and what they need from each other to get big data right.

Defining the Big Data Roles

When it comes to analytics, it’s important that the CIO and the CMO explicitly agree on “who owns the initiatives, the role each leader will take on, and when and how they are expected to work together,” says Chris Curran, chief technologist for PwC’s advisory practice. 

[ Related: 10 Biggest CIO-CMO Relationship Hurdles ]

At biotech company Biogen Idec, IT and marketing are exploring ways in which they can bring together wearable devices, patient relationship management and big data to understand not just the broad patient population, but the individual patient. “This can help us understand not only how patients treat their diseases differently, but also how they respond to treatment differently both physiologically and as a function of genetics,” says Greg Meyers, Biogen Idec’s vice president of information technology. This is meaningful not only how we market our products by how we research both current and future therapies.”

To do that, both marketing and IT must be clear about what each brings to the table. “In my view big data/advanced analytics is a three-legged stool,” says Meyers, who also spent a good portion of his career in marketing. The first is math —l inear algebra, calculus, discrete math and statistics. IT and marketing must build such skills jointly. The second leg is computer science.  

[ Related: 10 Biggest CIO-CMO Relationship Hurdles ]

“Many of the technologies now available to us like Hadoop/Map-Reduce and NoSQL databases are inaccessible without some hard-core coding,” says Meyers. “These skills are often already in IT.” The third is the contextual understanding of the business, “While IT is getting better at being embedded into the business, for a marketing project its crucial marketing, not IT, is clear on formulating the questions or hypotheses it is trying to uncover with analytics and what decisions will be made with the answers,” Meyers says.

Adobe’s CIO Gerri Martin-Flickinger has focused on building a closer partnership with marketing in the last couple of years as the company has moved from a packaged software model focused on big product release cycles to a subscription service where a personalized approach is critical to acquiring and retaining customers day to daymodel. To accomplish that, “on the IT side we stich all data sources together and provide a foundational platform. On the marketing side, they consume that data and use it to drive the customer experience,” says Martin-Flickinger. “We’re not focused on how to make marketing successful or how to make IT successful, but how to make the company successful.”

At Delaware North, IT makes sure all analytical capabilities work as advertised and provides the infrastructure, tools and technical acumen necessary for marketers to accomplish their big data an analytics goals and objectives, says CIO Kevin Quinlivan. But because it’s such a large and diverse company -- Delaware North has its own destination resorts and national parks in addition to TD Garden and the Kennedy Space Center destination, marketing and IT divide and conquer when it comes to look for new big data opportunities. “It's often the marketers out in the field looking for new and innovative ways to employ big data and analytics while IT continues to innovate the tools at the center of the organization,” says Quinlivan. 

Starting at the Finish

Today’s enterprise is swimming in data that could enable marketing transformation, but transforming that data into knowledge has proven difficult. “Businesses need actionable insights across all channels,” says Eddie Short, head of KPMG’s Insights Labs. “These so called ‘moments of truth’ are critical in building the customer experience, and that means having the right data and predictive analytics to be prepared for key customer interactions that could lead to cross-sell, up-sell or just have a truly engaged conversation with your customer.”

[ Related: CIO-CMO Marriage Strained, But Can Be Saved ]

The problem is that many organizations put the technology before the business problem they’re actually trying to solve. “It's often easy to get mesmerized by the vastness of big data or the capabilities of the tools in the market today. Who hasn't been captivated by a beautiful bit of data visualization or the distillation of mountains of data,” says Merry of Delaware North. 

CIOs can be a good check on the business value of the latest shiny big data tool and force CMOs to put the business outcome first. “Marketing is often used to take quick action and get quick results,” says Meyers of Biogen Idec. “Since much of this is still so new, and the technology is still so immature its important we focus on the handful of things that really matter and spending the time together to work through an experiment and scale it up to something that can be sustainable for the long-haul.” 

“CMOs and marketing organizations need to hone their focus on both the business questions they need answered, and the decisions they want to inform, with analytics,” says Suzanne Kounkel, principal and leader of Deloitte Consulting’s customer transformation practice. Without that emphasis on the end result, marketers often ask IT to aggregate, store, and host all available customer data, which is both costly and risky. “As a result, data aggregation often becomes a bottleneck due again to the volume and velocity of digital data today, and the CMO can inadvertently task the CIO to create an extreme data environment,” Kounkel says.

“Big data engineers can pull swarms of data about a company’s current and future customers, yet not all of this information is valuable for a CMO,” says Samer Forzley, vice president of marketing at Pythian, a big data consulting company. “Instead of going overboard with the quantity of data, CMOs need to focus on quality, and only seek information that they can directly transform into sales.” 

Taking a Critical Look at Big Data Vendors

Marketing’s big data requirements can put a lot of stress on already overloaded IT organizations. At Delaware North, marketing and IT have been working together for the 30 years, but big data has put a particular strain on the relationship. “It's also introducing a new set of vendors and partners often disrupting existing IT relationships,” says Quinlivan.

Marketing can ease some of the CIO’s stress by approaching the big data ecosystem of suppliers in a more focused way. “It’s not uncommon for marketing to want to use many different agencies and buy many different off the shelf tools for different jobs” says Meyers of Biogen Idec. “We try to show them the value of having inputs in as few places as possible. The more diverse your data sources the harder it is to extract something useful.” 

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