by Sneha Jha

Indian CIOs Deny Any CIO-CMO Conflict Exists

Aug 17, 20145 mins

Indian CIOs refute that a digital gap exists between the CIO and CMO and agree that working together is more important to build a digital platform.

Is there a digital divide between the CIO and CMO? Indian CIOs respond with an emphatic ‘no’. Yes, you read it right. Dismissing the findings of the PwC 6th Annual Digital IQ survey, Indian CIOs vehemently deny the existence of a digital disconnect between the CIO and CMO. The reaction is a stark contrast to the study which indicates that there is a palpable tension between the CIO and CMO when it comes to digital initiatives. “I would have agreed to a divide on digital and social media drive, if this question was posted in 2009 or 2010. But not anymore. The divide is shrinking with the millennials making inroads into the job market, marketer’s appreciating the reach of social and digital media and the simple push of IT folks for embracing it rather than shunning it,” says Rajesh Batra, VP-IT at Kokilaben Dhirubai Ambani Hospital.Identifying the reason for the gap Batra admits that the digital wave swept the Indian enterprises when they were not fully prepared for it. Batra enjoys a strong working relationship with his CMO. “The relationship is working well. We have an outsourced model for most of the work and we have engaged a company to manage our social and digital media with oversight from all relevant stakeholders,” he says. If there is a digital divide between the CIO and CMO, the two executives can take steps to narrow the gap. “It is a two way lane. IT folks should be open to new experiences, handhold their marketing counterparts and educate them on the new paths. Similarly, a marketer should be open to treading an unknown territory,” Batra says. Girish Rao, ‎head-IT and Business Analytics at Marico does not subscribe to the premise of the digital disconnect. “The key is to ensure that the CIO and the CMO remain tuned to leveraging the digital medium for meeting the end objectives. The need of the hour is to ensure that one helps the organization in creating a differentiated value proposition in the eyes of the customer,” Rao says. Rao suggests that the CIO and the CMO should see digital medium as a means to serve the customer better. Since the customer does not see the CMO nor the CIO it is the product / service that matters to the customer and the experience in engaging with it. At Marico the relationship is quite healthy. There are structured meetings planned regularly for sharing of thoughts / ideas and to review the progress of on-going projects. “I would rate the level of collaboration to be good, there is a lot of exchange and a mutual understanding as to whom to consult on various intersecting or common issues,” Rao says. A CIO and a CMO role should complement each other on the digital strategy for any organization. Ajay Kumar Meher, ‎senior VP and head-IT and Post Production at Sony Entertainment Television refutes that the two executives have conflicting agendas. “CIO and CMO have a clear demarcation of their responsibilities. While the CMO understands the marketing mix better and see how and where any marketing initiative will have larger impact, the CIO understands the various digital technology platform and suggest the CMO on the usage of various platforms to have a larger reach,” he says. Meher underlines that “marketing is the customer of technology” in this journey and that keeps the relationship professional. The CMO and CIO are allies in the digital evolution of an enterprise. “They are already working in unison. How can there be a divide?” says Sunil Mehta, senior VP and area systems director (Central Asia), JWT. He lays out a four pronged approach to achieve this. Internal communication, trust building, knowledge sharing, and transparency enhancing practices are his mantras. “Only when the CMO shares his vision with the CIO, the CIO can enable it. They can’t be working in silos to fructify their vision of a digital enterprise,” he says. Mehta also recommends that the CIO should understand the ground realities of their business. This will be a wakeup call for the CIOs In most companies the CIO and CMO are working in unison to unleash the full potential of digital initiatives. At Idea Cellular, the CIO and CMO are wedded to the digital platform. “Today all marketers are looking at digital platforms to enhance customer experience and connect. The CIOs is going to be the enablers of this strategy. If there is a disconnect, it could be more to do with the pace at which the CMO wants to deploy a digital initiative and the speed at which the CIO is able to do it,” says Sashi Shankar, CMO, Idea Cellular.  The common denominator is the awareness that communication can iron out the differences. But in the midst of all the talk about CIO-CMO digital disconnect, there is a CIO who is uniquely qualified to handle the role of a CMO. Yateen Chodnekar, group CIO, Writer’s Corporation also heads the marketing function for the organization. He believes that when a CIO gets involved in the digital marketing spending, it brings in new degree of rationalization and sensible spending. “Marketing function is in a period of great change. CMO’s skills and competency requirements have changed in the last decade. Today, technical expertise is more important than agency experience for CMOs. This is a huge testament to the growing realization that modern marketing is a technology-driven discipline,” he underscores. As Shankar puts it, “Working together has never been more important for the CIO and the CMO.”