The CIO and CMO Perspective on Big Data

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.

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Marketing leaders should take advantage of investments already made by IT. “Small ‘boutique’ solutions are often incompatible with enterprise-wide tools, making it often very difficult to access insights from elsewhere in the organization,” says KPMG’s Short. “CMOs should not try to recreate the wheel by building their own systems since these tools and capabilities likely exist already and can be provisioned by IT.”

[ Related: CIOs and CMOs: Power Couple or Strange Bedfellows? ]

IT leaders can guide marketers through this emerging landscape. “The CIO can educate the marketing team on the possible and how to achieve the possible with data and analytics,” says Korn Ferry’s Hopkins. At Western Union, Executive Vice President of Global Operations and Technology and CIO John “David” Thompson see his role as one of technology sherpa for CMO Diane Scott and her marketing team. “We see them bump up against a challenge and we try to dig in and help them solve it,” Thompson says. “We’re their technology consultants.” 

Opening Up

In order to provide that guidance, Thompson and his team must anticipate marketing’s needs before they have them. Developing tools and systems that support Western Union’s 700 million transactions a year and delivers a unique customer experience to its hundreds of millions of customers is a challenge. “My team and I are highly engaged with marketing to understand the things they’re trying to do to drive revenue, increase customer satisfaction and reduce costs,” Thompson says. “We have to stay one step ahead of them in order to stay abreast of the technology.” Thompson’s team takes marketing’s strategic plan and extends it out two or three years so that IT can build out the appropriate infrastructure to support big data efforts and bring new capabilities to bear.

CMOs can better position the IT group to support big data plans by being open. “My counterparts in IT truly want one thing from me above all else: transparency,” says Hope Neiman, CMO of Tillster. “The more both teams can see the truth in the situation, understand what we’re doing and grasp the impact that each team brings to the client, the more they want to collaborate for the common goal.”

“CMOs can connect the dots for CIOs, making clear how new business initiatives are linked with enterprise and big data knowledge around customer experience and behaviors,” says Katherine Lee, senior client partner in Korn Ferry’s CMO practice. 

At Adobe, a new marketing analytics group holds meetings every Monday and IT is always in attendance. “IT has to understand context of the business to better understand data layer being consumed,” Martin-Flickinger explains.

Syncsort CMO Gary Survis sees himself as marketing educator-in-chief for the IT group at the big data solutions company. “Marketing has changed dramatically in the last few years. We are being held accountable for results as never before, for the ability to understand our performance, for diagnostically identifying opportunities, and for making rapid changes to strategy based on analytics,” Survis explains. “Part of my job is to educate the entire organization, including IT, about what this new normal is for marketing.”

Share everything, advises Merry of Delaware North -- not just what’s coming next month but what’s coming next year. “I let my CIO know what we are trying to achieve, why, and what the desired outcome and KPIs are,” Merry says. “And share the success, make sure that our leaders know that anything we as marketing achieve in this area couldn't have been done without IT.” 

“To become a more effective partner to marketing, the CIO should meet regularly with the CMO to understand the analytics issues marketing is dealing with and offer practical ways to address these, not just the technology but also from a process optimization perspective,” advises Jonathan Block, vice president of technology at B2B advisory firm SiriusDecisions.

Never Say Never

Just as CMOs must learn to open up around big data, CIOs must learn not to shut marketing down. That can be a tall order in this risky, emerging area of technology. “The easiest thing for marketing to do is look at IT as the department of ‘no,’ where every request for new technology is met with resistance,” says Survis. “It isn’t secure enough. It isn’t robust enough. It isn’t compatible with our infrastructure.”

At Tillster, there have been instances where the marketing team has wanted to implement competing tool sets. “In those situations, both departments weigh the risks and rewards, using one guiding light: ensuring the clients’ needs come first,” says Hope Neiman. “With this beacon, we have yet to have a problem where marketing and IT couldn’t reach an amicable solution. 

Delaware North’s CMO Merry wants an IT organization that’s open to new analytics initiatives and can partner with marketing to manage such cutting edge projects. But marketing and IT don’t always agree. “Like any good partnership any differences end in a negotiation -- but an informed negotiation,” says CIO Quinlivan.

If marketing wants real-time access to their customer data and models Quinlivan doesn’t say no. He might explain that going from near real-time to real-time doubles the cost of the infrastructure. The CMO may counter and explain the business cost of the one-minute lag in data. “This dynamic tension is healthy and productive as long as information is shared,” Quinlivan says.

Biogen Idec’s Meyers has invested in IT professionals who see themselves as part of the marketing team. “We need to be speaking the same language and mutually guided by the same compass,” he says. “Too often, the geeks in IT like to talk about Markov chains, feature vectorization and edge-nodes on graphs. Marketing simply wants to know in a straightforward way whether or not competitors are having any impact influencing our customers, or how patients in social media are perceiving a new product. We do our best to apply the computing, mathematics and our contextual understanding of the business to answer these questions in the most straightforward way possible.”

Still there are times when IT might think marketing is off base. But, says Meyers, “it’s almost always because a request is showing up as a solution which isn’t the right solution. If you decompose the request, it’s usually grounded in a legitimate problem that’s worth solving together.”

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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