by Dan Muse

Why the CIO-CMO relationship is like reality TV

News Analysis
Dec 03, 20144 mins
CIOCMOIT Leadership

CMOs and CIOs are probably sick of overanalyzing their relationship. The reality is that it's time to move past the trust and respect issues and get down to business.

reality tv
Credit: Thinkstock

In the world of business technology, the relationship between CIOs and CMOs is the equivalent of the American public’s fascination with the Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez on-again, off-again relationship.

OK. That may be a stretch. CIOs, however, probably do feel like tabloid fodder these days. While they aren’t forced to push their way through the paparazzi, CIOs have probably had their fill of people talking about not only their roles and responsibilities, but also their future in the enterprise.

While it’s hardly TMZ material, researching, analyzing and opining over the CMO and CIO roles has certainly been keeping those of us in media — and the leading analyst firms — busy.  Hey, even those of us in the technology industry like a little a drama from time to time.

How CMOs and CIOs should cooperate and collaborate is a hot topic for good reason. As technology changess from serving as infrastructure that supports the business to an integral part of that business’s capability to identify, target and service customers,  marketing needs to understand this digital transformation. Conversely, tech leaders who aren’t thinking about finding, servicing and tracking customers won’t be around for the long term.

Time for Results

Depending on whom you talk to the CMO/CIO relationship is either evolving merrily or improving slowly. In either case, the message is clear: CMOs and CIOs must not only work together, they must produce results. That point was reiterated in Forrester’s recent report, “CMO and CIOs Must Turn Collaboration Into Action.”

Forrester, in collaboration with Forbes Insight, conducted similar studies in 2011 and 2013, and this year there is reason for optimism. One of the key takeaways cited by the 2014 survey of 308 marketing and tech management leaders is that CMOs and CIOs recognize each other’s priorities and must build on that to create a joint strategic vision. (See the figure below for the year-over-year improvement). However, while Forrester says trust and respect have improved slightly, process ownership is still disconnected, and technology priorities are aligned but agendas remain separate.

forrester cmo Forrester Research

Forrester survey indicates mutual trust and respect between CIOs and CMOs are on the rise.

Most importantly, the report points out that the C-level executives have made disappointingly little progress in using data to drive actionable insights.

Sheryl Pattek, one of the authors of the Forrester report, offers some action items in her CMO Blog. Pattek said that to win, service and retain customers, CIOs and CMOs should follow these steps:

“Nurture mutual trust and respect to pursue strategic priorities. An improvement of 20 points in the ability of marketing and tech management leaders to recognize each other’s strategic priorities was one bright spot in our 2014 survey. Build on this momentum by setting a joint vision that your organization can follow.
“Jump on customer insights opportunities now. On the other side of the coin, one of the disappointments in this year’s survey has been virtually no progress in solving the problems that CMOs and CIOs face in turning large amounts of data into actionable customer insights. It’s time to seize the opportunity to gain access to and drive even deeper insights and connections around data and customer intelligence.
“Create a shared to-do list. This should address: 1) strong leadership to get the team on the same page with clear, complementary roles and responsibilities; 2) a customer-centric agile planning process; 3) joint digital business transformation, starting with mobile moments; and 4) opportunities to gain deeper insights and connections from customer data.”

Is There a C-Suite Tech Triangle?

In any good drama, you need a threat lurking in the shadows. According to a recent report by IDC, that danger comes in the form of the Chief Digital Officer (CDO). From the IDC report:

“By 2020, 60 percent of CIOs in global organizations will be supplanted by the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) for the delivery of IT-enabled products and digital services.”  

That’s chilling stuff.

Forrester, however, sees the CDO as a temporary player who, to take a bit of literary license, struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. That is, of course, in contrast to IDC’s prediction that CDOs will replace the majority of CIOs in five years. Forrester writes that CDOs who rise to fill a “gap left by existing CMOs and CIOs will become redundant as CMOs and CIOs turn their relationships into action and drive customer obsession.”

While we wait for all this to play out, “The Real World of CIOs and CMO” could make for one hell of a reality TV show.