by Tom Kaneshige

Time for CEOs to Step In and Stop CIO-CMO Bickering

Jan 15, 20155 mins
CIOCMOIT Leadership

The rise of marketing technology and its growing impact on sales and the customer experience has gotten the attention of the CEO. It's also made CEOs aware that CIOs and CMOs arenu2019t playing nice.

ceo cmo cio
Credit: Thinkstock

Is it time for the CEO to put a stop to the juvenile bickering between the CIO and CMO? Is it time for the parent to step in and threaten to put everyone on the firing line, the corporate equivalent of a timeout? “Definitely,” says Michael Broberg, vice president of consulting services in the strategic technology solutions group at Hitachi Consulting.

The fast rise of marketing technology and, more importantly, its growing impact on sales and the customer experience, has gotten the attention of the CEO. In other words, marketing technology has become core to the success or failure of a company.

[Related: CIOs and CMOs Must Join Forces to Win Digital Customers]

But the CIO and CMO, who are both responsible for bringing marketing technology successfully to a company, are at odds when it comes to collaboration, according to a Forrester-Forbes Insight survey of 308 marketing and technology management leaders. In an attempt to assess the CIO-CMO relationship heading into 2015, the survey found that around half of CIOs and CMOs don’t partner on technology strategy.


Michael Broberg, vice president of consulting services at Hitachi Consulting.

Then there’s this foreboding stat: Only 54 percent believe the leadership is in place to support marketing technology strategies.

Expect more of the same kind of dysfunction with the stakes even higher this year, Broberg says. He sat down with to talk about the white-hot spotlight being cast on the CIO-CMO relationship and how things are about to heat up with the CEO wading in. What does the CIO-CMO relationship look like at the start of 2015?

Michael Broberg: This year, the relationship is going to continue to evolve and move very quickly. I’m referring to the CMO having an accelerated need and desire to be able to implement customer-centric technologies as quickly as possible. CMOs want to be able to improve the customer experience, but at the same time they’re being held back. Their ability to achieve what they want is dramatically limited by what they can and can’t do on the technology side. As much as they want to move fast, they do realize they need the help of the CIO.

The speed, attention, the nature of it are just becoming more critical to the success of the business, simply because customer expectations continue to be more about engaging with a company from a technical perspective. This has heightened the need for the CMO to provide this capability.

So I think CMOs are going to continue to be disappointed in 2015. The desires and capabilities of the CMO are still going to be hampered by what the legacy solutions, especially in large organizations, can actually handle. There’s still going to be that speed difference. CMOs are going to continue to be challenged. Aside from increased pressure, anything different about this year?

Broberg: A trend that’s a little bit different that I haven’t seen in the last few years is the recognition that the CMO may have to actually give some things back to the CIO.

There’s been this tension that, generally speaking, ties back into the website. If you look back over the last few years, much of the Web content and what the customer can do and see and engage online was being decided by the CMO. What’s happening is that CMOs are realizing that they’ve gotten beyond where they can do everything on their own. CMOs need to be able to expose more data and have a better integration strategy. As a result, they’re turning back to the CIO and saying, “Hey, I can’t do this anymore. Help me through this.” I imagine the CIO’s response will be, “You should have brought me in from the beginning.”

Broberg: That’s exactly right, which isn’t helpful. It doesn’t do any good for anybody. CIOs have to recognize that this is a business opportunity rather than an opportunity to point a finger. Sounds like it’s going to be a rough year. How can the CIO and CMO measure success?

Broberg: There are two different types of success: the relationship success and the business-outcome success.

On the relationship side, we’ve certainly seen people recognizing the real challenge, not just focusing on personality differences. CMOs in particular need to understand the challenges in the technology environment. We’ve spent a lot of time with clients working through that awareness and education about what’s smart and not smart implementing technology and, ultimately, the end result that may come about if CMOs make lateral decisions too quickly.

On the business side, it’s what do we do about it? We’ve got some of these technologies that are hard to work around. We’ve seen some organizations able to implement cloud-based solutions and incrementally move the needle on what the marketing organization is able to achieve. They’re able to carve out specific pieces of data while still keeping it tied into an overall data architecture and integration strategy — not rogue solutions that have to be revamped and create a whole bunch of headaches down the road. These two successes are dependent on the CIO and CMO working together, right?

Broberg: The recurring thing that comes to mind is using time and energy in the best way possible. I see so much energy being wasted on political battles and dynamics within an organization, where people feel threatened or their territory is being taken away. None of these battles move the business forward. If companies and individuals can recognize that and instead put all that energy toward working together on this stuff, it makes a dramatic difference on what they’re able to accomplish. It becomes a competitive advantage. seems to be a lot at stake. Does the CEO need to step in and be the adult?

Broberg: Definitely, and done in a way that’s very visible.