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.
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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.
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“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.”
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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.”
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.”
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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.”
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.”