by Thomas Wailgum

CMOs and CIOs: Can This Relationship Be Saved?

Oct 04, 2010
Business IntelligenceCIOCollaboration Software

Both of you understand the importance of digital marketing to your company--but CIOs and CMOs are not speaking the same language or playing well together, new research shows. CIOs should take the initiative now, or suffer when the CMO does an end-run around IT.

A new report from the CMO Council and Accenture on the strategic relations between CIOs and CMOs offers a grim outlook: “Marketing and IT executives do not believe they are highly effective partners, as they struggle to achieve common goals in the race to adopt and keep pace with rapidly evolving digital marketing capabilities,” notes the report.

The study, “The CMO-CIO Alignment Imperative: Driving Revenue through Customer Relevance,” is based on a survey of more than 320 global marketing executives and 300 global IT executives conducted during June through September 2010.

Indeed, both factions are well aware that it’s imperative for their company to “lead not lag” when it comes to new digital marketing technologies and customer channels—always-on access points, service options and interactive, social-networking experiences.

The good news: Nearly 80 percent of marketing executives and 68 percent of IT executives said that digital marketing is important to their organizations.

And yet, according to the survey results, the manifestation of the marketing and IT disconnect seems otherworldly: Just 4 percent of marketing executives and 7 percent of IT leaders reported that their companies are very prepared to exploit digital marketing channels. A paltry 8 percent of marketers and 6 percent of IT executives said they believe their data and analytics are completely integrated.

Who’s Leading the Digital Strategy?

Worse still, the study found that “in the absence of top-down engagement in the digital reinvention of marketing, there is a noticeable disconnect between IT and marketing executives about who they believe is leading the digital strategy for their company.” Notes the report:

More than half (58 percent) of IT executives said they were championing, spearheading or shaping the digital agenda at their company, whereas fewer than one-fifth (19 percent) of the marketers said that the digital agendas at their companies were being shaped by IT executives. Instead, 69 percent of marketers said they were the ones in the driver’s seat.

The survey evinced even more “he said-she said” rhetoric: Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of marketers said implementing new technologies has been a challenge; 46 percent of marketers reported that marketing “is not seen as a priority by the IT executives”; and 44 percent of marketers stated that their budgets “aren’t big enough to execute their plans.”

IT execs had their say as well: 30 percent noted that they “lack the time and technical resources to help marketing”; 39 percent of them said that “marketing bypasses them and works directly with the vendor”; and 31 percent said “marketers hinder progress by taking control and isolating IT from solution selection, strategy or implementation.”

How to Salvage the Relationship

There’s certainly some trouble brewing between IT and marketing. So can this relationship be repaired? Yes, according to Tim Breene, senior managing director of strategic initiatives at Accenture and CEO of Accenture Interactive, who’s quoted in the study.

“Marketing and IT executives recognize the importance of enabling digital marketing and integrating online and offline channels,” Breene notes, “but they need to move beyond the issue of alignment to make the unprecedented and transformative game-changing moves required in today’s marketplace.”

In’s The New New CIO Role: Big Changes Ahead, top U.S. CIOs discussed the importance of the change agent role: “Finding ways to enable the strategic opportunities within the company,” as Shaklee CIO Ken Harris put it, in the article.

Sony Electronics CIO Drew Martin noted that he was working hand in hand with the marketing group on enabling digital customer connections. His advice to other CIOs: Don’t wait to be asked. Start the dialogue with marketing.

From the CIO’s point of view, then, it’s better to be proactive with the marketing organization than reactive. The CMO Council-Accenture survey demonstrates that today’s CMO is unafraid to do an end-run around IT if necessary.

Noted Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council, in the report: “This disconnect and challenge over strategic vision and ownership has created an environment where marketing feels forced to seek quick-to-deploy individual point solutions that may not effectively link to the established infrastructure or corporate strategy, and IT is often left feeling like glorified order-takers with little strategic voice.”

Thomas Wailgum covers Enterprise Software, Data Management and Personal Productivity Apps for Follow him on Twitter @twailgum. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline. E-mail Thomas at