CMOs & CIOs: Why data is key to a successful partnership

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CIOs and CMOs must coalesce around the data to both protect and grow the business, as well as improve customer experience.

Who owns your business data? The department that collected it, the staff that use it, or the team tasked with keeping it safe? It’s a moot point in an age where data is often too large to store locally, and CPU cycles so cheap that remote processing is the norm.

Success today requires “marketing, data, and technologies to all be synchronized,” says Keith Johnston, VP group director at Forrester. “CMOs should work closely with their CIO counterparts to avoid creating any shadow IT, and CIOs should work to serve both employee and customer needs to connect with the business deliberately, but we still continue to see each relying on their resources independently.”

No wonder a third of CIOs plan to team up with the CMO. This is despite the fact that, historically, the Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Information Officer haven’t always worked well together. CIOs may be hesitant to make decisions as quickly as the CMO while, for CMOs, the potential of data to drive response means there may be an incentive to focus on innovation. A partnership between the two can thus make a lot of sense.

A complementary relationship

Forrester’s Johnston laments that CIOs and CMOs frequently rely on their own independent resources, most often through a lack of understanding of each other’s roles. This suggests a solution may lie in improved collaboration. The CIO needs to understand the company’s business goals, alongside the requirements of the CMO, while the CMO should appreciate the limits of the technology and the CIO’s budgets. If the budget is too small, a unified proposal for its augmentation will be far more persuasive than either role approaching the board solo.

Moreover, as marketing increasingly relies on AI and machine learning, implementation will require ever greater collaboration. With IDC predicting that the data universe will grow to 175 zettabytes by 2022, how an organization manages data is critical to its ongoing viability. Already we have seen that companies that best manage data – the likes of Netflix, Uber, and Spotify – have grown to dominate their respective markets. This should be a lesson for any who hope to emulate their success.

companies that best manage data – the likes of Netflix, Uber, and Spotify – have grown to dominate their respective markets.

Thus, Alan Hartstein, contributing writer for CMO by Adobe, sees a fundamental shift in the CIO’s role with an “emergence from the backroom to the epicenter of the strategic decision-making process.” They drive the modernization of platforms to “incorporate artificial intelligence [AI], Internet of Things [IoT], voice, data, and cloud solutions – helping to drive the business forward and make possible innovative customer experiences.”

Constant communication required

Naturally, there can be tensions. While the CMO wants to exploit the data, a CIO will be mindful of any legal restrictions, so a level of trust – and understanding – is crucial. Both, after all, know that the data is key to their positions. Without the CIO, the CMO has no data to work with; without the CMO, the CIO may soon have no job.

Communication is key, then. Open, ongoing and honest discussion will help overcome any suspicion, and help each understand the obligations and limitations under which the other labors. Perhaps more importantly, though, it will also help them to explore the possibilities that innovative, yet compliant opportunities to exploit the data present benefits – to both themselves and the company at large.