The Hard Truth About The CMO And The CIO

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Richardson is a senior manager with Centric Consulting. Richardson is a senior manager with Centric Consulting.

Take this scenario in a vacuum: The CMO wants a platform, researches options for use, gets a demonstration of the products, makes the decision, and tells her team to execute. Awesome. The CIO hears of this excitement in the next executive team meeting and cringes inside. Another platform expected to produce radical results that she will have to manage and support all without her approval or knowing.

Customer experiences today almost always begin with technology. That digital experience companies crave can leave the internal executive team in a state of chaos. The CEO isn’t seeing the results they expected; the CFO is seeing increased spending without a return on that investment; the CIO isn’t sure what went wrong because they did their part; and the CMO is frustrated because they still can’t get the answers they thought they would have when they started on this journey. Sound familiar?

The CMO’s job at the end of the day is to drive revenue. All too often this gets fuzzy when you look at that imperative and where a CMO often finds themselves spending their day. Campaigns, for example, can lure a marketing team down a long and winding road. By the time they’ve identified the goals for the campaigns, the technology they want to use to drive that campaign, create the elements to execute the campaign and gather data to report on the campaign. It’s exhausting just to write that!

The CIO is on the payroll to turn technology into revenue in the form of productivity, data-driven results, and leveraging workplace efficiencies. Using this same example with campaigns, the CIO is involved to advise or select the technology, manage onboarding that new tool, manage licenses and the data that platform is kicking out, potentially helping with reporting and overall making sure the technology and data necessary to produce and perform a campaign runs smoothly. Easier said than done.

While I would like to say this disconnect between the two roles is seen less and less in corporate America, I cannot say that has been my experience. All too often, I’m engaged in conversations with a CMO only to learn the platform they purchased to run the marketing tactic fell (way) short of expectations. This realistic scenario is frustrating, costly, and sets the company back months, if not longer, on their marketing effort. No one looks good in this scenario and it may often lead to leadership leaving the company prematurely.

Many corporations have addressed this challenge between technology and marketing by adding another layer in the executive mix. The Chief Experience Officer and Chief Digital Officer are two such alternatives meant to help improve the dynamic. Depending on the company’s size and vision, adding this role may be a blessing or it may end up being a curse. Follow this trend only after lots of fierce conversations around the pros, cons, and expectations for how these teams will collaborate and work together for results.

In an ideal world, the CMO and CIO would examine ways to work together closer and blend their teams for better results. Here are a few ideas to accomplish that goal:

  • Leadership identifies an emerging leader on one of their two teams and mentors them into a liaison role to help both teams get and stay on the same page.
  • Create alignment around a common goal and milestones.
  • The technology and marketing teams host Quarter Business Reviews (QBRs) to share updates, discuss challenges, and leverage each team’s brainpower to improve results.
  • The CMO and CIO meet at least monthly, if not more, to continue to help each other learn and grow in their respective roles and drive successful results.
  • A parking lot list is started and added to each time anyone hits a snag and must detour from their goal. This list can be reviewed and discussed either between the executives or with the liaison’s support to find quick answers. The realistic nature of this list usually fosters dialog that helps the teams communicate and collaborate better than before.
  • Both marketing and technology invests in areas necessary to help leverage data to move toward maturity as a data-driven organization.

Today’s CMO is more than managing the company brand and working on creative elements. Likewise, the CIO’s role is more than running the behind the scenes servers and supporting hardware. The partnership can (and has!) worked. It’s about finding the leaders willing to be vulnerable when they need help and rising to the greater good of the company to produce the best results… together.

Raquel Richardson is a senior manager with Centric Consulting.

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