Fixing the Disconnect Between CIOs and CMOs


Daniel Newman

May 17, 2016

Technology and marketing are becoming increasingly intertwined, and as a result, a new rivalry is emerging between the CIO and CMO. As leaders in separate spheres, these two seem to be constantly bumping into each other because it’s no longer clear who is responsible for what.

Around half of companies admit the relationships between CIOs and CMOs aren’t remarkably strong, which seems to me to be counter-productive. Just two years ago, I diagnosed a problem I saw emerging between these two roles and how CIOs need to evolve in order to keep up. Now, I see these two as interconnected. Businesses that foster a strong relationship between the CIO and CMO experience faster growth and a better bottom line.

Forget Your Siloed Approach

Given the pace of today’s market, departments within a company can no longer afford to be autonomous because a siloed work environment leads to inefficiency. Marred by a lack of communication, rollouts take longer and customer adoption suffers.

When departments fail to collaborate, it affects every level of a business. Because customer engagement drives digital innovation, it is crucial to ensure that CIOs and CMOs are on the same page. The CMO is the expert in human behavior, tracking the needs of the customers and evaluating the adoption of new technology. The CIO brings the CMO’s vision to life; without a symbiotic relationship, both customers and business will suffer.

It’s essential for the CIO to be involved in all planning stages of a new rollout, from the architecture to the execution of the customer initiatives. Both parties need to bind together to integrate their information and streamline innovation. CMOs should be willing to loosen their reigns and allow for collaboration where emerging technology is concerned.

On the flip side, CIOs must acknowledge that technology budgets are no longer the sole property of their departments. In fact, a recent survey shows that more than 20 percent of a company’s technology spending is in the hands of the marketing department. While no one wants their vision squashed due to a tight budget, this is still a reality. If the CIO can see the CMO as a partner rather than the person in control of the budget, the relationship will inevitably improve and technology initiatives should drive both roles.

Redefine Work Roles

A problem I commonly see in companies is that CIOs and CMOs spend more time ignoring each other than they do discussing their roles. If each sat down and wrote a list of their perceived responsibilities, they’d find more places for collaboration than for dissension. In today’s data-driven world, both parties play a crucial role in keeping businesses ahead of the industry curve. CMOs see themselves as the creative champion of the business brand, developing new and exciting ways to engage their customer bases. At best, they see the CIO as head of the department that keeps the lights on, crunches the numbers, and expedites workflows. At worst, the CIO becomes a symbol for why a CMO’s vision isn’t being fully implemented.

In reality, both the CIO and the CMO need access to the massive amounts of customer data that businesses accrue daily. The first step in ending the contentious relationship between these two key players is convincing them both that they play an equal role in the success of an emerging technology.

CIOs can’t make sense of customer data without a CMO, who has the capability to generate programs that gather the data insight needed to drive innovation. If the two department heads can finally come together and stop bickering, I think we’d see more innovation and faster business processes as a result.

How a company reacts to market and technology shifts is directly related to the relationship between the CIO and CMO. With clearly defined strengths and an acknowledgement that their roles overlap, these two figures can work together to increase a company’s profits rather than work against each other, pushing boulders up a hill. United, they stand a better chance of adapting to an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Increase Partnerships for Increased Efficiency

Businesses can no longer afford to take an independent approach to these positions. A truly well-oiled machine is one in which each cog knows its purpose and connects seamlessly with its partners. If two are stuck, then the whole enterprise suffers. When these two find their place in the system, innovation and success will be the results.

This article was written by Daniel Newman from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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