One Simple Solution to Unite the CIO and CMO

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Why can’t CIOs and CMOs just get along? Based on my experience, there is one primary reason why their relationship is adversarial: the CIO and CMO can’t agree on who is responsible for what, so they are perpetually trampling on each other’s toes.

Our 2014 Digital IQ study identified a strong CIO-CMO partnership as one of the five critical behaviors to maximizing the value from digital technology investments. The majority (70%) of top performers in our study, those companies in the top quartile for revenue growth, profitability, and innovation, had strong relationships between the CIO and the CMO.  We focus on this critical relationship in our recent Digital IQ CIO-CMO topic brief.

The disappointing news is that nearly half of the businesses in our study (49%) lack that strong CIO-CMO partnership. Both groups of executives in our study rate their relationship equally: 52% of CMOs say their CIO-CMO relationship is strong and 50% of CIOs agree.

The CIO-CMO relationship is vital in today’s technology-driven marketplace because a great deal of digital innovation is around customer engagement, the domain of the CMO. Yet, the CIO must be involved in strategic planning, architecture, vendor interaction and execution of customer initiatives to integrate information, business processes and systems. The bottom line is that the two need to join forces to reach the always-on state that customers, employees, and business partners demand.

But, shifts in the dissemination of technology dollars are prompting perpetual turf battles. Technology budgets today are no longer solely the domain of the CIO. In many cases, the CMO controls the purse strings, as only about half (53%) of IT spending is accounted for in the CIO’s budget. And one-fifth (20%) of companies said that 20% or more of the company’s overall technology spending occurred in the marketing department.

The battle over budgets is leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of CIOs and it’s giving CMOs a false sense of control. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who does the shopping. Both the CMO and the CIO need to be involved in strategy, innovation, integration and execution.

What is the CIO’s responsibility, what falls in the domain of the CMO and where is the overlap? If CIOs and CMOs could sit down together and create a chart, list or picture focused on their roles and responsibilities, we would probably see less bickering (or ignoring!) and more partnering, which would result in a lot more innovation and speed. Understanding each other’s areas of strength and focus will reduce friction and increase success.

CIOs and CMOs have a lot more in common than they think. If they unite, they have a much better chance of meeting the mounting expectations of their peers.

Image shared by See-ming Lee

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