THE BLOG

Can the CMO and CIO Work Together in Harmony?

03/07/2014 14:10 BST | Updated 02/09/2014 10:59 BST

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It's time to debunk the myth. For too long now, many commentators believed that CMOs would soon be spending more on IT than the CIO. There was also the prediction that CIOs would soon be working for CMOs--with the inevitable conflict and confusion - and a belief that IT should get involved in digital projects before other parts of the business.

A new study by the CEB highlights these misjudgements about marketing leaders. The report highlights that the estimated technology spend by CMOs is greatly exaggerated and, more importantly, they are based on a misunderstanding of what CMOs really want.

So what's the reality? As someone who has devoted the best part of 25 years of his career to marketing, let me be brazen enough to share what I believe. As marketing (and other parts of the business, like finance and HR) step up their spending on mobile, social media and cloud computing, IT leaders should indeed relinquish some of their grip on technology. In many cases, marketing teams are in fact better positioned to drive digital innovation in their organizations than the IT department.

According to CEB, spending on technology outside the IT department is now effectively adding 40% to companies' IT budgets. Let's not stifle this. Instead of being the gatekeepers of innovation, CIOs should actively encourage other parts of the business to build their own innovative digital projects.

Does this leave the CIO high and dry? Far from it. There's plenty of the technology pie to go round. As CMOs step up their drive to digital innovation, the role of the CIO will refocus on the less glamorous (but vital) task of managing the IT infrastructure. We're not just talking about managing server farms or the PC environment. Their task is to identify new technologies that enable people to do their jobs better, for example, or powerful new ways to secure data, and collaborative data hubs which can be used by local marketing teams to develop applications for their local markets.

CIOs also have an important mentoring role to play: coaching marketing leaders to understand how to use digital technology to grow their organization. Marketers are now leveraging cloud technologies like Salesforce.com and Marketo to identify, qualify and nurture leads into the company. This does not mean the CIO's influence is on the wane. Their experience and insight is essential in selecting these new technologies and those that are on board will prove invaluable in delivering the next generation of cloud technology to the enterprise.

Responsibility for the risk of this approach fall squarely on the shoulders of the CMO. They will need to take more responsibility for the risks of deploying new digital technology, and not hold the CIO liable. One approach is for CIOs to develop rules of thumb for assessing risk, so IT staff know when to be more involved in a project, and when to step back.

CMOs should not be stifled from doing what's best for the business--generating sales opportunities. But they still need the expert guidance and influence of the CIO.